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Lion's Mane Mushrooms - worth the hype? Do they work?

There is an increasing amount of research around Lion’s mane mushrooms and their potential health benefits for us so today I wanted to breakdown what the research so far is saying.


First of all, what is it? Well, as it says in the name, mushrooms, grown in nature that look VERY weird and wonderful!


Interestingly, they can be used in the kitchen as well as medicinally and unsurprisingly, they have been used in Chinese medicine for quite a number of years now, the main claim across the board being that they can have great benefits for our brain health. The main claims are around our cognitive function from day to day but also potentially a protective nature against the neurodegenerative conditions, dementia and Alzheimer’s that we hear so much about.


Let’s get it out of the way early – research at present is limited. There have been clinical trials undertaken, which is, of course, where the claims come from, however, we don’t have a big body of evidence at the moment that would make me rush out to purchase some.


There was a randomised control trial conducted (which means that randomisation was used alongside control groups to help eliminate all other factors other than the ones being studied, which is a pretty good standard of study relatively) where a small benefit was seen in the use of Lion’s Mane over a fairy long period of time for patients with Alzheimer’s but no significant difference was seen in dementia patients.


The evidence base presently shows some potential benefit for cognitive decline, most commonly seen later in life, but there is limited evidence for cognitive function benefits from day to day.


There have been links to potential benefits of the supplement for patients with symptoms of anxiety and depression but studies were inherently flawed in their design and targeted specific populations rather than general pop, so for me, are not enough to encourage me to fly out to the shops for the latest capsule on the market!


There is little to no evidence in the benefits for metabolic health or digestive health – certainly not anything to write home about. These are things often touted as being benefits of supplementation.


Another study saw benefits for cognitive decline in their results but found that continual supplementation is needed to benefit patients, we can’t stop taking the supplement and expect it to have done the trick with what the research is telling us up to now basically – do you want to supplement with Lion’s Mane mushrooms for the remainder of your life for something that may or may not benefit you later in life with such a limited evidence base and a lot of the studies performed on animals rather than humans? Maybe, only you can decide that.


Now you know me, I’m not against supplementation BUT what you do know is that I believe that supplements should be just that – supplements to our diets and nutrition NOT to make up for holes that we have. There are many cognitive and brain health benefits to including those nutritious dietary fats in our day to day – think things like oily fish, nuts, avocados, good quality olive oils in moderation – perhaps we should ensure that we are getting plenty of those first?


For me, there are many things we can look at before buying the latest supplement BUT if it has made it onto the market and is readily available in the western world (although it is illegal to forage them in the wild in the UK) then chances are, due to regulations, it is unlikely to cause you any direct harm. So, as with all supplements, if you have the funds and the inclination then I’m not here to stop you from trying it, even if you feel benefits from a placebo perspective it can’t be a bad thing BUT it isn’t something I would be rushing out to purchase as part of my weekly staples in my food shop. A word of warning though for special populations, such a those that might be pregnant or on medication – PLEASE DO NOT take any supplement without checking with your doctor first. Research is not often carried out on specialist populations and therefore we don’t know the safety of these things!


The recent exposure on TV in the UK of the new Lion’s Mane product in Aldi is interesting – they don’t actually fully market it as a health product but also as a ‘delicious’ addition to cookery. It comes in a dried form which can be rehydrated and used to consume directly in meals/cooking or you can grind it down to powder form from its dehydrated state, supposedly for use in smoothies, coffee, that sort of thing. I don’t know about you but I’m leaving mushrooms well away from my coffee!!


I’m struggling to find the nutritional information online at the moment of the supermarket product but, I would hazard a guess, that in relation to studies which contained concentrated capsules, you would NEED a lot of the dried stuff to have a chance at obtaining any supposed health benefits. I’ll keep a look out for you in case I can be proven otherwise.


So that’s my short and sweet take on the limited information that we have up to now. I am happy to provide any study references should anyone wish to read them. If you have any questions though I can do my best to answer them, you know what to do, I’m just a message away!


In the meantime, peace and love, A x

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