Choosing the best Lion’s Mane extract is no easy task. A lot of people are buying capsules full of mostly brown rice powder without knowing it. They may even be experiencing a strong placebo effect. I’m glad you’re here right now because I’ve expertly selected the best Lion’s Mane mushroom supplements currently on the market.
In this guide, I share the top 5 brands, how I chose them, and a bonus buyer’s guide to help you understand what makes a great mushroom supplement without having to read an entire book on the subject.
Lion’s Mane Buyer’s Guide
In this guide, I provide a brief background on this magical mushroom and further explain why it’s one of the best supplements in the world for enhancing cognitive function.
By the end, you’ll know for sure if Lion’s Mane is right for you and how to choose the right brand in my top 5 picks.
What is Lion’s Mane?
Lion’s Mane or Hericium Erinaceus is a medicinal mushroom that’s being hailed as one of the most prized all-natural “nootropics.” However, don’t let the buzzword “nootropic” confuse or fool you. This mushroom has been around for quite some time.
This peculiar fungus belongs to the “tooth fungus” group, and it grows in individual “spines.” When clumped together, the spines take on the appearance of a healthy lion’s mane. The fungus grows naturally in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Similar to other top medicinal mushrooms, Lion’s Mane fungus contains polysaccharides, which contain B-glucan, heteroglucans, and heteroxylans.
You may have noticed in the Top 5 Chart above how I highlighted the all-important Beta-glucan content.
Beta-glucan content is a better measure of potency than polysaccharides alone.
Other names for Lion’s Mane fungus: bearded tooth mushroom, pom pom mushroom, satyr’s beard, and hedgehog mushroom (this is also a name for a similar species of tooth fungus)
Where do Lion’s Mane mushrooms grow?
In the wild, Lion’s Mane typically grows on dead oak and beech trees as a parasitic fungus that feeds on dead material. The “spines” are what release spores to reproduce this magical fungus.
Mushrooms with caps – that most people are used to seeing – release their spores from their gills beneath the caps.
An interesting fact about Lion’s Mane is it grows higher up on trees, making it a truly rare sighting for any mushroom hunter.
Like most medicinal mushrooms, Lion’s Mane started in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for stomach ailments before making its way over to the West, where researchers realized it offers a host of other benefits, which leads us to the next section…
Is Lion’s Mane effective?
One study (*) concluded that Lion’s Mane has neurotrophic activities through its ability to boost nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis in nerve cells. Researchers isolated hericenones and erinacines from Lion’s Mane to perform the study.
While they did find that Lion’s Mane possesses neurotrophic activities, they concluded that it does not have neuroprotective activities.
NGF plays a critical role in the preservation, survival, and recovery of neurons in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The beneficial compounds found in Lion’s Mane are able to cross the blood-brain to stimulate neuron growth.
This is Lion’s Mane most powerful ability and the primary reason it’s an effective supplement for enhanced cognitive function.
A second human study (*) with 30 subjects aged between 50 and 80 also led to promising results. The subjects all suffered from mild cognitive impairment. After 8, 12, and 16 weeks of Lion’s Mane supplementation, the Lion’s Mane group showed significant cognitive improvement compared to the placebo group.
The researchers continued to test the subjects after discontinuing supplementation. They found that 4 weeks after supplementation stopped, the cognitive benefits began diminishing.
For this reason, Lion’s Mane is best to take long-term to maintain the benefits or not stop for more than 3 weeks between intervals. The researchers in the second study found no adverse health effects on subjects supplementing daily for 16 weeks.
There’s evidence that Lion’s Mane’s ability to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) may provide support for the following psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Rett syndrome
- Bipolar disorder
- Anorexia and Bulimia
NGF and Bipolar Disorder
When bipolar disorder sufferers enter a manic state, NGF levels are low (*). Administration of lithium boosts NGF levels in the frontal cortex, limbic forebrain, hippocampus, and amygdala, providing bipolar patients with relief (*).
Could Lion’s Mane’s effect on NGF production provide all-natural relief for people suffering from bipolar disorder? I think that’s a question worth considering.
Lion’s Mane Extract Benefits
Now that you know what Lion’s Mane is and what diseases it may benefit, let’s check out the benefits people who take the extract are experiencing:
- Anxiety Relief
- Improved Memory Function (including memory recall)
- Feelings of Well-Being
- Improved Quality of Sleep
- Depression Relief
- More Composure/Patience
- Positive effects in Alzheimer’s cases such as reduced anger
- A dramatic increase in focus (less likely to get distracted when needing to focus for extended periods)
- No More Brain Fog
- MS sufferers are finding relief
- Increased Energy
- More Optimism
- Improvement in ADHD Symptoms
- Nerve Pain Relief
One of the more amazing stories I found was by a person who began taking Lion’s Mane after waking up from a 7-month coma. The person reported that Lion’s Mane helped them recover memories faster, including birthdays and names of loved ones.
How much Lion’s Mane should I take daily?
The recommended daily Lion’s Mane dosage depends on the strength/type of extract you purchase. Also, people who weigh more will generally need to take more to experience the same effect. Personally, I usually choose powders to save money and make my own capsules.
By making my own capsules, I’m able to find the exact daily dosing routine that works best for me since I have more powder on hand.
One of the many reasons I chose the Real Mushrooms brand as my #1 pick is it’s also available in powder form.
Adults take 1 gram of powder per day or 2 capsules that contain 500 mg each.
Lighter adults may only require 500 mg daily, while people who weigh more may want to dose up to 1.5 grams daily.
There’s also the option to spread out the daily dose by taking 500 mg 1-3 times throughout the day.
The best way to find your optimal dosing routine is to experiment with spreading out the dosages or seeing if it’s best for you to take it all at once.
Real Mushrooms recommends taking 1000 mg in one dose daily.
I find that mushroom supplements treat me the best when I take them on an empty stomach after eating at least one meal that day.
I try to take them earlier in the day after breakfast to avoid any trouble sleeping at night because I often experience a spike in energy.
Is Lion’s Mane mushroom legal?
Lion’s Mane is legal in the US. If it wasn’t, the supplement companies selling it domestically would get in trouble well before you.
The confusion stems from Lion’s Mane’s association with psilocybe cubensis or “magic mushrooms.” Lion’s Mane fungus does not contain the hallucinogenic compound “psilocybin.”
There are over 75 mushroom species in the world that contain psilocybin (*) and Lion’s Mane is not one of them.
How to Choose the Best Lion’s Mane Extract Supplement
Now for one of the most important parts of the buyer’s guide. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding mushroom supplements that are currently on the market, and certainly a lot of junk products out there.
By following this part of the guide or choosing one of the supplements in my Top 5, you avoid being ripped off.
Here are the 8 most important features to look for when choosing the best Lion’s Mane supplement:
- Choose extracts made from fruiting bodies only, not mycelium and starch. The reasons I included Paul Stamets’ Lion Mane (not fruiting bodies) are the anecdotal evidence backing up its efficacy and Stamets’ encyclopedic mushroom knowledge.
- Be sure it’s an extract (hot-water extraction or double extraction with hot water & alcohol are the preferred methods)
- Only buy certified organic extracts
- Choose vendors who specialize in selling mushrooms
- Reach for supplements that are lab-tested to confirm beneficial compounds are present and the levels of beneficial compounds
- Beta-glucan % is more important than polysaccharide % (don’t be fooled by companies showing only high levels of polysaccharides)
- No grain fillers – A lot of people are buying capsules full of brown rice without knowing it. When you open up a fresh bag of mushroom powder, it shouldn’t smell like rice. This is one way to tell if you just bought mushrooms with grain fillers.
- Choose supplements with 100s of verified reviews with at least 70% 5-Star and below 10% one-star reviews.
These are the key ingredients to look for when choosing other popular mushroom supplements as well.
I’m experienced in the art of mycology. Growing mycelium on grain is quite easy. Growing mushroom fruiting bodies from myceliated grain is not easy. It’s actually quite difficult.
Inexperienced mushroom vendors who are trying to make a quick buck extract their powders from myceliated grain.
In essence, they’re skipping a major step to save money on production and/or aren’t skilled enough to grow mushroom fruiting bodies. Their end products are full of grain without much if any beneficial mushroom compounds.
Follow the 8 points above, and you’ll always land on the best mushroom supplements.
As with all supplements, people who supplement with Lion’s Mane do sometimes experience negative side effects. Although, it is rare. To keep this guide 100% fair and unbiased, it’s important for me to list potential side effects.
Below is a list of reported side effects I found during my research:
- Upset Stomach
- General Digestive Issues
- Increased Urination
- Decreased Libido
If you’re unsure about any supplement, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before you try it.
However, it is important to keep in mind that mushroom extracts are made from edible mushrooms only. They’re 100% organic, unlike synthetic supplements that are more likely to cause negative side effects.
What is Lion’s Mane extract?
The difference between Lion’s Mane extract and whole mushrooms is the extract version has undergone an extraction process. Most mushroom companies use hot-water or alcohol extraction methods.
In some cases, extract versions are better than whole versions because they contain higher levels of beneficial compounds. They’re also easier for your body to absorb.
You may have noticed that Dr. Emil Nutrition Smart Shrooms went a step further by adding BioPerine to the mix for enhanced bioavailability.
If you choose an extract without BioPerine, it’s always possible to buy a bottle of it to take along with your other supplements.
In conclusion, Lion’s Mane extract is the extracted version of the whole mushroom. The extract version contains higher percentages of beneficial compounds, making it more potent.
You would have to eat a lot more whole mushroom mass to equal what you get from the encapsulated extract that’s much easier to take. Extracts also have a longer shelf life since they’re dried and have undergone hot-water and/or alcohol treatment, which helps to sterilize the final extract powder.
How to take Lion’s Mane
It’s best to mix the powder with warm water, coffee, tea, or in a smoothie since the taste does not agree with everyone. For this reason, most people prefer to take the encapsulated version to avoid the Lion’s Mane taste altogether, or just for the sake of convenience.
Lion’s Mane is best to take long-term because of its cumulative positive effect on the body. Users often experience long-lasting effects that continue for the duration of supplementation. It’s only once you stop supplementation that you’ll notice the positive effects wash away starting a few weeks after you stop.
What does it taste like?
The sweet/savory flavor of Lion’s Mane has often been described as seafood-like, similar to crab or lobster meat. The stringy texture also feels like crab meat when chewed. Obviously, people who aren’t fans of shellfish will want to stick to the capsules.
Where to find it?
Unless you’re a skilled mushroom hunter living in the forests of the Pacific Northwest or parts of New England, there’s a very slim chance that you’ll find Lion’s Mane in the wild.
If you’re wondering where to find Lion’s Mane extract online to buy, refer back to my Top 5 Chart for the current top options.
How long does Lion’s Mane take to grow?
Having grown mushrooms, I found this question to be one of the more interesting ones. Unlike plants, mushrooms grow fast once the mycelium has fully flourished and the atmospheric conditions are just right.
Under optimal temp and humidity conditions, Lion’s Mane mushrooms fully mature in roughly 3 weeks. It’s critical to pick them at their peak when clear teeth have developed on the fungus masses.
Once the teeth turn golden brown, the fungus mass has gone beyond its peak for picking.
How to Cook Lion’s Mane Mushroom
If you choose to grow your own Lion’s Mane or find a local supplier, you can cook it much like you would crab meat.
One method is to slice it into medium-sized rounds and pan-fry it over low to medium heat in a bit of olive oil or butter.
Another method is to follow your favorite crab cake recipe and replace the crab meat with Lion’s Mane mushroom.
A third method is to treat it like a head of cauliflower and break it into pieces. Some chefs recommend (*) starting with a dry sauté before adding a dab of butter and a clove of finely chopped garlic.
The key is to avoid burning the fragile flesh of the mushroom by not cooking with the heat too high. You also want to cook it immediately after cutting it to reduce the contact time between the air and freshly cut mushroom flesh.
By now, I’m confident that you know the best Lion’s Mane extract brands and how to choose them. You also have enough knowledge about this magical mushroom to know why people all over the world are taking it to improve cognitive function.
What fascinates me the most is the promising scientific evidence behind this shroom, and its unique ability to stimulate NGF synthesis. Medicinal mushrooms never cease to amaze me, as cordyceps has long been my favorite all-around supplement.
Now that nootropics are becoming increasingly popular, Lion’s Mane is in the spotlight for good reason. I put Genius Consciousness in my Top 5 because Lion’s Mane is one of its main ingredients. The synergistic blend in Consciousness makes it one of the best nootropics currently on the market.
Whichever brand you choose, enjoy it!