Lion's Mane

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Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a type of medicinal mushroom. Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, lion's mane is widely available in supplement form. Scientific research shows that lion's mane contains a number of health-promoting substances, including antioxidants and beta-glucan.


Proponents claim that lion's mane can help with a variety of health problems, including:

In addition, lion's mane is said to strengthen the immune system, stimulate digestion, and protect against cancer.


So far, research on the health effects of lion's mane is fairly limited. However, findings from animal-based research, test-tube studies, and small clinical trials indicate that lion's mane may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at some key study findings:

Brain Function

Lion's mane may benefit older adults with mild cognitive impairment, according to a small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2009. For the study, researchers assigned 30 older adults with mild cognitive impairment to take either lion's mane extract or a placebo every day for 16 weeks. In cognitive tests given at weeks eight, 12, and 16 of the study, members of the lion's mane group showed significantly greater improvements compared to members of the placebo group.

In a more recent study (published in Biomedical Research in 2011), scientists examined the effects of lion's mane on brain function in mice. Results revealed that lion's mane helped protect against memory problems caused by buildup of amyloid beta (a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease).


Lion's mane may help alleviate depression and anxiety, suggests a small study published in Biomedical Research in 2010. For the study, 30 menopausal women consumed cookies containing either lion's mane or a placebo every day for four weeks. Analyzing study findings, researchers observed that members of the lion's mane group were less irritable and anxious and had less difficulty concentrating than members of the placebo group.


Preliminary research suggests that lion's mane shows promise in protection against cancer. For instance, in a 2011 study from Food & Function, tests on human cells revealed that lion's mane may help knock out leukemia cells.

In addition, a 2011 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that lion's mane extract helped reduce the size of cancerous colon tumors in mice. The study's findings suggest that lion's mane may help fight off colon cancer, in part by increasing activity in certain cells involved in the immune response. However, it's too soon to tell whether lion's mane can help prevent colon cancer in humans.


Little is known about the safety of long-term use of lion's mane supplements. However, there's some concern that lion's mane may aggravate symptoms in people with allergies and asthma.

Therefore, it's important to consult your physician prior to using lion's mane if you have a history of allergies and/or asthma.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, supplements containing lion's mane are also sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using It for Health

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend lion's mane for any health condition. If you're considering the use of lion's mane for a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating a chronic condition with lion's mane and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


Hericium erinaceus is one of the few mushrooms imparting the flavor of lobster when cooked. Producing a mane of cascading white spines, this mushroom can be grown on sterilized sawdust/bran or via the traditional log method first established for Shiitake.

Mycelial Characteristics: Whitish, forming triangular zones of collected rhizomorphs, radiating from the dense center section. (The mycelium can resemble the structure of a glaciated mountain (i.e. Mt. Rainier) as seen from high overhead from an airplane). If the top and bottom of the culture dishes are taped together, evaporation is lessened with an associated pooling of carbon dioxide. This stimulates the mycelium into aerial growth. As cultures age, the mycelia become yellow to distinctly pinkish. Islands of young fruit bodies form in petri dish cultures incubated at 75* F (24* C) in two to three weeks. Such fruit bodies are characterized by elongated, aerial spines ("spider-like"), which in age, change from whitish to yellowish.

  • Microscopic Features: This mushroom produces white spores.
  • Suggested Agar Media Culture: Malt Yeast Peptone Agar (MYPA), Potato Dextrose Yeast Agar (PDYA), or Dog Food Agar (DFA).
  • Spawn Media: For the first generation use Grain, (rye, wheat, milo, wheat, barley, corn, or millet. For second and third generations use grain, sterilized sawdust or plugs.
  • Substrates for Fruiting: Sterilized sawdust supplemented with rice bran for indoors. Hardwood and Douglas fir logs & stumps are recommended for outdoors. The pH range for fruiting falls between 5.0-6.5.
  • Yield Potentials: 550 grams fresh weight from 5 lbs. hardwood (alder) sawdust, unenriched. ! lb. clusters are common using the above technique. With multiple sites forming exterior to the bag, maximum yield efficiency approaches 2 lbs.

Growth Parameters

Spawn Run:

  • Incubation Temperature: 70-75* F (21-24* C)
  • Relative Humidity: 95-100%
  • Duration: 10-14 days
  • CO2: 5000-40,000 ppm
  • Light Requirements: n/a

Primordia Formation:

  • Initiation Temperature: 50-60* F (10-15.6* C)
  • Relative Humidity: 95-100%
  • Duration: 3-5 days
  • CO2: 500-700 ppm
  • Fresh Air Exchanges: 5-8 per hour
  • Light Requirements: 500-1000 lux

Fruitbody Development:

  • Temperature: 65-75* F (18-24* C)
  • Relative Humidity: (85) 90-95%
  • Duration: 4-5 days
  • CO2: 500-1000 ppm
  • Fresh Air Exchanges: 5-8 per hour
  • Light Requirements: 500-1000 lux

Cropping Cycle:

  • 14 days apart

Comments: This mushroom grows quickly and is acclaimed by most mycophagists. From a marketing point of view, H. erinaceus has distinct advantages and few disadvantages. The snow-ball like forms are appealing. Picked individually and wrapped in rice paper or presented in a see-through container, this mushroom is best sold individually, regardless of weight. A major disadvantage is its high water content and white background which makes bruising quite apparent, although the mushroom may be, as a whole, in fine shape. Once the brown bruises occur, the damaged tissue becomes a site for bacterial blotch, quickly spreading to the other mature parts of the mushroom. In short, this mushroom must be handled ever so carefully by the harvesters. By reducing humidity several hours before harvest to the 60-70% range, the mushroom loses sufficient water and tends not to bruise so readily. Hericium erinaceus grows aggressively on hardwood sawdust enriched with bran. Incubation proceeds for two weeks, after which primordia occur spontaneously. Since fruitings off vertical faces of the plastic bags are more desirable than top fruitings, it is essential that holes be punched into the sides of the bags directly after colonization. Should primordia form unabated within the confines of the sealed bag, the number and quality of spines are adversely affected. Under these conditions, the spines elongate, are loosely arranged, and when they fully develop the mass of the harvested mushroom is only a fraction of what it would have otherwise been.