Unlocking the Secrets of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extracts: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

Neeladri Chowdhury

In the realm of fungi, few specimens command as much awe and reverence as the Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus). Its unique appearance, coupled with a rich history of medicinal and culinary use, has cemented its status as a revered organism. In this article, we embark on a journey to unravel the mysteries surrounding this remarkable fungus, delving into its origins, cultivation, health benefits, and more.

What is Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushroom is scientifically known as Hericium erinaceus. Its spore bearing projections cascade down the fruiting body resembling a long mane, earning it many names. It is commonly known as llion’s mane mushroom, but also goes by bearded tooth fungus, pom pom mushroom and monkey head mushroom. 

Teeth of Lion's mane mushroom
Fig: Close-up image of the teeth like spore bearing structures of lion’s mane mushroom (image)

Physical Characteristics:

The most distinctive features of lion’s mane mushrooms are their beard like appearance. It belongs to a group of fungi called hydnoid or tooth fungi. All members of this family bear their spores on spine-like projections which protrude from the basidiocarp or fruiting body. Other members of this group include the beautiful mealy tooth mushroom and the toothed jelly mushroom.

Lion’s mane mushrooms coloration ranges from creamy white to pale yellow. They are generally found growing on hardwood trees and are saprobic as well as parasitic in nature.  Just like all other mushrooms, lion’s mane mushrooms propagate using spores borne on their teeth. 

Fig: A map showing the natural distribution of Lion’s mane mushrooms (image)

Geographic Distribution:

Lion’s Mane mushroom is native to temperate regions of North America and Asia. Most notably, they are found in the alpine forests of Japan, China, Korea and the Pacific Northwestern region of North America. Recently a closely related species named Hericium bharengense was discovered in Sikkim.

They thrive in moist, woodland habitats with temperatures below 25℃. It is commonly found growing on dead or decaying hardwood logs, stumps, and branches, particularly those of oak, beech, and maple trees.

Ecological Role:

In its natural habitat, Lion’s Mane mushroom plays a vital ecological role as a decomposer, breaking down dead or dying wood and recycling nutrients back into the soil. Its ability to colonize hardwood trees makes it a key player in forest nutrient cycling and ecosystem health.

Historic Use and Cultural Significance:

The use of Lion’s Mane mushroom dates back centuries, with records of its consumption for both culinary and medicinal purposes in traditional Chinese medicine and Japanese cuisine. Traditionally known as Yamabushitake (Japanese) or Hou you gu (Mandarin Chinese), it is revered for its potential cognitive and digestive health benefits.

Traditional Medicine:

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Lion’s Mane mushroom has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive disorders, inflammation, and cognitive decline. It is believed to have a cooling, nourishing effect on the body, promoting balance and vitality.

Culinary Tradition:

In addition to its medicinal properties, Lion’s Mane mushroom has a long history of culinary use in Asian cuisine, particularly in Japan and China. It is prized for its delicate flavor and unique texture, often featured in soups, stir-fries, and vegetarian dishes.

Symbolism and Folklore:

Lion’s Mane mushroom holds a special place in the folklore and symbolism of many cultures, often representing wisdom, strength, and longevity. In Japanese culture, it is associated with the mythical creature “Shishi,” symbolizing protection and good fortune.

Cultivation History and Methods:

Lion’s mane mushrooms were traditionally harvested from the wild. The cultivation of Lion’s Mane mushroom has gained popularity in recent years due to its increasing demand. Cultivation typically involves inoculating sterilized substrates such as sawdust, straw, or logs with mushroom spawn, providing optimal conditions for growth, including humidity, temperature, and ventilation.

Fig: Lion’s mane mushroom cultivation using natural substrates (image)

Historical Cultivation:

The cultivation of Lion’s Mane mushroom dates back centuries, with records of its cultivation in China as early as the 15th century. Traditional cultivation methods involved inoculating logs or straw beds with mushroom spawn and maintaining optimal environmental conditions for fruiting.

Fig: Lion’s mane mushroom cultivation in a high-tech large-scale controlled environment fruiting room (image)

Modern Cultivation Techniques:

In modern times, the cultivation of Lion’s Mane mushroom has been streamlined and optimized through advances in technology. Commercial growers use techniques such as controlled environment cultivation, automated irrigation systems, and sterile laboratory procedures to maximize yield and quality.

Fig: Nuvedo’s Ready-to-fruit Lion’s mane mushroom growkits offer the freshest mushrooms you can get (image)

Ready-to-fruit Grow Kits

One of the best ways to obtain fresh Lion’s mane mushroom fruiting bodies is to use ready-to -fruit grow kits. These kits are made of colonised substrate packed into a box format. All one has to do is spray some water a couple of times a day and fresh mushrooms grow out within 3 weeks.

Sustainable Cultivation Practices:

As interest in sustainable agriculture grows, there has been a renewed focus on sustainable cultivation practices for Lion’s Mane mushroom. This includes sourcing local, organic substrates, minimizing waste through composting, and reducing energy consumption through efficient heating and cooling systems.

Health Benefits:

Lion’s Mane mushroom is primarily associated with cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects. However it also has significant effects on digestive health and immune system modulation

Cognitive Enhancement:

Lion’s Mane mushrooms are widely researched for their ability to enhance cognitive functions. The consumption of the mushroom in the form of extracts or powders can improve focus and mental clarity.

Fig: Lion’s mane mushrooms support brain function

Brain Support

Compounds in mion’s mane mycelia and fruiting bodies such as hericenones and erinacines stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) and promote neuronal growth and repair. This keeps the brain in a state of good health and prevents neurodegeneration.

Fig: Consuming Lion’s mane mushrooms can stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s diesease and improve cognitive function in patients (image)

Stave off Alzheimer’s Disease

Due to the neuroprotective effects of compounds in Lion’s mane extracts, many clinical trials have been conducted to investigate the use of lion’s mane for the management of Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies report improvements in cognitive function compared to the placebo treated group. The promotion of NGF secretion also helps delay the onset of symptoms and slow down disease progression

Digestive Health Support:

Lion’s Mane mushrooms promote digestive health by supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and reducing inflammation in the digestive tract. This can help alleviate symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Immune System Modulation:

Polysaccharides such as beta glucans from lion’s mane mushrooms enhance immune function, helping the body defend against infections and diseases. These compounds stimulate immune cell activity and modulate inflammatory responses, contributing to overall immune system health.

Improved Fat Metabolism

Extracts of lion’s mane mushrooms promote fat metabolism in mouse studies. Both hot water and ethanol extracts when given to mice fed on a high fat diet, resulted in a much lower weight gain when compared to placebo controls.

Bioactive Molecules:

Lion’s Mane mushroom contains a diverse range of bioactive molecules, each with its own unique properties and potential health benefits. Some of the key bioactive compounds found in Lion’s Mane mushroom include hericenones, erinacines, polysaccharides, terpenoids, and phenolic compounds.


Hericenones are diterpenoid compounds found in lion’s mane mushrooms which stimulate the secretion of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the brain. They are found in the fruiting bodies of the mushroom and are soluble in ethanol.


Erinacines are another group of diterpenoid compounds which have the ability to stimulate NGF in the brain. They are found in the mycelia of lion’s mane mushrooms and not in fruiting bodies. They are ethanol soluble in nature.


Hericenes are monoterpenoid compounds isolated from fruiting bodies of lion’s mane mushroom. They have been shown to promote axonal outgrowths in hippocampal neurons and promote NGF secretion. They are also ethanol soluble in nature.


Lion’s Mane mushroom contains a variety of polysaccharides which modulate immune function, act as antioxidants and may also have antimicrobial properties. They also support digestive health. Ploysaccharides are water soluble and can be found in extracts as well as dried mushrooms.

Beta glucans

Beta glucans are polysaccharides and are an essential component of fungal cell walls. They are responsible for the immuno-modulatory properties of lion’s mane mushrooms. They are water soluble compounds and can be found in hot water extracts or teas. 


Polyphenols are the main antioxidant compounds in lion’s mane mushrooms and lion’s mane mushroom extracts. These compounds are extremely sensitive to heat so they are best consumed from dried mushrooms or extracts prepared at low temperatures. 

Methods of Consumption:

Lion’s Mane mushroom can be consumed in various forms, each offering its own unique culinary and nutritional benefits. Some popular methods of consuming Lion’s Mane mushroom include:


Fresh Lion’s Mane mushroom can be cooked in a variety of ways, including sautéing, grilling, or roasting. However the best way to retain the maximum bioactive molecules is  to minimise exposure to heat. Stir-frying is  a quick and easy way to retain the maximum antioxidant potential of these mushrooms.

Due to their low shelf life (unless they are dried), it is best to consume the mushrooms as close to harvesting them as possible. (Check out our Lion’s mane mushroom grow kits for the freshest lion’s mane mushrooms you can get)

Its delicate flavor and unique texture make it a versatile ingredient in savory dishes such as stir-fries, soups, and pasta dishes.


Dried Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be rehydrated and used in cooking, or consumed as a supplement in the form of capsules or powder. Dried Lion’s Mane mushroom retains its nutritional value and can be easily stored for long periods. The drying temperature crucially impacts the amount of bioactive molecules retained. Sundried mushrooms or those dried at a low temperature retain the highest dose of bioactive molecules.

Extracts and Tinctures:

Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts and tinctures are a great way to consume concentrated forms of the mushroom’s active compounds. These extracts can be added to hot beverages such as tea or coffee, or taken directly as a supplement for cognitive support, digestive health, or immune system modulation. We prepare our Lion’s mane mushroom dual extracts using sound waves at low temperatures to retain the maximum number of bioactive molecules.


Lion’s Mane mushroom tea is a popular beverage in traditional Chinese medicine, prized for its soothing flavor and potential health benefits. To make Lion’s Mane mushroom tea, simply steep dried mushroom slices or powder in hot water for several minutes, then strain and enjoy.


Due to their ability to improve focus and cognitive function, lions mane powders or extracts are often incorporated into coffee blends. The hit of caffeine and lion’s mane together provide a steady stimulation to do some focused work.

Clinical Trials:

Several clinical trials have been conducted to explore the therapeutic potential of Lion’s Mane mushroom, particularly in the realm of cognitive health and neuroprotection. While results have been promising, further research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms of action and therapeutic efficacy.

Cognitive Function:

Clinical trials investigating the effects of Lion’s Mane mushroom on cognitive function have shown promising results, with some studies reporting improvements in memory, attention, and overall cognitive performance in both healthy individuals and those with cognitive impairment. These effects are thought to be mediated by the mushroom’s ability to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) production and promote neuronal growth and repair.

Neurological Disorders:

Preliminary studies suggest that Lion’s Mane mushroom may have potential therapeutic benefits for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. While more research is needed, early findings indicate that Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts may help protect against neuronal damage and promote neuronal regeneration in animal models of these diseases.

Gut Health:

Emerging research also suggests that Lion’s Mane mushroom may have beneficial effects on digestive health, including the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Clinical trials investigating the effects of Lion’s Mane mushroom supplements on gut inflammation and microbial balance are currently underway.


In conclusion, Lion’s Mane mushroom stands as a testament to nature’s bounty, offering a plethora of health benefits and cultural significance. From its humble origins in the forest to its cultivation in modern laboratories, this remarkable fungus continues to captivate the imagination of scientists, chefs, and health enthusiasts alike. As research into its therapeutic properties expands, the Lion’s Mane mushroom is poised to reign supreme in the realm of natural remedies and culinary delights. Its rich history, diverse array of bioactive compounds, and potential therapeutic applications make it a true marvel of the natural world, worthy of exploration and appreciation.


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Ma et. al. “Hericenones and erinacines: stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF) biosynthesis in Hericium erinaceus” Mycology (2010)


Hiwatashi et. al. “Yamabushitake mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) improved lipid metabolism in mice fed a high-fat diet” Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry (2010)


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Yang et. al. “Rapid Identification of Chemical Constituents in Hericium erinaceus Based on LC-MS/MS Metabolomics” Journal of Food Quality (2021)


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Martínez-Mármol et. al. “Hericerin derivatives activates a pan-neurotrophic pathway in central hippocampal neurons converging to ERK1/2 signaling enhancing spatial memory” Journal of Neurochemistry (2023)


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About the author

Neeladri Chowdhury

Picture of an employeeNeeladri Chowdhury

As a serial experimentalist and biologist his fascination with fungi began in the Appalachian mountains where he would often marvel at the hundreds of mushrooms seemingly appearing out of nowhere in the fall season. With a master’s in Stem Cell Biology from the University of Minnesota, he has gathered a deep understanding of the processes that govern the regeneration of animal tissues and the development of life. At Nuvedo he aims to unlock the hidden potential of the fungal kingdom.

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