The Amazing Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms 


It is mind-bending to think about the gut and brain benefits of mushrooms. Many types of mushrooms are healthy for the body, but human and animal studies show one particular type — Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus)—has some unique properties. The health benefits of this particular mushroom help the gut and brain, which is critical to keeping the gut-brain axis functioning in top form.  

Powdered mushrooms in dietary supplements, food, and beverages are gaining popularity. It’s easy to get a daily dose of these healthy fungi. You’ll find mushroom coffees, mushroom hot cocoa, mushroom spice blends, and packets to add to your foods and beverages. 

Lion’s Mane supports brain and cognitive function by targeting nerve growth factor (NGF), which regulates specific neurons’ growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival. The gut needs fibrous prebiotics, soluble fibers called beta-glucan, and antimicrobials to keep a healthy microbiome balance, and Lion’s Mane has all of these important compounds to support healthy nerve growth and inflammatory responses for the brain, immune and gastrointestinal systems – three components of the gut-brain axis

The health benefits of mushrooms are pretty remarkable and can be easily applied to your daily life in the kitchen, with your food choices, and through dietary supplementation. The Lion’s Mane mushroom, a creamy, funky-looking fungi, gets its name from shaggy, dangly threads that cover the outside. Folklore points to its comical appearance, including monkey head, bearded tooth, and hedgehog.

In the kitchen, Lion’s Mane is very versatile. The subtle taste is slightly earthy and seafood-like, with a sweetness similar to crab and lobster. The teeth-like structure of the flesh allows them to be easily shredded and used for vegetarian crab cakes or tossed in pasta, salads, stews, and soups. They can also be sauteed or fried until crispy (see recipe ideas below).

Danny Walsh is a real-life example of the power of mushrooms. He had ulcerative colitis (UC) and did not want to follow a conventional treatment path. With the help of his medical team, Walsh explored the benefits of a singular strategy of consuming anti-inflammatory foods, including mushrooms. Walsh’s gut health transformation was so profound that he delved into the science of mushrooms and how to get more health benefits from their bioactive ingredients. 

Though he could have given up on coffee because of his UC, Walsh experimented by infusing a low-acid coffee (better for his gut) with substantial levels of mushroom powder, including Lion’s Mane, cordyceps, reishi, and others. With his health restored, he turned his culinary tinkering into an award-winning coffee-mushroom company called Peak State

Nutrient and Health Resume

These bearded-like mushrooms contain potent nutrients vital to health, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and the essential minerals manganese, zinc, and potassium. As mentioned, these compounds, along with others, play a role in the health of your brain, gut, and heart because of their anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Benefits include supporting: 

  1. Strong immune system response 
  2. Healthy blood pressure regulation 
  3. Normal blood sugar management
  4. Reduction of oxidative stress for healthy aging 
  5. Healthy kidney, gut, and liver function 
  6. Enhancement of nerve/neurotransmitter functioning 
  7. Reduction of inflammation in the gut and brain 

Brain Health Compounds in Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane is a nootropic, meaning it contains compounds that assist in brain health and function. The mushroom contains two specific compounds—hericenones and erinacines that support nerve and brain health. Hericenones are typically found in the fruiting bodies—the head of the mushroom, while erinacines are located in the mycelia—the thread-like roots of the mushroom.

Human clinical trials using the bioactive compounds in Lion’s Mane show promising results: 

  1. Human and animal studies show how these compounds support the formation of neurons in the hippocampus, which may help maintain healthy moods and limit the damaging cognitive effects of depression.  
  2. In a study of menopausal women, consuming cookies containing powder from the mushroom’s fruiting bodies powder alleviated the symptoms of depression, anxiety, frustration, and heart palpitations. 
  3. Another study reported that supplements containing 80% mycelium extract and 20% fruiting body from Lion’s Mane significantly improved feelings of depression and anxiety and enhanced sleep after 8-weeks of use. 
  4. For people experiencing brain trauma, compounds in the mushrooms may play a role in reducing functional losses from oxidative stress responses that can lead to the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

3 Ways to Add Lion’s Mane to Your Daily Diet 

Low in calories but high in protein, they have the duo-benefits of being a vegetable that can behave like a meat or seafood protein in recipes. The following are recipes and ideas to spark your culinary creativity and eat more mushrooms. 

  1. Substitute your favorite crab cake recipe with Lion’s Mane mushroom. Shred the same volume of mushrooms to replace the seafood, add the standard binders and spices and saute in a pan. One supplier of fresh and dried mushrooms says mushroom-crab cakes are the most popular way their customers use Lion’s Mane.
  2. Coffee and Lion’s Mane mushrooms are meant for each other. Robust coffee and earthy mushrooms make a delicious hot beverage. Start your day by adding powdered mushrooms to your morning brew or see Peak State’s recommendations for brewing here
  3. If you are as crazy about mushrooms as I am, look at this video series from Epicurious about all the types of mushrooms. These videos don’t tackle every type (14,000) but break it down into the most common, specialty, and rare mushrooms on buying, storing, and cooking. 

Brands mentioned in this article are not endorsed by the Institute for Natural Medicine and are included for educational purposes. 

This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine


Diling, C., Chaoqun, Z., Jian, Y., Jian, L., Jiyan, S., Yizhen, X., & Guoxiao, L. (2017). Immunomodulatory Activities of a Fungal Protein Extracted from Hericium erinaceus through Regulating the Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in immunology8, 666.

Friedman M. Chemistry, Nutrition, and Health-Promoting Properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia and Their Bioactive Compounds. J Agric Food Chem. 2015;63(32):7108-7123. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.5b02914

Chong, P. S., Fung, M. L., Wong, K. H., & Lim, L. W. (2019). Therapeutic Potential of Hericium erinaceus for Depressive Disorder. International journal of molecular sciences21(1), 163.

Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, et al. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. 2010;31(4):231-237. doi:10.2220/biomedres.31.231

Vigna L., Morelli F., Agnelli G.M., Napolitano F., Ratto D., Occhinegro A., Di Iorio C., Savino E., Girometta C., Brandalise F., et al. Hericium erinaceus improves mood and sleep disorders in patients affected by overweight or obesity: Could circulating pro-BDNF and BDNF be potential biomarkers? Evid. Based Complement. Altern. Med. 2019;2019:7861297. doi: 10.1155/2019/7861297.

INM's team is made up of naturopathic doctors and health journalists.

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

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Michelle Simon

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.