Lion’s Mane is a culinary mushroom with a long history of use in traditional Asian medicine. If you are looking for ways to support your moods, and cognition during your menopausal transition this may be for you.
Lion's mane, I love the name because if you look at an image of this mushroom it does really look like a lion's mane. Other common names include mountain priest, bearded hedgehog, and bearded tooth fungus. These names really conjure up an image that matches how it looks.
Lion’s mane is a phytoestrogen containing 2 isoflavones daidzein and genistein. Phytoestrogens may help reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats but this is just a constituent theory and not a symptom that has been investigated. It also contains fibre, vitamins, minerals, polysaccharides such as beta-glucan and secondary metabolites such as hericerins, erinacines.
These constituents give lions mane many of its important actions. This mushroom may help ease anxiety and depression while improving cognition and memory. It may also improve your digestion, have a glucose-regulating effect, adaptogenic quality, anti-inflammatory effect, and may help reduce fatigue.
One of its most highly regarded actions is its ability to stimulate nerve growth factors and brain-derived neurotrophic factors. This helps to produce new neural pathways and strengthen old ones. It also helps protect your myelin sheath, the protective layer located around your nerves. These functions give Lion’s Mane its other nickname “The Smart Mushroom”.
When it comes to the literature, most of it is historical usages, remember it has been used for centuries in Asia, it would have been long forgotten if it didn’t work. Historically it held so much value that it was reserved for the use of the Royal family only.
Human studies are few and far between and studies using women transitioning into menopause are very rare indeed but I did find a Japanese randomised, double-blind placebo study looking specifically at the impacts of Lion’s Mane treatment on moods in women transitioning into menopause. The participants in this study had 4 cookies daily for 4 weeks. In the treatment group each cookie contained 500mg of Lions’ Mane, the placebo cookie was the same without the added Lions’ Mane.
This study found Lion’s mane to be statistically superior to placebo at reducing menopausal anxiety and depression. Other findings from this study included reduced palpitation, less frustration, increased concentration, and improved sleep quality.
There is a study on cognition. Study participants were all over 50 years of age with normal cognitive function and most of them were female. The treatment group took 800mg of Lions mane 4 times daily for 12 weeks. The treatment group experienced improved short-term memory and improved cognitive function.
Lions mane has an immune modulating effect and in animal studies has been shown to slow and reduce many different forms of cancer including breast, colon, liver, cervical, lung, and stomach but there are no human studies to back this up.
Again in animal studies, Lion's mane was found to normalise cholesterol levels and may thin the blood by preventing the formation of blood clots.
In regards to digestion, animal studies have indicated an antibacterial role against the pathogen Helicobacter pylori and protection against h pylori-produced gastric ulcers. Due to its anti-inflammatory action on the digestive system, it may also improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
Moving away from animal studies and towards constituent research. Lion’s mane was found to contain anti-osteoporotic compounds. The study suggests that Lions’ mane may be developed into a future anti-osteoporotic nutraceutical to help protect our bones as we age. Again this hasn't been backed by further research.
The amount of research being done on this mushroom is frustratingly small. It does hold a lot of potential. The 3 main long-term concerns of post-menopausal women are brain health, heart health, and bone health. there could be a role for Lion's Mane in all 3 of these areas of concern.
As long as you aren’t allergic to mushrooms you may want to start by adding it to your diet as a food, it seems frying them in butter is a good way to start. You can add salt or garlic if you prefer. It may interest you to know it's also been called the lobster of the woods due to its resemblance to the taste and texture of shellfish.
If you are considering taking it as a supplement please speak to your healthcare provider to see if it's a possible option for you. In regards to medication interactions taking lion's manes with anti-coagulate or anti-platelet drugs is not a good idea as it may further slow your ability to produce a blood clot, increasing your risk of bleeding.
Another article of interest