'Super' 20p pill could cut your risk of dementia, heart disease and more

woman taking a nutritional supplements
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

An unusual-looking vegetable is being praised for its 'incredible' range of health benefits. Studies show a 'little-known' mushroom called lion's mane are filled with 'super' nutrients that could help lower your risk of chronic illnesses - including heart disease, dementia, and depression.

Resembling its namesake as it gets bigger, the shaggy white lion's mane mushroom contains bioactive substances benefiting various bodily functions, especially brain, heart, and gut health. Lion's mane mushrooms typically grow on trees and logs.

Offering an insight, Rhysa Phommachanh, a medical expert of Landys Chemist said: "Lion's Mane is packed with compounds that support brain health and mental clarity. It's especially popular among students, professionals, and older adults looking to boost cognitive function and memory naturally, while also providing a natural alternative to synthetic supplements.

"They are best tolerated before or during a meal as this helps reduce the risk of any gastrointestinal discomfort as recommended for most dietary supplements. You can even add a powdered form to your tea or coffee as part of your routine."

You can bag yourself a bargain with Holland and Barrett's Lion's Mane Mushrooms with Ginseng and Omega-3 on sale for £12 - previously £24.50. The package contains 60 capsules, so you're looking at just 20p per pill, reports the Mirror.

Lion mane mushroom isolated on white background
The mushrooms are white and fuzzy -Credit:Getty

1. Cognitive function

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms contain compounds such as hericenones and erinacines. These can stimulate nerve growth factor production and, in turn, support brain health, memory, and focus.

Research also indicates that Lion’s Mane Mushrooms may have neuroprotective properties due to its ability to promote nerve growth and repair, which could potentially aid in the prevention or management of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

In a study conducted in 2020, individuals with mild Alzheimer's disease who took 1 gram of lion's mane mushroom daily for 49 weeks showed a notable enhancement in cognitive test scores when compared to those who were given a placebo.

Lion's mane mushroom and its extracts have also demonstrated the ability to decrease memory loss symptoms in mice and protect against neuronal damage from amyloid-beta plaques. These are known to build up in the brain with Alzheimer's disease.

2. Mental health support

Evidence suggests that consuming Lion's Mane Mushrooms can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression due to their anti-inflammatory properties. This mushroom also supports the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), which may help regulate mood and promote overall mental well-being.

A small study conducted in 2010 with menopausal women revealed that consuming cookies with lion's mane mushrooms on a daily basis for a month led to a decrease in self-reported feelings of irritation and anxiety. Studies on animals have also shown that lion's mane mushroom extract possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice.

3. System boost

Lion’s Mane contains polysaccharides, specifically beta-glucans, which are compounds that can help enhance the immune system and help fend off illness and infection. Studies on rats have shown that lion's mane extract may accelerate the healing process of nervous system injuries, although there is a lack of research involving humans.

4. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties

Due to containing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, Lion’s Mane Mushrooms may help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, factors which are associated with many chronic diseases. It could also potentially help with managing diabetes by enhancing blood sugar control and alleviating certain side effects.

Studies indicate that lion's mane extract has the potential to impact these variables and lower the chances of developing heart disease. Lion's mane mushrooms are rich in hericenone B, a compound that has been shown to reduce blood clotting and potentially lower the chances of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

In a study conducted in 2012 to assess the antioxidant properties of 14 mushroom species, lion's mane was identified as having the fourth highest antioxidant activity. The study suggested that lion's mane could be a beneficial dietary source of antioxidants.

5. Digestive health

Lion’s Mane could also improve digestive health by promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and reducing inflammation in the gut lining. This can potentially aid with conditions like ulcers and inflammatory bowel syndrome.

In 2016, a study on individuals suffering from ulcerative colitis revealed that the consumption of a mushroom supplement with 14% lion's mane extract led to a notable decrease in symptoms and an enhancement in quality of life within a span of three weeks. But, the herbal supplement used in the research contained various types of mushrooms, making it challenging to draw conclusions specifically about the effects of lion's mane.

Who should avoid taking Lion's Mane Mushrooms?

Rhysa Phommachanh cautions: "Lion's Mane Mushrooms are generally considered safe to consume as part of a daily supplement regime for most people. However, for some individuals, such as pregnant and breastfeeding women, those taking blood thinners or medication for diabetes or individuals with mushroom allergies, it is advised to consult a healthcare professional before taking them."

Studies on animals suggest that lion's mane mushrooms and their extracts are largely safe, even when consumed in significant quantities. However, human allergic reactions have been reported, so those with known mushroom allergies should avoid this fungus.

Key points to bear in mind:

While research into the health benefits of lion's mane mushrooms continues to show promise, more human studies are needed to establish effective health applications. Additionally, while it's okay to take vitamin and mineral supplements, getting these nutrients from food sources is preferable.

Before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle, always discuss with your doctor to ensure the safety of new supplements for your specific health needs.