Lion's mane - Mushroom or Mycelium?
Lion's mane - Mushroom and Mycelium
"Mycelium makes mushrooms and mushrooms make mycelium, they can not be seperated "
Lion's mane, Hericium erinaceus...the smart mushroom once known as "The Mountain Priest" no longer needs a formal introduction, but can perhaps still benefit from a little background story for entertainment sake. Said by the Monks to give you nerves of steel, this weirdly interesting fungus has a very long history of use in Asian cultures and Traditional Chinese medicine for its medicinal properties and nutritional profile. Today we are lucky enough to have this mushroom cultivated and distributed worldwide making access easy and convenient.
Choosing a Lion's mane supplement shouldn't be difficult, but marketing language is often directed to make one thing sound better than another to sway consumer opinion, making clear decisions for us as customers so much harder. There are too many options these days and the market is flooding with more and more options as big business jumps onboard the trendy new category.
To discuss this topic in real depth will need a dedicated podcast, but until then we hope this blog post will cover the basics...
To start with, It is necessary where possible that you source a Lion's mane product that contains some form of mycelium alongside the fruit body (ie. mushroom) if you're using it for the cognitive enhancing and NGF (nerve growth factor) benefits this fungus has to offer. Why is that you ask? The current science suggests that one of the two groups of compounds responsible for stimulating NGF has thus far only been found in the mycelium of Lion's mane(1). This group of compounds are known as erinacines. Since most of us has been misguided by the anti-mycelium propaganda in the early days of the mushroom boom this point has become particularly difficult to get across to those new to the subject. Mycelium is also often compared to the roots of plants, causing further confusion around what Fungi are, how they navigate and construct ecosystems and the beneficial compounds they produce.
When it comes to the nerve growth factor benefits of Lion's mane, there are two main groups of compounds involved - Hericinones and erinacenes... named after the genus and species name of this fungus. Thus far, the hericinones have only been found in the mushrooms produced by this fungus and the erinacines have thus far only been found in the mycelium. Which brings us to the conclusion that it is in fact in our best interest to consume some form of mycelium from this fungus alongside the mushroom to reap all the benefits it has to offer.
It is important to note that this does not mean erinacines is and never has been present in the mushrooms and that supplementation and consumption of mushroom-only products of Lion's mane is ineffective or inferior. It simply means that as far as the science currently shows it is best to include mycelium to get both beneficial groups of compounds for maximum efficacy. If you only have access to mushrooms or mycelium then having one or the other is absolutely better than having nothing at all.
Pure mycelium is especially difficult to produce at scale so this is where the true difference lies in making our final decision.
Most affordable sources of Lion's mane mycelium is often cultivated on an edible substrate like organic (hopefully) -brown rice or oats. Once the mycelium is cultivated on, through and around this substrate they become impossible to separate meaning products derived in this way always has residual or majority remaining substrate that comes with it. This makes these products less valuable than mushroom-only products and even have some people believing that it is fraudulent and unethical to sell it as an effective mushroom based supplement. This might be a classic case of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". There are undoubtedly benefits to consuming solid state mycelium-fermented products like that but they are arguably not as effective as pure mycelium and mushroom products in equal volume doses.
We believe the labelling and pricing of these products should reflect it's true nature just like everything else. "Mycelium on grain" products including fresh Tempeh are great, as long as they are priced fairly, labelled accordingly and reflects the true nature of the product it contains so that we, the consumer, can make educated decisions about how we spend our money and what we put in our bodies. But the topic of using mushroom mycelium to make solid-state fermented products (also known as Tempeh) is discussed in depth on another blog for the sake of delving deeper and sticking to subject of this blog. Find it here: (Upload pending)
(Tempeh block in a bowl surrounded by mushrooms. Tempeh is a solid state mycelium-fermented food source with medicinal and nutritional properties)
So what if you only consume the Lion's mane mushroom? We believe you'll absolutely reap the benefits and NGF properties from this incredible fungus, but larger, more frequent doses may be necessary which is often not a problem when eating it in a meal or supplementing with locally produced, affordable powders or extracts. Perhaps the science catches up one day and realise hericinones has been equally effective or erinacines has been present in the mushrooms all along. Let's see
At Harmonic Mycology we use a proprietary method to cultivate and extract pure Lion's mane mycelium specifically to use in our dual extract tinctures alongside the majority mushroom biomass. This way we can guarantee you that we formulate the best possible extract with the full spectrum of beneficial compounds for you to use. We make only what we want to take and have been for several years now. We do not compromise on quality and integrity of what we produce for ourselves, family and friends, ever. We can do this since our foundation is not in producing and selling retail product but in Mycology as a science. Our mushrooms and mycelium are cultivated from scratch. We source our cultures ethically and sustainably either from cloning wild specimens or from the OG breeders and culture producers in the game. The ones who've been around since the Shroomery and Sub-reddit days. We are there from when the fungus is on a petridish all the way to mature mushroom and final extract. We have a deeply connected and hands-on relationship with the Fungi that produce our products. We wouldn't have it any other way and neither should you.
For more information on the benefits of Lion's mane visit our product description, reference page or visit mushroomreferrednces.com for all the scientific papers needed for a deep dive.
Want to know what to look out for when trying to find a good mushroom supplement? Check out our recommended guidelines here: (Upload pending)
1) Reference to constituents found in mushrooms and mycelium: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21501201003735556
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