This article was originally published on Leafly and appears here with permission.

Thanks to its myriad and far-reaching health benefits, people are gushing over the lion’s mane mushroom. 

Both in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and more recently in the west, this furry-looking fungi has been celebrated for its many abilities: Improving cognitive support, aiding digestion, providing relief from diabetes symptoms and boosting immune support. Unlike psilocybin or amanita muscaria, lion’s mane does not have any hallucinogenic properties.

Read on to learn more about the potential benefits of lion’s mane, its history, and whether it’s for you.

What Is The Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s mane takes its name from its shaggy, fur-like appearance. The Suess-like shroom has amassed a series of similarly whimsical nicknames, including Monkey’s Head, Bearded Tooth, Satyr’s Beard, Bearded Hedgehog, and Pom-Pom Mushroom.

It’s also known by its botanical name Hericium erinaceus, or in Chinese as hóu tóu gū.

The mushroom grows in tendril-like clumps from dead or dying hardwood trees in temperate forests in North America. Unlike most other mushrooms, it does not have a cap or stem.

Lion’s mane qualifies as an adaptogen—in other words, it can be used to reduce stress, and help us adapt to our environment. 

Traditional Uses Of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Lion’s mane has long been employed in traditional medicine and in various Eastern cultures.

“Traditionally in China, it was more of a nutritional thing, whether that was making broth or just eating them as part of the diet. It was used more as a food tonic rather than a quote unquote [medicine]. That line is not as well defined as it is in western medicine,” Zoe Linton, a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine based in Missoula, Montana, told Leafly.

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“In Traditional Chinese Medicine you have five major organs: The heart, lung, liver, spleen and kidney. Different herbs treat different organs. It’s rare that you’d find an herb that treats all five. Lion’s mane is said to tonify, or nurture, all five organs. It builds qi. It builds life force energy,” Dr. Linton added.

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Dr. Linton also noted that some Buddhist monks consumed lion’s mane to enhance meditation. One Japanese sect, the Yamabushi, even took to wearing a garment called the suzukake, which is made of strands of fur that bear a resemblance to lion’s mane.

Lion’s Mane mushroom on an oak tree in the autumn forest.

What It Feels Like To Consume Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

To learn more about the effects of lion’s mane, I bought a …

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