Lion’s mane mushroom is a fantastic fungus which is linked to lots of health benefits. If you’re interested in taking a lion’s mane supplement, you may have come across various different ways to include it in your routine. For example, lion’s mane powder, tea and capsules are all popular. How can you work out which is the best lion’s mane supplement for you?April 12, 2021 12:25 pm April 16, 2021 12:24 pm
The straight-forward method: fresh
Lion’s mane has been used for thousands of years as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Unlike other medicinal mushrooms, lion’s mane has a very mild flavour and soft texture. In fact, many people compare it to seafood, like crab, scallops or lobster, as it has a similarly tender and slightly stringy texture.
This means that many people chose to consume it much in the way you’d eat a mushroom from the grocer’s.
Where to buy fresh lion’s mane
If you can get hold of fresh lion’s mane mushroom, you can cook it in a stir fry, stew, or even roast larger slices as a kind of mushroom steak.
The trouble is that in many places it’s quite difficult to find.
Fresh lion’s mane is available in some specialist food shops and online. However, if you choose to go down this route make sure you’re sourcing your mushrooms from a reputable, organic supplier.
Alternatively, many people like to forage for lion’s mane. It’s quite common in North America and some parts of Europe, but is a protected species in the UK.
Mushroom foraging comes with its own dangers – such as mistaking benign mushrooms for poisonous ones – so only attempt this if you’re an experienced forager.
Some companies also offer kits which allow you to grow lion’s mane mushrooms at home.
How to eat fresh lion’s mane
Like many other mushrooms, lion’s mane is tender and cooks quickly. To cook, remove the ‘foot’ – the part which attaches the mushroom to the tree – and wash. Cut into slices and sauté for a couple of minutes on each side.
Lots of people recommend simply pan-frying in a little butter or olive oil, perhaps adding some crushed garlic too. However you can also throw it into stir fries and stews as you would with shiitake or enoki mushrooms.
Next up, let’s look at mushroom tea.
The traditional method: lion’s mane tea
A traditional way of taking lion’s mane is in the form of tea. This is because hot water helps to extract the healthy nutrients from the mushroom. This is also the case for many other medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, cordyceps and turkey tail.
To make lion’s mane tea, you will need to steep the dried or fresh mushrooms in hot water.
To get the most out of the mushrooms, many people recommend steeping it for longer than you would normally brew tea. For example, some recipes suggest simmering the mushrooms in water for around twenty minutes to get all that goodness out.
You can also make tea using lion’s mane powder. Presumably because the surface area is so much higher when the mushroom is powdered, this cuts down the steeping time quite substantially.
For example, some recipes suggest popping the powder into an infuser (or just putting it loose in a mug) and steeping for around ten minutes before drinking.
Depending on how much you like the flavour of lion’s mane, you can also add other flavourings to your tea. Chai spices are a popular addition.
The daily supplement method: lion’s mane capsules
Moving into the territory of more modern options, lots of people nowadays take lion’s mane in capsule form. Usually they take one or two capsules per day.
Instructions vary depending on where you’re sourcing your capsules from, but companies often instruct users to take their capsules with a meal.
While it’s easy and convenient, there are a few downsides to taking lion’s mane in the form of a capsule.
The downsides of capsules
The issues with supplement capsules centre around transparency.
For instance, there have been some recent controversies over supplement capsules bought on big online retailers such as eBay and Amazon which have turned out to be counterfeit.(1)
This can be remedied by purchasing from a reputable supplier.
You’re also relying on your supplier to mix the correct dosage and blend of extracts into your capsule. Unless you’re in the habit of breaking it open to examine the contents, or studying the label in detail, it can be easy to miss unwanted extras. These include brown rice flour or freeze-dried rice, often used as a bulking agent.
That’s all without mentioning the capsule itself, which can be made of a variety of materials from gelatine (not suitable for vegans) to vegetable cellulose. Once again, you have to really scrutinise the product labelling, and do your research, to understand what you’re actually ingesting when you take a supplement capsule.
Finally, while some lion’s mane supplements do contain powdered whole lion’s mane, others contain a variety of extracts and plant sections. For example, some capsules contain just the fruiting body of the mushroom, while others contain extracts made with water or ethanol.
"There have been some recent controversies over supplement capsules bought on big online retailers such as eBay and Amazon which have turned out to be counterfeit.(1)"
Too much of a good thing?
While we haven’t been able to find any studies specifically relating to lion’s mane, be aware that some supplements can actually do more harm than good.
For instance, some supplements contain vastly more of a single nutrient than you would ever need. One of the most common supplements people take in the West is iron, but consuming too much through a supplement can cause nausea and abdominal pain, among other symptoms.(2)
With many lion’s mane capsules, suppliers do not make it clear how they have extracted the contents of the capsule and what the concentration of the ingredients is.
However, it is virtually impossible to ‘overdo it’ with any one nutrient when you are sourcing them from whole foods. This is because the nutrients are present at lower concentrations and are combined with others, too.
This is why, at Erbology, we always recommend sourcing your nutrients from whole foods.
The versatile method: lion’s mane powder
If you’re interested in giving lion’s mane mushroom a try, but can’t get hold of the fresh variety very easily, an organic whole food powder is a great option.
Firstly, it passes the ‘convenience’ test. No need to whip up a special meal or find a way to work the fresh mushroom into your routine; you can add half a teaspoon of our Organic Lion’s Mane Powder to your normal meals. You can also simply brew it in hot water as a tea as the flavour is mild and pleasant.
While the trend is to take medicinal mushroom powders in a hot drink, such as coffee or our luxurious hot chocolate, you don’t have to. As lion’s mane has such a mild flavour, it goes really nicely in soups and stews too.
As with all medicinal mushrooms, taking lion’s mane in a hot liquid will really get the most out of the powder, as hot water helps extract those healthy nutrients.
However, lion’s mane tastes so nice we’ve even made a cracker with it! One pack of two of our Organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom Crackers contains your daily dose of half a teaspoon, so it makes a nice alternative way to include it in your day.
What about transparency with lion’s mane powder?
While we’ve managed to get rid of the capsule itself, lion’s mane powder can have similar issues as capsules when it comes to transparency.
Fortunately there are a few ways that you can make sure you’re getting a product of the highest quality.
1. Check what the mushrooms are grown on
Many suppliers grow their mushrooms on starch, such as wheat or rice. The problem is that once the mushroom has grown, it’s difficult to separate the two. As a result, lots of powders contain a combination of mushroom and starch, sometimes called ‘filler’.
To avoid this, check the ingredients to make sure that only mushrooms are listed. Swerve any powders which list rice or starch. A better indicator is the amount or percentage of beta-glucans listed (more on those below).
Be particularly wary of products which contain ‘myceliated biomass’. This refers to the whole package of mycelium (part of the mushroom) and the starch it is grown on. Hence, you’re not getting pure mushroom.
Luckily, there are other ways of growing the mushrooms in controlled conditions which involve using a liquid or wood-based substrate. This is easy to separate from the mushroom. Powders which contain only 100% mushroom, like our lion’s mane powder, will likely have been grown using this method.
2. What does it look and taste like?
Whole ground mushrooms like ours (and also mushroom extracts made using a hot water process) have a pale beige colour. It should look almost the colour of pale sand, and has a neutral flavour with a hint of ‘classical mushroom’ taste!
There are also some lion’s mane powders on the market which use an ethanol extraction method. It’s concentrated, rather bitter, and looks the colour of Demerara sugar. They are much more heavily processed than whole ground mushrooms.
If your powder tastes sweet, alarm bells should be going off. This is because the sweetness is likely coming from starch fillers which have been ground up and included in your powder.
3. It lists a huge percentage of ‘polysaccharides’
A lot of powders on the market today use their percentage of polysaccharides as a selling point.
This is because the compound which many scientists believe bestows medicinal properties on lion’s mane is a type of polysaccharide, called beta-glucans.
The problem is, starch filler is also made of polysaccharides. So, if you’re coming across an astronomically high proportion of polysaccharides, investigate further. Are they beta-glucans, or are they fillers (with no benefits to your health)?
Look for suppliers who list their percentages of beta-glucans rather than general polysaccharides. Not only does this demonstrate that they know what they’re talking about, it also gives you a much better understanding of the quantity of health-boosting compounds that are present in your product.
Our lion’s mane powder contains 32% beta-glucans, which is considered very high.
4. Look for independently-verified products
Unfortunately, the world of medicinal mushrooms has been victim to some less-than-honest behaviour in the past.
Look for suppliers with a third-party accreditation. This means that a qualified independent body has checked the quality and provenance of the product.
Many suppliers will list this on their website or label and will be happy for you to reach out to them if you need more information.
Our lion’s mane is tested using Megazyme. This is a special test which analytical and research laboratories use to test for beta-glucans and is widely respected as the most accurate test available.
Which method is right for you?
As whole food advocates, we will always recommend getting fresh lion’s mane mushrooms if you can. Not only are they exotic and beautiful, they’re tasty and easy to cook.
However, it’s very tricky to get hold of in many parts of the world.
If that’s the case, or you want to get the benefits of lion’s mane without having to throw fresh mushrooms into every meal, we recommend an organic powder.
This is as close as you can get to the original mushroom, as it is simply the whole mushroom dried and ground into a fine powder. It contains all the same nutrients and can provide the same benefits.
Simply add half a teaspoon of our Organic Lion’s Mane Powder into your dishes and enjoy the benefits of this fabulous, frondy fungus.
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