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How Lion's Mane Supports the Immune System | UK

by Hamza Jamal |

A healthy immune system begins in the gut because it's where most foreign bacteria and new bugs first enter the body via food.

That's why the gut has adapted to fend off such a wide array of threats, triggering our immune systems at the first sign of trouble.

Part of the gut's response relies on the gut microbiome - a collection of friendly microorganisms. Without these little helpers, harmful bacteria and pathogens would quickly overwhelm us and make us sick.

Lion's mane extracts are rich in compounds known as beta-glucans [1], which, as it so happens, are adored by your intestinal tract – they improve colonic microbes [2] and pass into the small intestine to spread their benefits.

And that's good news for your immune system—disruption or imbalance of the gut microbiome can lead to poor immune responses or autoimmune diseases in which the immune system attacks itself.

Lion's mane looks to be a solid defender against these nasties with beta-glucans, but there's more at play than these handy little fellows, such as HEPs (Highly Emulsified Polysaccharides), found only in lion's mane extracts.

The gut microbiome absorbs HEPs, which can enhance cell-mediated immunity (T cells that destroy pathogens) and humoral immunity (B cells that make antibodies) [3].

We provide more colour on all these effects below.

Beta-glucans - an immunity masterclass

Lion's mane is exceptionally high in beta-glucans, which are proven to bolster immunity in humans [4] in multiple ways.

They are so powerful that they have moved from just supplements to drugs, with ongoing clinical trials evaluating their use alone or combined with antibodies/chemotherapy for cancers [5] and in reducing the need for antibiotics in respiratory infections [6].

They work by:

  •         Activating the complement system as part of the innate immune response.
  •         Increasing salivary immunoglobulin levels.
  •         Enhancing the function of macrophages and natural killer (NK) cells, which help destroy pathogens and tumour cells.
  •         Interacting with specific receptors on immune cells like complement receptor 3 (CR3), dectin-1, and others to trigger immune activation.
  •         It stimulates immune cells to harmful pathogens, inhibits unwanted blood vessel formation, and potentially sensitises tumours to chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
  •         Acting as an adjuvant to cancer immunotherapies by facilitating antibody-mediated tumour killing via the complement system activation.

Conclusion: oh-my-word these things are amazing.

HEPs – assisting immunity

HEPs from lion's mane extract can boost immunity by promoting good gut bacteria, stimulating immune cells into defence mode, and activating vital molecular signalling pathways that guide immune functions [7].

This multi-faceted action makes HEPs from lion's mane a potential functional ingredient for enhancing immune health.

The most remarkable action is that when fermented with gut bacteria solutions, HEPs promote the production of immune molecules like nitric oxide (NO), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-10 (IL-10), interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α)—all of which play crucial roles in regulating immune responses.

But let's not get too ahead of ourselves, because lion's mane extract isn't an isolated beta glucan or HEP – it's a food containing fibre, protein, and constituent compounds that form part of a more complete nutritional product.

It's the overall nutritional profile of the extract that delivers potential health improvements like reducing heart disease [8] and helping to manage diabetes symptoms [9], so we need to look at lion's mane as a whole, not one part.

Lion's mane extract – what is it?

Lion's mane can be consumed raw (it's an edible mushroom, after all) or as an extract in loose powder or capsule form.

The standardised extract is Lion's Mane Mushroom Fruiting Body Extract 10:1 (10 parts fruiting body make 1 part extract).

The powders and capsules are more potent than the raw mushroom because the active ingredients – including HEPs and beta glucans – are amplified, making lion's mane extract your best option for bolstering immunity.

Lion's mane also has an interesting nutritional profile that is suitable for vegan and low-calorie diets. vybey Lion's Mane contains (per 100g):

  •         296 kcal.
  •         7.4g of protein.
  •         1.4g of fat.
  •         79.7g of carbs (5.3g sugars).
  •         32.2g of fibre.
  •         976 mg of sodium.

One serving of vybey Lion's Mane equals 4.5g, so you will consume only 4.5% of the nutritional statistics above – 13.32 kcal and 3.5g of carbs per serving - perfectly satisfactory even if you are on a keto diet.

Our lion's mane extract is 100% natural and vegan, and the capsule is made from plant-based cellulose HPMC. Three capsules equal one serving (1,500 mg each), and you can step this down if you want to ease into it.

Another way to take lion's mane powder is vybey Complete Meal Powder – a meal replacement shake with 4.5g of lion's mane per serving and a complete nutritional profile to replace one to two meals per day safely.

Our Complete Meal Powder is fortified with 26 vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, manganese, vitamin E, and vitamin C, which are known to bolster immunity.

What else can lion's mane do?

Better sleep

Lion's mane could help you sleep by reducing anxiety [10] and regulating your circadian rhythms [11], although the most exciting effect is it might modulate the neurotransmitters responsible for insomnia and poor sleep [12].

Combat depression

The bioactive compounds in Lion's Mane can modulate some of the pathways involved in depression [13], with animal studies showing it can restore depleted serotonin, a common biomarker for depression in humans [14].

Improve memory

The purified compound herein A, found in some lion's mane extracts, shows promising effects in enhancing memory and cognitive function [15] by promoting extensive neurite outgrowth and branching in the hippocampus.

Are there any side effects?

Lion's mane is a safe supplement with only a handful of examples from human clinical trials demonstrating side effects:

  •         One person reported an acute allergic reaction [16] with hives and gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming fresh lion's mane mushroom (not the extract version!).
  •         8% of people with mild Alzheimer's reported abdominal discomfort, nausea, and diarrhoea in a 49-week trial of lion's mane extract [17], although the effects could well be attributable to other dietary problems.

Note that if you are allergic to mushrooms, you should NOT CONSUME lion's mane.

Summing up

The compounds found in lion's mane extract, like HEPs and beta-glucans, are proven by scientific research and clinical trials to enhance immunity.

However, lion's mane is more than the sum of its parts – while it contains useful compounds, it doesn't itself have consensus as an immunity booster.

Consuming lion's mane extract could help kick your immune system into overdrive by improving the ratio of helpful bacteria in the gut microbiome, but more research is needed.

What we can say confidently is that vybey Lion's Mane has an excellent nutritional profile and is one of the healthiest nootropics you can consume. Give it a go for a month or so, and if you feel a difference, that's good enough for us.