Studying the wholistic effects of Lion’s mane – Hericium erinaceus

Therapeutic Potential of Hericium erinaceus for Depressive Disorder:

The health benefits of Hericium erinaceus, also known as the Lion’s mane mushroom, have been long recognized in Eastern traditional medicine and it is frequently consumed for its nutritional value and perceived health benefits. Depression, a common and severe neuropsychiatric disorder that is a leading cause of global disease burden, is often treated with antidepressant medications that may have limited efficacy and side effects. Studies have shown that Hericium erinaceus has various health benefits, including antioxidant, antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antihyperglycemic, and hypolipidemic effects, and has been used to treat cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. While the antidepressant effects of Hericium erinaceus have not been compared to traditional antidepressants, its potential as an alternative treatment for depression may be promising based on its effects on the neurotrophic and neurogenic pathophysiology of the disorder.

Pathophysiology of Depression

Monoamine Hypothesis

According to the monoamine hypothesis of depression, the symptoms and signs of depression may be linked to an insufficient transmission within the monoamine systems, which include norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. This hypothesis suggests that an imbalance or deficiency in these neurotransmitters may contribute to the development of depression. Monoamines are chemical substances that transmit signals between nerve cells in the brain and play a role in regulating mood and behavior. The hypothesis suggests that a deficiency in these neurotransmitters may lead to an imbalance in the brain’s communication systems, leading to the development of depression. Further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between monoamines and depression and to develop effective treatments for this mental health condition.

Neurotrophic/Neurogenic Hypothesis

The theory that depression is caused by the inability of the nervous system to adapt to negative stimuli or stress is known as the neurotrophic hypothesis. This theory suggests that depression is related to the neuroplasticity and adaptation of the nervous system, and that the nervous system may not respond or adapt correctly to stress, leading to depression. This hypothesis suggests that the nervous system’s inability to adapt to aversive stimuli or stress may be a significant factor in the development of depression.

Inflammatory Hypothesis

There is evidence to suggest that individuals with depression may have higher levels of proinflammatory cytokines, which are proteins that play a role in inflammation and immune response, both in the central nervous system and throughout the body. This theory, known as the inflammatory hypothesis, suggests that an increase in inflammation may be a contributing factor to the development of depression. Further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between inflammation and depression, and to determine whether targeting inflammation could be a potential treatment option for this mental health disorder.

Reference: Table 1

Hypothesis: Hericium erinaceus ameliorates depressive-like behaviors

Bioactive components

The fungus known as Hericium erinaceus, or lion’s mane mushroom, has shown promising results in the treatment of depression. Its fruiting bodies and mycelia contain various bioactive compounds that can stimulate the production of neurotrophic factors and monoamines, as well as regulate inflammation. Currently, the majority of these bioactive compounds that exhibit antidepressant properties are related to their ability to increase the release of nerve growth factor (NGF). Specifically, hericenones and erinacines, which are small molecules that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, have been found to significantly affect NGF release. These two compounds have been the focus of most studies on the potential antidepressant effects of H. erinaceus.


Aromatic compounds called hericenones are obtained from the fruiting body of the mushroom species H. erinaceus.


Erinacines are a group of cyathin diterpenoids that are predominantly isolated from the mycelium of H. erinaceus, but can also be found in the fruiting bodies of this organism. To date, 15 different erinacines have been identified, including erinacines A-K, P, Q, and S. Research has shown that certain erinacines, specifically A-I, are capable of inducing the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). The remaining erinacines are still being investigated for their potential effects. Overall, erinacines have been shown to play a role in the promotion of NGF synthesis.

Novel Compounds

H. erinaceus is a source of many bioactive compounds that have been found to have various medicinal properties. In addition to hericenones and erinacines, which have been extensively studied, other compounds isolated from the fruiting body of H. erinaceus have been found to have neurogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. For example, Zhang (2015) identified compounds such as ergosterol peroxide, cerevisterol, and 3β,5α,9α-trihydroxy-ergosta-7,22-dien-6-one that exhibited nerve growth factor-inducing activity and promoted the growth of neurites in vitro. Similarly, amycenone, also isolated from the fruiting body, was found to have anti-inflammatory effects that may alleviate inflammation-associated depression.

Of particular interest is the finding that the ethanolic extract of H. erinaceus mycelium, enriched with erinacine A, was able to modulate the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine, as well as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling pathway. These findings suggest that H. erinaceus may have antidepressant-like effects, although the specific bioactive compounds responsible for these effects have yet to be identified.

Overall, the crude extract of H. erinaceus contains a variety of compounds that may contribute to its therapeutic properties. The NGF-enhancing effects of H. erinacines, in particular, may be mediated by the synergistic actions of multiple compounds present in the extract. These compounds may promote adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus and contribute to the antidepressant-like effects of H. erinaceus. However, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action and potential therapeutic applications of these bioactive compounds.


There have been several studies, both pre-clinical and clinical, that have shown that H. erinaceus has the ability to significantly improve symptoms of depression through various mechanisms such as monoaminergic modulation, neurogenic/neurotrophic pathways, and anti-inflammatory pathways. This suggests that H. erinaceus has the potential to be used as a complementary or alternative form of medicine for treating depression. However, it is important to note that the current research on H. erinaceus’s antidepressant effects is still in the early stages and more research is needed to fully understand the specific mechanisms behind its antidepressant-like activity. Despite this, H. erinaceus shows promise as a potential treatment for depression and further investigation into its effects and mechanisms is necessary.

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