Hot tea is a great way to start the day with an energy boost, but what if that tea also gave your brain a boost, too? That’s the entire concept behind Lion’s Mane tea, or just Lion’s Mane supplements in general, but there may be some additional benefits to consuming it in tea form. Before you grab just any Lion’s Mane supplement to toss in your tea, here’s what you need to know:
The Lion's Mane mushroom, scientifically known as Hericium erinaceus,is a medicinal mushroom known for it's white, full, hair-like appearance. It’s generally considered a “brain boosting” mushroom, but evidence suggests that Lion’s Mane may have a few other benefits, like possible adaptogenic effects and diverse nutritional benefits.
In some parts of the world, Lion's Mane mushroom is considered an “exotic” food, but in the Western world it’s generally used for medicinal purposes. Although you can absolutely consume the delicacy that is cooked Lion’s Mane mushroom, there are benefits to steeping this delicious mushroom into a tea instead.
Before we dig into why Lion’s Mane (and most mushrooms) are best consumed in the form of mushroom tea, let’s touch on some of the unique benefits related specifically to the Lion’s Mane mushroom.
Most often, Lion’s Mane mushroom is linked to potentially enhanced cognitive performance, mood support, and various immune boosting functions. Many of the benefits of Lion’s Mane have only been researched on a limited basis, but here are some of the areas of interest:
Additionally, Lion’s Mane is estimated to be composed of about 60-70% polysaccharides, or complex carbohydrates. These polysaccharides are present in two different varieties–alpha-glucans and beta-glucans.
Alpha-glucans provide sustainable energy to the body, while beta-glucans are the more bioactive compound that may be responsible for many of the health benefits associated with the mushroom. Lion’s Mane contains at least 35 completely unique beta-glucans which is why it may be responsible for such a wide range of health benefits.
The trouble is – these beneficial beta-glucans are locked inside the fungi’s chitin, a polymer that makes up the mushroom tissue. Chitin is the same material that makes up an insect’s exoskeleton, so, as you can imagine, it’s pretty resilient. That’s the reason that mushrooms aren’t easily made into tinctures and instead need to be powdered.
Unfortunately, Lion’s Mane’s chitin layers are not easily digested by the human body, so you don’t get the full benefits of Lion’s Mane’s beta-glucans just by eating the mushroom. If you want to take advantage of the mushroom’s therapeutic effects, you need to take it as a tea instead.
Read “Lion’s Mane Benefits” to learn more.
Even though the chitin can’t be digested, it can be broken down by hot water. Steeping Lion’s Mane mushroom in hot water helps to unleash the beta-glucans from the chitin layers. The final result is a therapeutic tea that is bioactive and bioavailable, meaning it can be easily absorbed by the body.
The same is true for whole mushroom powder–it needs to be added to hot water to help unleash its therapeutic power and make it bioavailable.
The exception is Lion's Mane extract powder. When properly made, extract powder has already been heated to a suitable temperature for breaking down chitin and activating therapeutic compounds. This is the form you'll want if taking Lion's Mane in a capsule, but there's a caveat–extract usually has many of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients removed.
So, for the most complete benefits, a Lion's Mane tea, coffee, latte, or other warm beverage is the best bet.
If you’re ready to melt away those chitin layers and soak in the beta-glucans, you’re ready to make a cup of Lion’s Mane tea. But, how do you do it? Luckily, making tea from Lion’s Mane mushroom is pretty easy once you’ve found a good mushroom source. Here are some considerations to make and some add-ins that may help you level up your how cup of mushroom tea:
Earlier we mentioned the beneficial biological compounds (like beta-glucans and terpenoids) that are found in Lion’s Mane. It’s important to note that these compounds are available in different varieties and proportions in the different parts of the mushroom, which is why so many different formulations exist.
For instance, some formulas may include only mushroom powder made from the fruiting body, which is the cap and stem of the mushroom, or the portion that most people consider to be “the whole mushroom.”
Other supplements may also include portions of the mycelium, or the “root” of the mushroom. This is the portion that grows beneath the surface and carries out crucial life process for the fungi.
Both the mycelium and the fruiting body contain an array of bioactive compounds, but some are unique to one portion of the mushroom or the other. In most cases, a combination of the mycelium and fruiting body is the best option.
You’ll find that while many people use fresh Lion’s Mane in cuisine, powdered Lion’s Mane is preferred for therapeutic use. The reason why is simple–it takes a lot of fresh mushroom to harvest useful quantities of Lion’s Mane’s most beneficial compounds. Using mushroom powder helps to create a more concentrated tea.
Lion’s Mane powder also comes in two forms–whole mushroom powder and mushroom extract powder. The extract is a concentrated version of Lion’s Mane bioactive compounds, while the whole mushroom powder is a dried, ground version of the entire mushroom.
Many people believe that the extract is better by default simply because the beta-glucan content is more concentrated. That’s not always true because extract lacks some of the nutrients found in whole mushroom powder. In general, whole mushroom powders undergo less processing and contain more prebiotic fiber and nutrients, as well as a broader range of beta-glucans.
Because the hot water infusion serves a purpose besides just warming you up (like breaking down the chitin layers to make the Lion’s Mane more bioavailable), it’s important that you use water at the proper temperature. There’s some conflict surrounding how hot the water needs to be to help break down chitin and make mushroom material more digestible, but most sources agree that you should use water that is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit and no hotter than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you're steeping fresh Lion's Mane to make tea, you'll need to let the mushrooms sit in the hot water for 5-7 minutes in order to extract the therapeutic compounds. You can discard the leftover mushroom material, or you can use it in soups or other cooked dishes to take advantage of the nutritious leftovers.
When making tea from Lion’s Mane powder, you simply stir into the hot water and then consume when it’s cooled enough to drink.
You can drink your Lion’s Mane infusion as is, but feel free to dress it up with some sweet or creamy add-ins. On its own, Lion’s Mane has a mild, sweet flavor. It pairs well with milk and honey, or you can add a twist of lemon to give your tea a zing. On a spicier note, you can also add cinnamon or nutmeg to give your Lion’s Mane tea some extra warmth. This part is totally up to you!
Lion’s Mane, when cooked and consumed whole, tastes a bit like crab or lobster in that it’s delicate, chewy, buttery, and a bit sweet. When steeped as a tea, it has a milder, sweeter flavor than many other functional mushrooms. This light brew tea is versatile and may make a great base for latte-style beverages as well.
As you can imagine, the quality of your tea has a lot to do with the quality of the ingredients you put into it. This is super important when dealing with mushrooms–there are so many things that can go wrong during the growing, harvesting, and manufacturing process. To find a high quality Lion’s Mane supplement, look for a product that:
Ultimately, making Lion’s Mane tea is an easy, advantageous way to consume this sweet, delicate mushroom. Plus, this adaptogenic ‘shroom pairs well with other functional mushrooms, like reishi and chaga, to ramp up a well-rounded wellness regimen.
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