biohacking the mind with nootropics

How To Bend Your Mind

Biohacking The Mind

(repost from a popular article I wrote on Medium and Test Taking

Looking for a way to bend the mind? Nootropics have the power to enhance cognition as well as other benefits. This is the first of a series of posts outlining how nootropics work and potential beneficial effects. There is a bit of science thrown in for those wanting a more in-depth understanding.

Nootropics covered in this and other posts include choline, phosphatidylcholine, Alpha GPC, CDP Choline, and Yamabushitake (lion’s mane mushroom) extract.


The term nootropic was coined in 1972 and here is what Wikipedia has to say:

Nootropics ( /noʊ.əˈtrɒpɪks/ noh-ə-TROP-iks)—also called smart drugs or cognitive enhancers—are drugs, supplements, or other substances that improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.

The use of cognition-enhancing drugs by healthy individuals in the absence of a medical indication is one of the most debated topics among neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and physicians which spans a number of issues, including the ethics and fairness of their use, concerns over adverse effects, and the diversion of prescription drugs for nonmedical uses, among others.

Nonetheless, the international sales of cognition-enhancing supplements exceeded US$1 billion in 2015 and the global demand for these compounds is still growing rapidly.

The word nootropic was coined in 1972 by a Romanian psychologist and chemist, Corneliu E. Giurgea, from the Greek words νοῦς (nous), or “mind”, and τρέπειν (trepein), meaning to bend or turn.


Let’s start off talking about Lion’s Mane.


green mushroom nootropics


Yamabushitake, the formal name is better known as the Lion’s Mane Mushroom. With the promise of boosting cognitive performance, it also affects inflammation, blood pressure, wound healing and lipids. We will focus primarily on the brain enhancing effects of yamabushitake.


When looking at supplements and products, you can find yamabushitake under the following names:

Hericium erinaceus (scientific name)
Lion’s Mane
Monkey’s Head
Pom Pom Blanc
Hedgehog Mushroom
Satyr’s Beard



This is my favorite way to consume yamabushitake:

yamabushitake mushroom


Source of Mind Bending Yamabushitake

Yamabushitake is a mushroom frequently consumed in China and Japan and fortunately, without reported harmful effects. The mushroom grows on old or dead broadleaf trees, and the active compounds are extracted by a variety of methods.

Now for the exciting part. Yamabushatake promotes the process of neurogenesis or birth of nerve cells. By stimulating nerve-growth-factor (NGF), neurons are elongated, and myelin production increased. Think of myelin as the insulation around an electric cord and by protecting the wire, the electricity can travel faster. For the science aficionados, yamabushitake stimulates NGF through increased production of messenger RNA (mRNA).


The benefit of this process is an increase in neurogenesis in the hippocampus. This structure is critical for the consolidation of short-term memories into long-term memory for later recall as well as spatial memory required for navigation.

Another mechanism of potential benefit involves glutaminergic attenuation. Yamabushatake appears to dampen the excitability caused by glutamic acid (glutamine). While this may seem counter-intuitive, the balance between excitation and inhibition is essential for healthy cognition. Think of these two processes as the Yin – Yang of the brain influencing thinking and behavior. It’s the balance of these opposing forces that allows the mind to hum along smoothly.


Other mechanisms of benefit include protecting neurons from stress. A cellular structure called the endoplasmic reticulum becomes stressed when proteins are misfolded. The usual response is to decrease protein synthesis, but when unchecked the malfunctioning stress response can lead to a variety of disease states including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. The process is a bit more complicated and explained here. 



The Aging Brain

While not top of mind for most high school, college or university students, age can ravage the brain. For example, β-amyloid accumulation is the process responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. The β-amyloid is an amino acid that forms plaques plugging up the neuron conduction and blocking signal transmission at the synapse.

Yamabushitake has been shown in rat studies to prevent cognitive decline caused by β-amyloid. A human study confirmed these findings and noted a significant improvement of dementia in those suffering from general cognitive decline.

The active compounds in yamabushitake also reduce anxiety, depression, and irritability while boosting concentration.


Yamabushitake may also lower blood pressure and decrease triglycerides. Through a PPARα mechanism, fat burning and increased metabolism have been seen.


Yamabushitake may act as a PPARα agonist and reduce triglycerides without any apparent effect on cholesterol. The PPARα agonist properties also decrease inflammation and can protect against neuronal degeneration.



Dose & Side Effects

General doses range from 150-500mg/day
Doses of 1,000 mg or more have been reported in the literature
Take with food for improved absorption
Itchy skin has been reported and may be related to nerve-growth-factor (NGF)



Try this popular nootropic combination.



  1. Tanaka A, Matsuda H. Expression of nerve growth factor in itchy skins of atopic NC/NgaTnd mice. J Vet Med Sci. (2005)
  2. Mori K, et al. Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull. (2008)
  3. Wong KH, et al. Neuroregenerative potential of lion’s mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (higher Basidiomycetes), in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury (review). Int J Med Mushrooms. (2012)
  4. Bioactive Substances in YAMABUSHITAKE, the Hericium erinaceum Fungus, and its Medicinal Utilization.
  5. Yaoita Y, Danbara K, Kikuchi M. Two new aromatic compounds from Hericium erinaceum (BULL.: FR.) PERS(1). Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). (2005)
  6. Chromans, hericenones F, G and H from the mushroom Hericium erinaceum.
  7. Ueda K, et al. An endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-suppressive compound and its analogues from the mushroom Hericium erinaceum. Bioorg Med Chem. (2008)
  8. Erinacines J and K from the mycelia of Hericium erinaceum.
  9. Erinacines E, F, and G, stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF)-synthesis, from the mycelia of Hericium erinaceum.
  10. Antimicrobial chlorinated orcinol derivatives from mycelia of Hericium erinaceum.
  11. A sialic acid-binding lectin from the mushroom Hericium erinaceum.
  12. Li JL, et al. A comparative study on sterols of ethanol extract and water extract from Hericium erinaceus. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. (2001)
  13. Mizuno T, et al. Antitumor-active polysaccharides isolated from the fruiting body of Hericium erinaceum, an edible and medicinal mushroom called yamabushitake or houtou. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. (1992)
  14. Xu H, et al. Chemical analysis of Hericium erinaceum polysaccharides and effect of the polysaccharides on derma antioxidant enzymes, MMP-1 and TIMP-1 activities. Int J Biol Macromol. (2010)
  15. Lee JS, et al. Study of macrophage activation and structural characteristics of purified polysaccharides from the fruiting body of Hericium erinaceus. J Microbiol Biotechnol. (2009)
  16. Dong Q, Jia LM, Fang JN. A beta-D-glucan isolated from the fruiting bodies of Hericium erinaceus and its aqueous conformation. Carbohydr Res. (2006)
  17. Han ZH, Ye JM, Wang GF. Evaluation of in vivo antioxidant activity of Hericium erinaceus polysaccharides. Int J Biol Macromol. (2013)
  18. Abdullah N, et al. Evaluation of Selected Culinary-Medicinal Mushrooms for Antioxidant and ACE Inhibitory Activities. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (2012)
  19. Effects of cultivation techniques and processing on antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of Hericium erinaceus ( Bull .: Fr .) Pers . Extracts.
  20. Erinacines A, B and C, strong stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF)-synthesis, from the mycelia of Hericium erinaceum.
  21. Neurotropic and Trophic Action of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Extracts on Nerve Cells in Vitro.
  22. Ueda K, et al. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-suppressive compounds from scrap cultivation beds of the mushroom Hericium erinaceum. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. (2009)
  23. Kolotushkina EV, et al. The influence of Hericium erinaceus extract on myelination process in vitro. Fiziol Zh. (2003)
  24. Mori K, et al. Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Biomed Res. (2011)
  25. Mori K, et al. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. (2009)
  26. Nagano M, et al. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. (2010)
  27. Wong KH, et al. Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (2011)
  28. Activity of Aqueous Extracts of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) on the Neural Cell Line NG108-15.
  29. Farndale RW, et al. The role of collagen in thrombosis and hemostasis. J Thromb Haemost. (2004)
  30. Mori K, et al. Inhibitory effect of hericenone B from Hericium erinaceus on collagen-induced platelet aggregation. Phytomedicine. (2010)
  31. Angiotensin I-converting enzyme inhibitor from Grifola frondosa.
  32. Isolation and characterization of a novel angiotensin I-converting enzyme inhibitory peptide derived from the edible mushroom Tricholoma giganteum.
  33. Hagiwara SY, et al. A phytochemical in the edible Tamogi-take mushroom (Pleurotus cornucopiae), D-mannitol, inhibits ACE activity and lowers the blood pressure of spontaneously hypertensive rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. (2005)
  34. Inhibitory effects of l-pipecolic acid from the edible mushroom, Sarcodon aspratus, on angiotensin I-converting enzyme.
  35. Antioxidative and ACE inhibitory activities in enzymatic hydrolysates of the cotton leafworm, Spodoptera littoralis.
  36. Hiwatashi K, et al. Yamabushitake mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) improved lipid metabolism in mice fed a high-fat diet. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. (2010)
  37. Yang BK, Park JB, Song CH. Hypolipidemic effect of an Exo-biopolymer produced from a submerged mycelial culture of Hericium erinaceus. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. (2003)
  38. Kim YO, et al. Hericium erinaceus suppresses LPS-induced pro-inflammation gene activation in RAW264.7 macrophages. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. (2011)
  39. Wang JC, et al. Antitumor and immunoenhancing activities of polysaccharide from culture broth of Hericium spp. Kaohsiung J Med Sci. (2001)
  40. Abdulla MA, et al. Potential activity of aqueous extract of culinary-medicinal Lion’s Mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) in accelerating wound healing in rats. Int J Med Mushrooms. (2011)
  41. Kim SP, Nam SH, Friedman M. Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) mushroom extracts inhibit metastasis of cancer cells to the lung in CT-26 colon cancer-tansplanted mice. J Agric Food Chem. (2013)
  42. Park ID, et al. Toxicological study on MUNOPHIL, water extract of Panax ginseng and Hericium erinaceum in rats. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. (2008)
  43. Nakatsugawa M, et al. Hericium erinaceum (yamabushitake) extract-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome monitored by serum surfactant proteins. Intern Med. (2003)
  44. A method for estimating the probability of adverse drug reactions.

, ,

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: