Lion’s Mane: Exploring the Resurgence of the “Mountain Priest”

by Oliver Callaghan

Lion’s Mane has radically transformed the mindset around organic supplements. The boom of the wellness industry over the past decade has left many consumers reconsidering their health and investigating new forms of medicine. 

But why has Lion’s Mane had this effect? To find out more about this exciting subject, I spoke to the team at the Good Vibes Wellness Group and Oli Genn-Bash, the Head of Mycology at Product Earth.

The Origin of Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane (or Hericium erinaceus) was most commonly used as a food and natural remedy in Asia which was first documented in the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) . Traditional Chinese medicine implemented Lion’s Mane to fortify gut bacteria, promote a healthy heart and lungs, and even to fight cancer. 

In the Japanese context, Buddhist Monks refer to Lion’s Mane as the “Mountain Priest” due to its role as a tool in meditation for focus and direction. The Yamabushi Monks were rumoured to wear strands of long fur around their necks which resemble the appearance of the Lion’s Mane mushroom to symbolise the spiritual significance it holds.

When discussing the differences between Eastern and Western medicine, Oli described how Asian cultures have a philosophy of wellness that is rooted in diet. Consumers in Asia may incorporate Lion’s Mane into their daily diet not for a specific treatment but as part of a healthy lifestyle, to promote a general sense of wellness rather than the results orientated approach of Western medicine.

In fact, the notion of fungi as a medicine was reductive to Oli, who argued that the functionality of mushrooms should resemble that of an “ally” rather than a medicine, which interacts with us in a similar way to how the mycelium network works in nature. The genetic overlap present between fungus and humans means that the interactive capabilities of fungi could have a far more complex dynamic than the process of drinking a cup of coffee in the morning or taking a pill.

“I always call these fungi allies rather than medicines because medicine implies that we own it and we’re the expert, whereas an ally means that we’re both a part of nature and can be part of a symbiotic relationship where we can learn off each other.” – Oli Genn-Bash

Why are supplements rising in popularity?

When asked about the reasons behind the boom of supplements like Lion’s Mane, Oli related it to the coffee boom in the workforce. Like coffee, many people are recognising Lion’s Mane as a way to enhance their cognitive development and sense of focus during the day. Mushrooms like Lion’s Mane are also relatively easy to grow, and do not have the stigma commonly associated with other substances like cannabis or psilocybin (magic mushrooms) thanks to their reputation as a productivity inducing substance.

Furthermore, many are also starting to recognise that the 9-5 routine of work life does not provide a sense of purpose, leading to an unsustainable work-life balance which has many “quiet-quitting” or clocking out of the workforce entirely in pursuit of more fulfilling careers. The mental health crisis cannot be understated in this regard, and could be another factor behind why so many people are experimenting with supplements like Lion’s Mane to improve their mental health or sense of focus.

What is Lion’s Mane used for?

The most common effects that Lion’s Mane is known for relate to its impact on energy, focus, and brain function. However, the promise of Lion’s Mane could extend much further than these effects.

When discussing the role of Lion’s Mane in the process of Alzheimer’s disease, Oli mentioned that the benefit of Lion’s Mane is that it have a neurotrophic influence on the hippocampal neurons, citing a Japanese study in which those suffering with Alzheimer’s disease saw a significant boost to their cognitive function when consuming five grams of powdered Lion’s Mane in their soup on a daily basis. 

In this study, previously bedridden patients were reported to be more mobile, and saw a significant increase in perceptual capacity and functional independence. This demonstrates the nutritional value of Lion’s Mane on neural growth which links with the focus and energy that many report after consumption.

Researchers have also observed the reduction of amyloid plaque burdens in animal trials after exposure to Lion’s Mane, suggesting that there could be promise in the notion that Lion’s Mane could slow or even reverse the underlying causes of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. However, it is worth noting that these trials are not generalisable to humans currently and more research is needed on this topic.

Oli also spoke of his personal experience with Lion’s Mane treating the fatigue associated with fibromyalgia, which can be explained by the anti-inflammatory properties which have been found in Hericium erinaceus samples. 

When consumed regularly, studies have found further benefits such as reduced stress levels, as well as research indicating that Lion’s Mane contains antioxidants as well as an antibacterial function which contributes to a healthier immune system. Lion’s Mane has also been studied for its potential role in lessening the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

One crucial aspect of the consumption of Lion’s Mane is that the discontinuation of consumption effectively ceases the benefits of the fungus, aligning with the Asian philosophy which advocates for the daily consumption of Lion’s Mane in diet as part of a wider routine rather than a treatment for a specific issue. 

While there are also a range of other fungi species which are used in the production of supplements such as the cordyceps and reishi mushroom, Oli described how the “one size fits all” model which condenses distinct fungi species into one supplement is counterintuitive and could actively work against the benefits that each species of mushroom provide.

Although there is a lack of double blind trials on this topic (which make it difficult to rule out the role of the placebo effect), Oli stated that many of the benefits of Lion’s Mane are difficult to quantify and may not align with the generalised approach of Western medicine. 

Oli Genn-Bash on the limitations of a data oriented approach to Lion’s Mane:

“It’s a revered thing that’s been put into a research setting, and part of me thinks are we exhausting ourselves trying to get the results we’re never going to get. We might need to put more weight on the anecdotal evidence we have instead and learn from people from indigenous cultures who have worked with mushrooms for over a thousand years” 

Good Vibes Wellness Group

Good Vibes Wellness Group is a first of its kind wellness brand that aims to improve awareness and access to alternative therapies, natural products and medicines. I spoke to their team to find out more about their business model and approach to the wellness industry. 

Set up in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Good Vibes Wellness Group started as a wellness cafe that morphed into a community space in which cannabis patients could socialise in a welcoming environment and dismiss the stigmas associated with cannabis in the UK. Gradually, this model expanded to include an urban farm in March of 2023, which started their venture into the wellness sector. Since then they have worked on producing a range of CBD supplements and functional mushroom extract products. 

The team at Good Vibes have an varied pool of experience, made up of Vitalijs (Operations Director) who has previously worked in the hospitality sector, Sam Cannon (Business Development Director) from a background of twenty-five years in the entertainment industry, and Alex French (CEO) who has worked in frontline court enforcement for the past decade. 

Alex explained how he has witnessed the impact of the range of stresses impacting people in today’s climate. This inspired him to work in the wellness sector to advocate for better access to mental health for everyone that needs it. As part of his experience, Alex mentioned how he has observed the effects that substance abuse can have first hand on frontline operatives and their families struggling with PTSD and how the notion of self harm through substances is often embedded into their day to day lives. In fact, Alex emphasised that nobody can be free of today’s mental health stressors, highlighting how the Good Vibes philosophy and the 8 dimensions of wellbeing are applicable to everyone.

Alex elaborated on the 8 dimensions of wellness that includes emotional, physical, occupational, social, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and financial factors which influence our sense of well being and belonging in society. If any of these dimensions are out of balance, it can negatively impact our sense of mental health and quality of life as a result.

By using this variety of skills, the team at Good Vibes have built a space which aims to be educational, welcoming, and enjoyable for all audiences that want to learn more about the philosophy of wellness and build a community that embodies this in practice.

Set up in Maidstone next to a police station, a crown court and drug rehabilitation centre, the team at Good Vibes intended for their store to generate conversations about our relationships with health and wellbeing in the modern world. 

The team at Good Vibes work with Lion’s Mane, along with other adaptogenic plants and mushrooms. They produce around 500 kilos of Lion’s Mane each month using substrate from a grow facility in Wales and their 10,000 square foot depot in Mill Hill. Their fruiting chamber at the back of their wellness cafe is the final step which allows them to produce the functional mushroom infused drinks, edibles, and capsules.

We’ve also got a brewery on board that is developing a range of adaptogenic beers and gins infused with mushroom and cannabis extracts. Additionally, we’ve got a range of wellness consumables that include adaptogenic hot drinks and edibles. We’ve got a lot going on.” – Alex French

While the original consumers were those you might expect to be engaged in the wellness industry, the team at Good Vibes have seen a significant demographic shift in those who are starting to open their minds about the potential of supplements like Lion’s Mane, and want to spread this message by delivering a product which is environmentally sustainable and transparently produced.  

“We’ve got such a diverse portfolio of people that are coming in. Good Vibes were under a cannabis brand which attracted some and deterred many, then we diversified under a wellness umbrella and we are now in the wellness industry. Cannabis based products and functional mushrooms are just a small part of a massive toolkit we have.” – Alex French

Although they are currently intentionally limiting their growth to ensure their business model is sustainable, the team have a number of initiatives incorporating the 8 dimensions of wellbeing such as live music, wellness retreats and building a wellness platform in the metaverse to serve as an educational and therapeutic tool for a more immersive experience.

“Ideally in the next ten years we’ll have a network of urban farms and social spaces where people can come and learn to be part of a community. They can have training in finances and debt management, learn new ways to grow and store nutritious food. All of these make up a part of the 8 dimensions of wellbeing that we use to advocate for a balanced way of life.” – Alex French

The vision of the team at Good Vibes Wellness stretches far beyond functional mushroom and CBD products, ultimately aiming to provide a multidimensional space for those who need it. This is particularly important during today’s climate where many of the institutions which would teach these types of skills such as youth services remain underfunded.

The importance of transparency in the wellness sector

When I asked both Oli and the team at Good Vibes about the role of transparency in the wellness sector, they both agreed that there are a few grey areas which could affect the reputation of this industry as it continues to grow.

While Sam emphasised the excitement he has about the growth of supplements like Lion’s Mane, he also highlighted the ways in which the consumer could be misled about the purity of Lion’s Mane supplements. Furthermore, Sam indicated that he is sceptical about the combination of Lion’s Mane with other fungi such as Reishi and Cordyceps due to the possibility that these supplements could have contrasting effects (some may help with insomnia whereas some can boost energy). 

It is for these reasons that it is crucial that consumers in this space are informed about the effects of the products they are consuming, as well as being able to trace the ingredients being used in the products they are consuming. 

Oli aligned with this philosophy when I asked him about the commercialism of functional mushrooms, where he emphasised that the process should be more organic and rooted in the pursuit of learning rather than a model that is driven by profits alone:

“Does this open up more broad conversations about our connection with nature? Can mushrooms help to shift the paradigm about how we view health rather than it being about everyone and anyone jumping on the craze… I hear this person talking about this person about how their product is superior, and it all seems like a weird race to the top”  Oli Genn-Bash


My time researching this fascinating topic has taught me that there is much more to the wellness industry than I originally anticipated. While I originally thought the wellness sector was limited to functional mushrooms for medicinal purposes, it is clear that when this lifestyle is implemented with a passion and ambition it becomes an all encompassing philosophy which aims to deliver a multifaceted outcome which starts at what we put in our body but reaches as far as how we relate to our community and worldview for years to come.

Oli Genn Bash is the Co-Founder of the University of Kent Canterbury Psychedelics Society and the Head of Mycology at Product Earth. He has over 15 years of expertise working with fungi and has spoken at a number of events such as the Breaking Convention multidisciplinary psychedelic conference. You can find his linktree here.

Sam Cannon is the Business Development Officer at Good Vibes Wellness Group. He is also a liaison officer for the CIC and the founder of Be:yond Green, working on how to improve the sustainability of hemp production in the UK, Thailand, and Africa.

Alex French is the CEO of Good Vibes Wellness Group. He has spent the last decade working in frontline court enforcement, in this time, Alex has has worked with a whole range of mental health, substance misuse, and family welfare issues across England and Wales. Along with extensive on the job training a vast range of experience and raising his own family, Alex has become a passionate advocate for wellbeing in society and the research of natural therapeutics for day to day stress management.

Vitalijs Kaneps was born in Latvia and comes from a homesteading background, so growing his own food and cooking was always part of his life. This lead him to become a chef and over the course of nineteen years working in different kitchens, he began to introduce foraging to his kitchen teams, sharing his many years of knowledge. In 2021 Vitalijs was offered to manage Good Vibes deli in Maidstone, which was soon to become Good Vibes Urban Farm and Wellness Cafe. In 2023, he became operational director at good vibes wellness group utilising his skill sets to develop further the Urban farming and high street cafe side of the business

You can find the Good Vibes Wellness Group socials here: Instagram, LinkedIn

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