I tried Lion’s Mane as a cognitive enhancer. Here are my experiences with it.

TL;DR

I tried Lion’s Mane from Four Sigmatic, which is branded as a cognitive enhancer. I’ve used it while studying Deep Neural Networks, amongst other things. I’ve done alternate weeks with and without Lion’s Mane and in my experience the effect is indiscernable.

 

Why cognitive enhancer?

I often listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast (The Tim Ferriss Show). In it he often advertizes the wares of a company called Four Sigmatic. Apparently some of their mushroom coffees enhance cognitive abilities. That is of interest of me, because I’ve been studying a data science course on Coursera.org which had quite a lot of math and later I got a new assignment as a consultant to dive rather deep in the (Hadoop/Big Data related) Apache Atlas and Ranger products.

I’m 47 years old and math is certainly not part of my daily life. In fact I haven’t seen math that much since my bachelor study twenty years ago (besides Coursera courses). I’m also learning a lot of new open source products as data engineer. I can use all the cognitive abilities I can get.

I don’t like coffee, but Four Sigmatic also has some products without cafein, like the Lion’s Mane mushroom elixer. According to Tim Ferris “it lights you up like a christmas tree“.

Whoa. I had to try that one. Before that I had a quick look on the Interwebs if there was anything that disproved these claim outright, but could not find it immediately. Wikipedia had something about Hericium erinaceus (the mushroom this “elixer” is made from), but nothing cognitively. There was something about Chinese medicine I noticed later, but no details.

So I decided to start with a small box of Lion’s Mane. This sets you back 35 euros, but with Tim Ferriss’ discount code, 7 euros went of that price. However shipping to the Netherlands was 10 euros, so in the end it was a pretty pricy deal. It even was delivered in the evening, so it was easier to receive it.

A box of Lion’s Mane on my notes for a Deeplearning.ai course.

 

Day 1: not really a great start

I started drinking my first cup of Lion’s Mane elixir Thursday November 9th. I decided to start on a day that I was working at home and if this elixer had any kind of side effect, I shouldn’t cause problems with other humans too much. I’ve heard Tim say to best start with half the dose. And so I opened the packets and scooped half of it in my tea cup, poured boiling water on it and stirred. And so the adventure started.

Lion’s Mane comes in packets of 3 grams. According to the text of the package it contains Lion’s Mane dual-extract (1500 mg), wild mint, star anise and stevia. You are supposed to put it in a cup with 250 ml hot water and mix well. 1 serving per day.

It didn’t taste like tea. It’s taste is rather unique. More like a broth, but not a salty one. The taste is actually quite good (as long as you don’t have the aftertaste of tooth paste or in your mouth also. That doesn’t mix well. Also I had cake while drinking Lion’s Mane and this isn’t an ideal combination either). I decided to follow the videos of week 1 of “Improving Deep Neural Networks” by Andrew Ng on Coursera.org. This is a course with lots of statistics, large mathematical formulas and complex neural networks. Surely if anywhere my new enhanced capabilities and enhanced concentration would help me, it would be here.

I noticed .. very very little (also very little side effects of monsterism).

But I went on with the course. This happened to be a part of the course I had some problems with following along. Halfway I decided it couldn’t hurt to use the other half of the packet. I was standing by for anything noticable happening. But it didn’t. Now it happened to be that I had a bad night of sleep that night and at noon I actually nearly fell asleep. So much for the enhanced concentration?

 

Day 2: Deep Neural Networks. Bring it on…

Best to try it once more the next day. I had a good night of sleep, and now I used the full packet right away. The only thing I noticed right away, was that my respiratory tracts were just slightly more open. But this could have been the effect from anything really. (And I never noticed it afterwards).

Again I went on with “Improving Deep Neural Networks”. I had to hurry up a little bit, because the deadline for that week was nearing (as I wouldn’t have time that weekend for it). I actually didn’t notice any better concentration. In fact, I sometimes had a hard time to stick to the program. In the afternoon I did go through the quiz pretty well: 10 out of 10 questions right. Not something I didn’t have done before without enhancements, though. And in the evening I worked on the programming assignments. I’m not sure if Lion’s Mane is able to work that long, but the programming assignments went surprisingly well.

After this admittantly short test with sample size of one, I’m inclined to say it didn’t really change much for me. I haven’t noticed any improvements on concentration and regarding cognitive abilities I have yet to notice anything ground shakingly. Lion’s Mane is also said to reduce inflammation, but I don’t think I have any inflamatory problem anyhow, so I can’t comment on that.

 

Week 3: Cognitive enhancement at work

After a week I was convinced this product had no side effects – or any effects for that matter, so it would be safe to use at my new assignment. This started November 20th. A new start at a new company: new environment, new rules (not all of them explicit), new tasks and meeting lots of new people. Sounds like a job for a cognitive enhancer to me.

And I was rather at a good start in week 1 of this assignment. I had the great idea to show my coworkers what their new Apache products would be able to do and it was pretty much what they were looking for. But was it because of Lion’s Mane or just a stroke of “regular genius”? That was hard to find out, but I decided to do alternate weeks with and without Lion’s Mane, to see if there was any difference. It’s not even close to a double blind test, but for now all I could think of (even on Lion’s Mane).

Meanwhile I did manage to get a large practical assignment of my Deep Neural Networks course done. Pretty happy about that.

A cup op Lion’s Mane

 

Week 4: No Lion’s Mane, no Spark certification

This was not just a week without Lion’s Mane, but also a week where in I got rather strapped for time. The change to a 40 hour workweek and (on average) 7.5 hours of commute leaves very little time for studying, amongst other things. On Thursday I had the Hortonworks Data Platform Certified Spark Developer exam planned and I was running out of time to prepare for it.

When I did the exam it turned out way harder than I had imagined it. I had to get 5 out of 7 practical assignments right and I wasted a lot of time on number 1. In the end I could not finish all assignments in time and I did not get certified.

But I wasn’t finished. I also had to prepare for a presentation of the Werkgroep Maan en Planeten (Workgroup Moon and Planets) of which I’m the PR guy. Every half year I do a presentation on all interesting astronomy-related events that happened in the solar system. And there were a lot. So on the evening of the failed exam, I had to go straight back to work. And on Friday evening as well. The presentation on Saturday went pretty well. It’s a favorite of the audience, they tell me. On Sunday I finally had time to relax and I did as little as I could get away with.

 

Week 5: With Lion’s Mane, but not impressed

After all the busy time, I decided it was time for a break. No new courses. No exams. More fitness (spinning) and more lazy time at home. Of course there still was work and the stage acting course I’m following.

Back on Lion’s Mane I wasn’t impressed how much progress I made on different terrains. At the stage acting course I was even very disappointed. I’m following a Meisner course and what I tried on “stage” didn’t work out that well. I didn’t do much in my spare time, but what I did do at work wasn’t exactly ground breaking. I would label the effect of Lion’s Mane on the whole week as indiscernable.

 

Week 6: Without Lion’s Mane

Not much different from the week before, although the stage acting course went much better. At last. At work it was a regular week. No briliant strokes. Just work.

At work I methodically went testing through all the Apache Atlas REST API calls I needed for automation and I managed to get everything I needed. At the stage acting course though I had a bit of a breakthrough and I was really happy about this.

 

Week 7: With Lion’s Mane, but also nearly Christmas

For some people there is a race to the end before Xmas, but not for me. I had some good ideas about how to spend my time at work as fruitfully as possible and had some good ideas (I think) about how to administer metadata on the Hadoop system of the customer before Atlas is installed. I took the Friday off.

This week also was the last day of the stage acting course and it went pretty well.

 

Week 8: Vacation, no Lion’s Mane

I wasn’t going to do anything about my vacation, but actually I am now so rested I am as productive as ever. I suppose having 8 hours of sleep every night and not having the commute works very well for me :). I worked off the majority of my to do list in a couple of days. I wrote a long blogpost about spaceflight in 2018 (in Dutch, sorry), finished a poll for Workgroup Moon and Planets members, made a video for my LinkedIn profile, did a lot of administration and chores I had planned for a while. And I finished this blogpost.

I feel productive. It’s not the same as cognitive, but cognitivity would have helped with a lot of these tasks.

 

Conclusions

Let’s first say I like the taste of Lion’s Mane. But that’s probably not why you’d pay 37 euros to deliver it home.

I like Tim Ferriss’ podcast, but I certainly didn’t “light up like a christmas tree”. If it works at all, it must be very subtle. There were some results that could be attributed to Lion’s Mane, but it could also have been luck. On the other hand, there were many days that nothing discernable happened when I took Lion’s Mane. So don’t be too quick to account any result to me using this brew.

For a better test I probably should continue it, and if Lion’s Mane was priced only slightly above the loose leaf tea I usually buy, I might have considered it. I’ve also considered some kind of standard cognitivity test (they are out there), but didn’t consider buying them.

I have three packets of Lion’s Mane left. I’m considering to use a double dose. What’s the worst what could happen?

 

Appendix: Table of days with Lion’s Mane

DayTimeStudy materialExperiences
Thursday 09-nov-20179:30 (half)
11:00 (other half)
Coursera: Improving Deep Neural Networks
Quiz and 2 hr programming assignment.
Indiscernible.
Respiratory tracts slightly more open.
Fell asleep at noon.
Friday 10-nov-201710:00ITVersity: HDPCD: Spark using Python
Importing asteroid data in Hive.
Indiscernible.
Respiratory tracts slightly more open.
Monday 13-nov-20179:30ITVersity: HDPCD: Spark using PythonIndiscernible.
Thursday 16-nov-2017Not usedCoursera: Improving Deep Neural Networks
Quiz and 2 hr programming assignment.
Not used. Programming assignment was harder to get through.
Friday 17-nov-201710:00ITVersity: HDPCD: Spark using Python
Writing blog about HDP Sandbox recovery.
Indiscernible.
Migrane at noon. (I had migrane this week on a non-test day too)
Monday 20-nov-2017Not usedStarted at new assignment today. Met lots of people. Lots of thinks to read.Not used. At first hard to concentrate on some of the documents to read.
Tuesday 21-nov-201710:20New assignment.
Frustrations with getting Apache Atlas to work in an HDP Sandbox, but eventually it did work.
Deep Neural Networks
3 hr programming assignment.
Some frustrations getting things to work.
Might have some effect, but not sure at all.
Wednesday 22-nov-20179:50Work.
Preparing presentation (late afternoon)
Stage acting course (evening)
Had a rather brilliant idea in the afternoon to do a presentation to show off to the customer what I've found out about Apache products in 3 days.
Pretty happy how stage acting went.
Might have some effect, but not sure at all.
Thursday 23-nov-201710:45Work.Indiscernable.
Friday 24-nov-201710:30Work.Indiscernable.
Monday 27-nov-2017Not usedWork.
Control week.
Not feeling that I'm making a lot of progress.
Tuesday 28-nov-2017Not usedWork.
Control week.
Afternoon: study for HDPCD
Feeling a bit stressed. Little time left for study.
Wednesday 29-nov-2017Not usedWork.
Thursday 30-nov-2017Not usedHDPCD exam.
Work.
In the evening: making a presentation for a meeting of astronomy group Saturday.
Failed the HDPCD exam. It turned out much harder than I thought and I ran into a time constraint.
Friday 01-dec-2017Not usedWork.
In the evening: making a presentation for a meeting of astronomy group Saturday.
Feeling a bit stressed.
Finished preparing the presentation quite late.
Saturday 02-dec-2017Not usedMeeting of the Working Group Moon and Planets. I did a 1 hr presentation on science in the solar system the last half year.Felt rather tired.
Sunday 03-dec-2017Not usedDeclared this a no work, no creativity, no obligations day. Only rest. And doing the dishes.Felt much better.
Monday 04-dec-201715:30Work.Indiscernable results.
Still feeling rested.
Tuesday 05-dec-20179:00Work. Time to program in Python.Indiscernable results.
Wednesday 06-dec-201714:00Work. Meetings
Stage acting course in afternoon
Indiscernable results.
Had a feeling I didn't make much progress at the acting course.
Thursday 07-dec-201710:30WorkIndiscernable results.
Felt quite tired in the evening.
Friday 08-dec-201710:20WorkIndiscernable results.
Monday 11-dec-2017Not usedWork
Tuesday 12-dec-2017Not usedWork
Wednesday 13-dec-2017Not usedWork
Stage acting course
Stage acting course went rather well.
Thursday 14-dec-2017Not usedWork
Friday 15-dec-2017Not usedWork
Monday 18-dec-201711:00WorkIndiscernable results.
Tuesday 19-dec-201710:10Work
Wednesday 20-dec-201710:30Work
Stage acting course
Thursday 21-dec-201710:30Work
Only 6 hours sleep because of a drink after the last lesson of the stage acting course.

 

About Marcel-Jan Krijgsman

In 2017 I made the leap to Big Data after 20 years of experience with Oracle databases. I followed courses on Hadoop, Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning and Python, MongoDB and Elasticsearch.
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