Mushrooms have been revered for centuries within many traditional societies as nutritional powerhouses as well as for their potent medicinal properties. Hericium erinaceus, also known as lion’s mane mushroom or hedgehog mushroom, is an edible (some might even say delicious) fungus with a long history of usage in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Indeed, east Asian legends state that consuming lion’s mane can confer “nerves of steel and the memory of a lion.”
Globular-shaped, with cascading teeth-like spines from which white spores emerge, lion’s mane mushrooms are also known as sheep’s head and bear’s head in various cultures, while the Japanese know it as yamabushitake.
This nutritious mushroom is 20 percent protein and is considered by food aficionados to be a gourmet dish when prepared properly, with a chewy texture and taste similar to popular seafoods such as lobster and shrimp.
Lion’s mane has recently been the topic of many medical studies and has been reported in scientific literature to heal brain cells and stimulate their growth. For instance, in a 2014 laboratory study, an extract of this mushroom when consumed triggered nerve healing after nerve crush injuries in rats.
Furthermore, lion’s mane mushrooms are chockfull of potent bioactive compounds which have been credited with anti-inflammatory, lipid-lowering, and anticancer activities. Modern research shows that these mushrooms boost the activity of the immune system against certain types of cancers. Finally, H. erinaceus has also been reported to have antibacterial, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, and wound healing properties.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom & Research into Maintaining Brain Capacity
Lion’s mane mushrooms are increasingly being studied by the medical community for their powerful brain protective effects.
Two novel bioactive compounds – known as hericenones and erinacines – in these mushrooms have been shown to activate a peptide found naturally in our bodies, known scientifically as “nerve growth factor” or NGF. NGF is critically important and necessary for the growth, maintenance, and survival of our brain cells, known as neurons.
These naturally occurring lion’s mane compounds also stimulate a process known as re-myelination. This proces helps to keep brain cells healthy, prevents them from being damaged, and increases their ability to conduct electrical signals efficiently.
This ability of lion’s mane to protect, heal, and regenerate brain cells may one day make it very useful for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, muscular dystrophy, senility, Parkinson’s disease, and other debilitating neurological conditions.
Since 1991, many studies have been published on the brain regenerative properties of lion’s mane mushrooms. For instance, a small clinical study published in 2009 showed that when lion’s mane was given to 50- to 80-year-old Japanese men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), their brain capacity improved significantly – but only as long as they kept consuming the mushrooms.
In this study, 15 men and women took four tablets containing 96 percent Yamabushitake (the Japanese name for lion’s mane) three times daily for 16 weeks. These subjects were then observed for a further four weeks after the therapy period ended.
The study researchers noticed that the Yamabushitake group had significantly higher scores on their cognitive function. In other words, their ability to use their brains to learn and remember were better when compared with the control group. The longer they consumed the lion’s mane mushrooms, the better their scores were.
However, 4 weeks after the study ended and their consumption of mushrooms had stopped, the scores of the Yamabushitake group went down significantly. No adverse effects of Yamabushitake were reported throughout the study or afterwards.
This study shows that lion’s mane could potentially be used to reverse some of the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in elderly people. MCI can involve problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment and is considered to be an intermediate stage between normal mental decline seen with aging and the more serious brain function deficits seen in dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.
What Research Shows About Lion’s Mane Mushroom & Alzheimer’s Disease
Laboratory models of Alzheimer’s disease include mice in which toxic peptides are used to induce the kind of learning and memory deficits that are typically seen in people with this dreaded age-related condition.
These toxic peptides also induce the formation of messy clumps of proteins known as beta-amyloid plaques which form in the fatty membranes that surround brain cells and interfere with brain function. Beta-amyloid plaques are thought to play a major role in the development of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
In one particular laboratory study, mice injected with these toxic peptides were taught to use a maze. As beta-amyloid plaques developed in their brains, the mice lost their ability to memorize the maze.
Some of these mice were taken aside and fed a diet containing lion’s mane mushroom for 23 days, after which their memory and learning abilities were examined using the maze test. Mice given lion’s mane mushrooms showed a significant reduction in their beta-amyloid plaques along with a simultaneous noticeable improvement in their performance in the maze, compared to mice that did not get lion’s mane.
Interestingly, along with regaining their former brain functions, these mice also gained new skills – including something similar to curiosity, as indicated by more time spent exploring novel objects relative to familiar ones.
Specifically, this study showed that consumption of lion’s mane prevented the impairment of both short-term and visual recognition memory induced by toxic peptides in mice. Short-term memory is our ability to hold a small amount of information in our minds in an active, readily available state for a short period of time. Visual recognition memory has to do with our ability to recognize previously encountered events, objects, or people, to “remember” them.
Since both of these types of memories are lost in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, this and other studies indicate that lion’s mane may one day be found helpful in slowing down or even preventing these types of memory deficits from happening at all.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Research into Boosting Mood & Concentration
Lion’s mane mushrooms may also boost brain function in a different way… by making us feel good.
In a small clinical study, 15 post-menopausal women who consumed lion’s mane baked into cookies showed less anxiety and depression than women who didn’t eat the cookies. The lion’s mane cookie group also showed a clear improvement in their ability to concentrate.
In fact, Asian Buddhist monks have been reported to consume lion’s mane tea before meditation to enhance their powers of concentration.
Given that lion’s mane can protect, heal, and regenerate brain cells – can this mushroom potentially be used to treat human patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, as laboratory experiments indicate?
Could it help Parkinson’s patients or those with multiple sclerosis – and help maintain our mental agility, mood, and concentration as we age?
According to Paul Stamets, author and advocate of medicinal mushrooms, lion’s mane may be the first “smart” mushroom known to man. Safe and edible with clear benefits for our brain’s physiology and function, this powerful fungus will no doubt make the news for its powerful anti-aging and brain disease fighting properties in the near future.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are one of the are key ingredients of 7M+ available from Organixx which provides you seven of nature’s most powerful mushrooms in all.
- Hericium erinaceus: an edible mushroom with medicinal values.
- Lion’s Mane: A Mushroom That Improves Your Memory and Mood?
- The Unique and Versatile Lion’s Mane Mushroom.
- Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers., a medicinal mushroom, activates peripheral nerve regeneration.
- Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.
- Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice.
- Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake.