What is Lion's Mane Mushroom?
Lion's mane mushroom (also known as Hericium Erinaceus) is unique-looking, often found in East Asia cuisines, and used in traditional Chinese medicine. It grows in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Its look is extraordinary and very peculiar with its long white filaments that almost look like hair. This unusual shape has given it many extravagant names: Lion Hair, Monkey Mushroom, Bear Head, White Beard, among others.
In Japan, this mushroom is known mainly under the name Yamabushitake, which means "those who sleep in the mountains." The first part of the word probably refers to "Yamabushi," the jacket ritually worn by hermit monks of the Shugendo sect of ascetic Buddhism, while "take" means mushroom.
In China, it is called Shishigashira, which means "lion's head." In the West, it is known as "Lion's Mane."
Until 20 years ago, Lion's Mane was considered precious because it was challenging to find. However, the commercial cultivation of Lion's Mane has started recently. A few decades ago, it seemed impossible to grow it.
Lion's Mane has neuroprotective properties, prevents dementia and neurodegenerative diseases, improves brain function, and relieves depression and anxiety.
Moreover, it exerts antitumor activity by stimulating the immune system and is used to treat gastric and esophageal diseases, as well as gastric and duodenal ulcers. (1)
The mushroom has antioxidant properties, lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels, thus preventing the development of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. (2)
Lion's Mane has also been shown to possess antimicrobial activity, including antibiotic-resistant, pathogenic bacteria.
The Compounds of Lion's Mane
Scientists have identified about 70 different biologically active compounds in Lion's Mane. These include pharmacologically important Beta-glucan polysaccharides that strengthen the immune system and exert antitumor activity.
The compounds found in Lion's Mane are:
1- Beta-glucans with immunostimulant and antibacterial action.
2- Triterpenes are helpful to strengthen the immune system.
3- Polysaccharides and Polypeptides with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and help to control cholesterol levels too.
4- Erinacines and hericenones promote digestion, help with gastritis, and have a neuroprotective action.
5- Phenols, like Erinacines and Hericenones, which stimulate the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).
6- Selenium protects cells from the harmful action of free radicals.
7- Vitamin D.
8- B vitamins (B1, B2, B3).
9- Antitoxic fatty acids.
11- A small amount of zinc, iron, calcium, and germanium.
So, the reason it has become famous is not related to its taste, which is similar to seafood, but its healing properties.
It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 4000 years and has proved to be so effective that it overcame the cultural barrier and landed in the West.
Lion's Mane Benefits
1- Lion's Mane and the Nervous System
The main groups of compounds in Lion's Mane that exhibit neuroprotective properties are Erinacines and Hericenones. These related compounds stimulate the synthesis of nerves growth factors involved in maintaining and organizing neurons' function, thus preventing neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
Mushrooms are currently considered the most potent natural inducer of NGF, addressing and modulating neuronal plasticity. It is a property of the nervous system that allows you to adapt to the surrounding conditions and continue learning and memorizing from both experience and study.
It is also a brain's response to changes in the external environment, aging, and possible pathologies. Thanks to neuronal plasticity, your neural networks can acquire new functions and also maintain a sufficient number of brain connections over time.
NGF also has a neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory action and prevents brain damage caused by ischemia by reducing the accumulation of free radicals.
Thanks to these benefits related to the nervous system and the brain, Lion's Mane is helpful to treat a large number of critical conditions such as anxiety, depression, memory deficit, insomnia, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
2- Lion's Mane and Cognitive Function
One small, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted in Japan by a company that sells mushrooms with 29 adults aged 50-80 diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. (3)
The results over 16 weeks showed that the group that consumed 3 grams of Lion's Mane extract in pill form each day performed significantly better on the HDS-R cognitive test than the placebo group.
One open-label study followed seven patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or cerebrovascular dementia. They were given 5 grams of Lion's Mane powdered mushroom in their soup daily for six months.
According to the review, 6 out of 7 patients had improvements in their perceptual capacity, while all seven patients showed improvements in functional independence. Three bedridden patients were able to get up for meals after treatment.
3- Lion's Mane and Age-related Health
Studies have shown that Lion's Mane appears to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation and positively affects blood glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol in animal models of diabetes.
Lion's Mane Erinacine A protects neurons, reduces infarct volume, and reduces oxidative stress and inflammation. (7)
In rodent models of diabetes, treatment with Lion's Mane has also been shown to be effective against inflammation in the brain, liver oxidative stress, and lowering blood glucose, weight gain, and triglyceride.
4- Lion's Mane and Depression
Depression is a common neuropsychiatric disorder that affects more than 300 million people of all ages. The common signs of depression include loss of interest in daily activities, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, sleep problems, persistent sadness, and restlessness. (8)
Lion's Mane has a great potential in treating neurological disorders as it contains neurotrophic compounds that can pass through the blood-brain barrier.
Hippocampal neurogenesis is one of the primary therapeutic targets for the treatment of depression. Bioactive compounds from Lion's Mane were found to stimulate the expression of neurotrophic factors such as NGF. (9)
Increased levels of NGF are associated with neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, which may potentially lead to antidepressant-like effects.
A study found that chronic administration of Lion's Mane ethanolic extract significantly increased the number of PCNA- positive cells and Ki67-positive cells in the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus. This result indicates that Lion's Mane could promote the proliferation of hippocampal neural stem or progenitor cells. (10)
The underlying mechanism of hippocampal neurogenesis induced by Lion's Mane was suggested to involve NGF synthesis, which is necessary to regulate differentiation, proliferation, and maintenance of neuronal cells.
All of this indicates the potential role of Lion's Mane as a complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of depression.
How Does it Work?
In addition to promoting NGF synthesis, Lion's Mane has several other mechanisms of action that have been reported. For example, it prevented cognitive decline in mice injected with Abeta (insulin-degrading enzyme). (4)
In another mouse model of Alzheimer's, treatment with Lion's Mane decreased amyloid plaque burden, promoted expression of an enzyme that can degrade Abeta, increased the ratio of active NGF, increased neurogenesis, and lessened the daily living activities decline of mice. (5)
Lion's Mane's Erinacine A has also been reported to increase NGF expression and secretion, lower inflammation, prevent amyloid-beta toxicity, protect against ER stress, increase myelination, and protect against oxidative stress. (6)
Consuming this extraordinary fungus can still give you great benefits even if you don't have any specific health problems. It improves memory and concentration, positively affects your mood and the quality of your sleep.
Lion’s Mane is one of nature’s most powerful brain boosters and is considered a natural nootropic-like aid that helps memory, brain function, and mental focus.
Lion’s Mane contributes to brain functioning and wellbeing in various ways, such as increased nerve growth, regeneration, and remyelination.
BrainTea makes it easy for you to have access to this extraordinary fungus. It is one of the main organic ingredients in this natural and tasty tea.
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- Gastroprotective Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.:Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Extract against Ethanol-Induced Ulcer in Rats (hindawi.com)
- Antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activities of aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus in experimental diabetic rats (nih.gov)
- Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer's disease-related pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice - PubMed (nih.gov)
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- Protective effects of Hericium erinaceus mycelium and its isolated erinacine A against ischemia-injury-induced neuronal cell death via the inhibition of iNOS/p38 MAPK and nitrotyrosine - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Depression (who.int)
- Erinacines E, F, and G, stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF)-synthesis, from the mycelia of Hericium erinaceum - ScienceDirect
- Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain | Journal of Medicinal Food (liebertpub.com)