There are many medicinal mushrooms that have been used throughout the world for many centuries, and at the top of the list is Lion’s Mane mushroom and their unique health benefits.
In China they are known as Yamabushitake, which is derived from a sect of Buddhist monks called the Yamabushi that wear a white, furry robe that resembles the mushroom.
In Western science they are known as Hericium erinaceus, which was developed from German traditions meaning “bearded hedgehog”.
These are just the beginning of the colorful names that have been used to describe it. Others include:
Pom Pom Blanc
They are perhaps one of the most unusual specimens that can be found in the wild, and do not really look like an edible mushroom at all.
Their beautiful, white, shaggy appearance actually more closely resembles the dreaded locks of a miniature version of the Komondor dog breed, or even a majestic cascading waterfall.
They are globular-bodied with long, dangling, string-like attachments that fall gently towards the ground and grow in woodland areas on dead logs as well as on the trunks of live trees.
They grow best during the late summer and autumn months and are cultivated year-round in climate controlled laboratories.
Each of the specimines in the genus Hericium are only found in the northern hemisphere, and the individual species in the genus are distributed throughout various parts of North America, Europe, and most predominantly Asia.
H. erinacus have been prized for generations by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine for its many healing properties, and til this day remains a staple in their culture.
Over the past several decades there has been significant progress by Western scientists towards re-discovering their culinary and medicinal uses that Asian cultures have known about for at least 2000 years.
The traditional way to ingest them is by steeping them in hot water and consuming it as a tea. It has become common to find them in supplement form, as either loose powder or powder in capsules.
Lion’s mane mushroom benefits
The list of positive effects of H. erinacus is long, but what sticks out are its nootropic qualities. Nootropics are a loose term developed in recent years to describe foods that give a strong boost to one’s mental health and brain functioning.
These mushrooms have been studied extensively in the lab and have been shown to increase cognitive speed and memory, repair and create new neurons (brain cells), reduce brain fog and slow cognitive decline.
Naturally, they have been recommended for elderly people who experience the bulk of these symptoms, and even to those who are suffering from more serious brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, early onset of dementia and full-blown dementia.
The idea that they are able to rebuild and regrown neurons is significant. Only in the past decade or so have neuroscientists come around to the fact that the brain can indeed regrow brain cells.
It was a common talking point (even while I was in university less than ten years ago) to claim that after the age of 3 we have all the neurons in our brain for the rest of our lives, and that we slowly lose them day by day until we die.
Never at any point was it mentioned that it is possible to regrow neurons, and therefore improve overall brain functioning, through a food supplement.
The evidence presented by researchers that these, as well as other mushroom species, can repair and regrow neural cells is phenomenally good news for both older and younger generations.
They are able to do this through two substances found exclusively in them: Hericenones and Erinacines.
Hericenones generate Nerve Growth Factor, which is a protein similar to insulin that is responsible for the generation, maintenance, development and survival of sensory neurons.
Erinacines are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and likewise stimulate the production of Nerve Growth Factor.
That these two molecules produce Nerve Growth Factor is important because it is essential to protecting the neurons from breaking down or decaying.
They also stimulate a process called neurite outgrowth, which is the extension of the branch-like structures of the neuron called the axon. This enhances the pulses between neurons which speeds up the rate of information being sent throughout the brain.
Insufficient production of Nerve Growth Factor as we age is directly linked with cognitive decline and neuron-degenerative diseases.
Studies have repeatedly shown that by ingesting H. erinacus, either raw or as supplements, not only increases cognitive functioning but also boosts recall of both long and short term memory.
Benefits of lion’s mane
Because of their repairing and regenerative effects to the foundation of our brain they are able to also reduce anxiety and improve one’s mood and motivation.
Historically, they have been used to treat depression and irritability. They even have an ingredient, amyceneon, that has worked as an antidepressant in lab studies on mice.
Decreasing anxiety and nervous tendencies improves sleep patterns and the ability to comfortably slow down and and relax in the hours leading up to going to sleep.
As can be seen, rebuilding neurons has a domino like effect to other areas of cognition outside of simply improving intellectual abilities.
Lion’s mane health benefits
The positive nootropic effects are groundbreaking and they have several other key functions that improve overall health and should be considered for regular dietary consumption.
But when searching for a viable option in supplement form it is important to consider the cultivation process of each product.
Most companies who harvest the mushrooms will only ground up the mycelium, which are the branching threads of a fungi that contain much of the active nutritional compounds.
By contrast, products that are “full-spectrum” contain, you guessed it, a fuller spectrum of the plant itself, which provides a much richer bioactive ecosystem of nutrients very similar to what you would find in the wild.
Full spectrum means that the product contains not only the mycelium, but also the fruiting body, spores and primordia, which are the tiny baby mushroom compounds.
Medicional-Foods.com offers a powdered product with the full spectrum of nootropic qualities inherent in the fungi. Aside from growing the mushrooms yourself at home, this is the highest quality form available on the market.
The benefits of adding Lion’s Mane to your supplement cabinet will have long-term, sustained positive effects for both your mind and body. It is great to see Western populations are beginning to embrace the medicinal wisdom of the East).