UPDATED, October 4, 2020
Lion’s mane mushroom (hericium erinaceus), aka bearded tooth mushroom, Satyr's beard, bearded hedgehog mushroom, pom pom mushroom, bearded tooth fungus or yamabushitake is a parasitic fungus that can be found growing on hardwood trees in Europe, North America and Asia. It is revered by many to be one of the choicest edibles with a flavor and texture resembling that of crab or lobster when cooked properly, making it a great choice for vegetarians or vegans that are looking for a seafood alternative.
As stated above, lion’s mane is a choice gourmet edible mushroom and is a delicacy of mushroom connoisseurs. It would make a fantastic meal if you can get your hands on a fresh source. It’s also known to contain many medicinal qualities and health benefits (1). More so lately, it is becoming a popular health and nutritional supplement, often found in powered or capsule form.
Nerve growth factor is a protein that promotes development of the sensory and sympathetic nervous systems and is required for maintenance of sympathetic neurons (2).
Lion’s mane is shown to induce NGF, which can lead to the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (3).
It’s no secret that as people age, we tend to become more forgetful. That’s typically because the aging brain loses its ability to grow and form new connections (4).
In a double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study performed on 30 Japanese men and women, age 50 to 80 years old with mild cognitive impairment, lion’s mane was given to test its ability to improve function. Half the group received 250 mg tablets of 96% dry lion’s mane powder three times a day for 16 weeks and the other half of the group received a placebo. Cognitive function continued to improve for the group receiving lion’s mane throughout the duration of trial, and up to 4 weeks after termination of intake (5).
Science is showing chronic inflammation to be the main cause of most illnesses. These can include cancer, heart disease and autoimmune disorders, to name a few (6).
Lion’s mane mushrooms contain oligosaccharides, a type of carbohydrate, that are shown to exhibit immune-stimulating antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which could help minimize or reduce the impact of these diseases (7).
Speaking of inflammation, many cases of depression and anxiety are thought to be, in part, a result of chronic inflammation (8).
While the science is promising in the animal studies, more research still needs to be done on humans.
Oxidized LDL might play a role in atherosclerosis. When LDL cholesterol oxidizes, it triggers an inflammatory response where macrophages, or white blood cells, surround the damaged LDL causing a sticky plaque to form on the inside of blood vessels (11).
A study published in May of 2014 demonstrated the inhibitory effect of LDL oxidation lion’s mane mushroom had. The findings in this study suggest lion’s mane mushroom could greatly aid in the prevention of oxidative stress-induced atherosclerosis (12).
If you have, or have ever had an ulcer, you know how painful it is.
One main cause of ulcers is an overgrowth of the H. Pylori bacteria.
Extracts of lion’s mane mushroom were shown to prevent the growth of H. Pylori. However, these studies were conducted in vitro and not in human subjects (13).
Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death for both men and women (14). Some contributing factors of heart disease are chronic inflammation and high levels of oxidized LDL, as mentioned in numbers 3 and 5 above.
By reducing chronic inflammation and oxidized LDL, some risk of heart disease should also reduce.
Animal studies have shown improved fat metabolism and lower triglyceride levels when given lion’s mane extract (15).
Again, although these results look good on paper and in animal studies, more studies need to be performed in humans.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your body can’t properly make enough insulin, if any at all, to regulate blood glucose or blood sugar. Over time, high blood glucose leads to other illnesses including but not limited to: heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, dental disease, nerve damage and foot problems (16).
Studies performed in normal and diabetic mice showed that even low doses of lion’s mane mushroom (6 mg per kg of body weight) significantly lowered blood glucose levels (17).
In addition to reducing blood sugar, lion’s mane mushroom helped to significantly reduce neuropathic pain, or nerve pain, in rats (18).
Although the anti-cancer effects of lion’s mane mushroom has yet to be tested in human subjects, there is promise in animal studies.
One study done on mice found that lion’s mane not only had fewer negative side effects, but was actually more effective than traditional cancer medications at slowing tumor growth (19).
The microbiota in your gut is composed of an estimated 100 trillion cells and is fundamental in the role of immune function. These cells are made up mostly of bacteria and fungi that need to be in proper balance to function properly (20).
Extracts of lion’s mane were shown to improve the immune system by regulating the gut microbiota and providing a prebiotic role (21).
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that feed beneficial gut bacteria. They are essentially the fertilizer for probiotics, which are the good guys that make up a healthy and balanced microbiota.
The nervous system transmits signals throughout your body and controls just about every function, whether it be conscious or unconscious. This system is made up of your brain, spinal cord and nerves.
One study found that rats with injuries to the nervous system had up to a 41% reduction in recovery time when given lion’s mane mushroom extract (22).
Another observation found a 44% reduction in stroke-related brain injury when rats were given a high dose of lion’s mane mushroom extract immediately after a stroke (23).
Could lion’s mane have the same effect on humans? More studies need to be performed.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Advanced MycoTech assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.
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