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Medicinal mushrooms have created unexpected waves in the world of natural medicine. Yet, ONLY ONE mushroom is praised for its power to enrich brain function.
This mushroom is none other than the Lion’s Mane Mushroom. Scientifically it goes under the name Hericium Erinaceus. While today it’s cultivated on large scales, it naturally grows on decomposing hardwoods in forested regions of the northern hemisphere.
While its health benefits are extensive, Lion’s Mane is most known for its brain-enhancing powers. This means improved memory, mental clarity, focus, sleep, and even an improved mood! These effects can help with serious diseases or just mean you no longer lose your keys!
While it’s extremely powerful, it’s also gentle. This means no negative side effects that interfere with long-term health or productivity.
Lion’s Mane is famous for its relationship to the brain BUT it actually helps with a long list of health issues.
The most complex part of your body is BY FAR your brain. It’s more than a hard drive full of memories. It extrapolates concepts, discerns patterns, controls your mood, and perceives an almost infinitely complex reality.
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms enhance these brain processes through a diverse set of mechanisms. While a lot is still under research, we do know two unique compounds play an important role. These compounds are Hericenones and Erinacines.
Hericenones and Erinacines are extremely small compounds that are capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier. They cause a variety of effects on the Human Body. Most notably they stimulate the production of a protein called the Nerve Growth Factor that promotes neurogenesis. They also help the functioning of the brain’s hippocampus and the clean-up of neuro-toxins called amyloid-beta plaques
Although it’s still being studied, alcohol soluble compounds found in Lion’s Mane are significantly anti-inflammatory. These anti-inflammatory effects are thought to help against chronic disease and have the potential to help with digestive issues. Like all medicinal mushrooms, Lion’s Mane also contains immune-boosting properties thanks to polysaccharides called beta-glucans.
Primarily Lion’s Mane stimulates the production of neurons through a process called neurogenesis. Neurons are THE MOST important brain cells you have. They are responsible for the functioning of your thoughts and the creation/recollection of memories.
Aside from stimulating neurogenesis, Lion’s Mane can prevent brain damage. This is because it reduces damage inflicted by toxins known as amyloid-beta plaques. These toxins accumulate from environmental stressors and/or occur naturally with age. This is why Lion’s Mane shows promise against Alzheimer’s diseases that can gravely affect memory.
Reduce Anxiety and Improve Your Mood Lastly, Lion’s Mane has profound effects on a part of your brain known as the Hippocampus. The Hippocampus is famous for being the “Learning” center of the brain. Aside from this, the Hippocampus also plays an important role in controlling mood. This means your emotions, stress, anxiety, and even response to fear! Enhanced functioning of the Hippocampus is related to a targeted reduction of inflammation.
To learn more about Lion’s Mane and brain function I HIGHLY recommend you watch the interview of famous mycologist Paul Stamets with Joe Rogan. Paul has a way with words and great knowledge on this topic.
The most available and shelf-stable forms of Lion’s Mane are Tinctures, Dried Activated Powders, and Powdered Extracts. These tend to be the easiest and most convenient for regular consumption.
While powdered extracts are considered the most potent, each form has its value. What’s most important is to only consume HIGH-QUALITY products. Find a trustworthy producer who is transparent about the contents of their product.
Double extraction tinctures are perhaps the most commonly available form of Lion’s Mane products. The term “double extraction” refers to the fact that there is both an alcohol and water extraction that takes place. This ensures the tincture contains both water-soluble and alcohol-soluble compounds that contribute to its medicinal components. Alcohol content of +20 percent also ensures a long shelf life.
Activated powders are dried and powdered Lion’s Mane that has been put through an activation process. This process involves heating the mushroom contents, often with steam, to increase its bioavailability. High temperatures rupture the otherwise indigestible cell wall, making the body’s medicinal components available for absorption. Activated powders make great additions to smoothies or other foods.
Powdered extracts are highly concentrated extractions of the most important medicinal components. They are usually more expensive and may be best suited for individuals hoping to make processed products such as supplements, food items, or beverages. Also for individuals with serious illnesses looking for extremely potent medicines. Since they don’t have much flavor and are highly concentrated you can add them to almost any sort of product. They are also often lab-tested meaning you know EXACTLY the quantity of medicinal compounds.
This is one of the most debated topics in the realm of medicinal mushrooms. In summary, it concerns the potency of raw materials used for medicinal mushroom products. This is because some products are made from fruiting bodies while others from mycelium.
Fruiting Bodies are the actual reproductive structure of the fungi, AKA the mushroom. In most contexts, products made with fruiting bodies are considered the highest quality. This is because mycelium products may contain large quantities of the grain-based growth medium. Fruiting bodies contain more of the active components known as Hericenones.
Mycelium is the white fungal strands of the fungus that produce the fruiting bodies. These are typically cheaper to produce but depending on the product may be inferior in quality. Fruiting body advocates criticize mycelium products since they often contain large quantities of grain as oppose to being purely fungal. Mycelium contains more of the active components called Erinacines. While some mycelium-based products may be inferior in quality, they can not be entirely demonized. They have their value, cost-effectiveness, and can make potent products when properly processed into extracts.
If you can get your hands on fresh Lion’s Mane mushrooms it’s worth getting some to cook up. After all, it’s not only medicinal but it’s a gourmet edible mushroom! It’s also unlike any other edible mushroom. To begin, it looks like white spherical “pom-poms” and doesn’t have your typical mushroom shape. Its flavor and texture are often compared to Lobster. Did I mention it’s delicious? Also, it’s a great way to consume its medicinal properties as well. In most forested parts of the northern hemisphere, it can also easily foraged during the right time of the year.
You cannot over-consume Lion’s Mane. Every product differs in potency so use as directed by the producer.
Many practitioners familiar with Lion’s Mane recommend consuming it twice a day. Once in the morning and again before bed. This ensures Lion’s Mane can interact with your body/brain during these distinct periods in your biological clock.
Today there are dozens of Lion’s Mane products to choose from. I recommend helping small businesses by finding a local and trustworthy producer. Alternatively, you can also make your own medicines by buying (or foraging) either fresh/dried Lion’s Mane.
When it comes to large-scale commercial producers there are a few whom I’ve come to trust.
FreshCap Mushrooms produce a wide range of products. I recommend them not only because their products are of the highest quality, but they also produce tons of great educational content. They test their mushrooms for contaminants to ensure a strictly medicinal and safe product.
FarWest Fungi grows all of their own Lion’s Mane and processes it into high-quality products. I can personally attest to the quality of their products and facilities.
Real Mushrooms make great extracted products that are also laboratory tested for active constituents. This testing ensures high-quality products that are produced through a highly refined and perfected method. Highly recommended if your willing to pay the price for top-of-the-line products.
NorthSpore Mushrooms is another great company offering products made with 100 percent Lion’s Mane fruiting bodies.
Lion’s Mane is an excellent addition to everyone’s life. While it can’t replace healthy lifestyle choices, its no doubt a great compliment to your daily routine. Whether it’s serious or you just have a bit of brain fog, it’s worth giving Lion’s Mane a try. With no negative side effects, there’s nothing to lose!
Sources: Lai, P. L., Naidu, M., Sabaratnam, V., Wong, K. H., David, R. P., Kuppusamy, U. R., Abdullah, N., & Malek, S. N. (2013). Neurotrophic properties of Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. International journal of medicinal mushrooms, 15(6), 539–554. https://doi.org/10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i6.30
Mori, K., Obara, Y., Moriya, T., Inatomi, S., & Nakahata, N. (2011). Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Biomedical research (Tokyo, Japan), 32(1), 67–72. https://doi.org/10.2220/biomedres.32.67
Wang, Mingxing, et al. “Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake): a unique resource for developing functional foods and medicines.” Food & function 5.12 (2014): 3055-3064.
Wong, Kah-Hui, et al. “Functional recovery enhancement following injury to rodent peroneal nerve by Lion’s Mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers.(Aphyllophoromycetideae).” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 11.3 (2009)
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