Lions Mane Mushroom: If you haven’t heard about smart mushrooms then you’re about to get smarter!
What you’re about to read will literally take your brain to the next level so brace yourself, as these days its not often you hear about something you have never heard about before… let alone something that actually works.
When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me that foods that look like certain body parts, make the body parts they look like, healthier!
So lets play with some examples here;
· When you cut a carrot in half it resembles an eye, and as luck would have it the carotene in carrots is good for your eyes.
· What does a big fat tomato look like? Can you guess? Now imagine it beating, b..bump, b..bump! It looks just like a heart! Well, funnily enough tomatoes contain chemicals that are very beneficial for your heart and its cardiovascular system.
· Walnuts, they look like mini brains! They also happen to contain a magic chemical called DHA which actually improves cognitive performance in adults and protects brain health in new born babies.
The list goes on but I think you get the picture. When I learnt about this, I was fascinated. How brilliant is nature! I later found out that this phenomenon has a name, and it’s called the ‘Doctrine of Signatures’. The Doctrine of Signatures can be desdeibed basically as follows; natures original mechanism of clues that help guide us towards foods that can heal or strengthen certain parts of the body.
This mechanism not only comes from a time before doctors were around, but before science was even a concept!
So this takes me to the point I really want to make, that this is quite possibly the most powerful natural food I’ve ever come across. Lions mane mushroom. I take it every single day without fail.
Lions mane (in addition to looking like its namesake) irresistibly resembles a brain, and its beneficial effects on the brain are simply incredible. Now let me introduce you to these body and brain optimizing effects.
Let’s start with the basics.
Lion’s mane mushrooms, also known as ‘hou tou gu’ or ‘’yamabushitake’, are large, white, shaggy mushrooms that resemble a lion’s mane as they grow. They have been in use in Asian Traditional Medicine for millennia for a variety of purposes. It is native to North America, Europe and Asia, and can be found in forests growing on birch trees. They can be eaten raw, dried, cooked, or used as tea or as water-based extracts and alcohol-based tinctures.
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Here’s a list of reasons you should have started taking lions man yesterday.
Lions Mane protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases
The brains ability to grow and form new connections (thus enabling you to learn new things and form new memories) declines with age, this explains why people lose cognitive abilities as they grow older.
Have you ever heard stories of people who suffer tragic events like head trauma from car accidents etc, and lose the ability to walk or do detailed tasks with their hands, but then over time they relearn these skills but with reduced functionality? This ability to re assign a specific task to a new undamaged part of our brains is something amazing called neuroplasticity, this is the brains ability to rearrange itself and form new internal connections that never existed before to take over new or old tasks the body or brain needs to accomplish any kind of task, such as writing, peeling an orange or walking to the supermarket.
Studies have found that lion’s mane mushrooms contain two special compounds that can stimulate neuroplasticity and the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines (Lai, et al., 2013). Additionally, these studies indicate that Lions Mane mushroom compounds can help protect against and even in some cases reverse Alzheimer’s Disease. Animal studies have shown that lions mane mushroom extracts can stop the damage from amyloid-beta plaques, which is what accumulates and causes damage during Alzheimer’s. (Mori, Obara, Moriya, Inatomi, & Nakahata, 2011).
One of my absolute favourite podcasts, like most people these days is good old Joe Rogan’s, he always interviews fascinating characters, whom one of my favourites is Paul Stamets, an American Mycologist (a mushroom expert). When Paul was on Joe’s show he spoke about Lions Mane and in particular he discussed a test that was done using mice. I’m going to recap it as best I can here;
Lion’s mane in and of itself we know has neuro-regenerative properties. It’s a big subject of research. Those who get Alzheimer’s, for instance, have amyloid plaque formation that interrupts and erodes the myelin sheath in the brain and prevents neurotransmission. And so lion’s mane mushrooms ability to remove this plaque formation have been demonstrated behaviourally in people with cognitive tests. But also, through dissection of mice.
Prior to giving the mice lion’s mane, they would inject these mice with a polypeptide that induces amyloid plaque formation. It’s a very, very potent toxin. It’s neurotoxic. But it mimics that of what happens to the nervous system of Alzheimer’s patients.
As the amyloid plaque formation forms. The behaviour of the mice changes. They lose the ability to navigate through mazes and find food at the centre of the maze. Their short-term memory is basically erased, or much of it. Then when they dissected those mice, sure enough they saw that the amyloid plaque formation was there. So then they would take alive but fully diseased mice, when they would feed them lion’s mane mushroom for 23 days, they regained the ability to navigate through the maze as easily as they could before the neuro toxins were given to them causing the plaque formation. They also regained their inquisitiveness. It’s called the novelty response — the novelty experiment.
So, amazingly upon dissecting those mice and the resections of their brain tissue, they could see that the amyloid plaque had largely resolved and remyelination had occurred. So, you bundle that with behavioural and physical evidence, you have regeneration of myelin. So lion’s mane mushrooms are just a very, very fascinating mushroom. Think about knowledge and what you’ve spent a lifetime learning to do, then think about the importance of preserving that knowledge for your own use as well as passing it down to future generations, and the generations after that. When it comes to nutrition, I think lion’s mane mushroom is a huge one that everyone should include in their daily routine.
Can lions mane alleviate depression and anxiety?
Although there are many reasons for depression and anxiety, in it is often linked to chronic inflammation and degeneration of nerve cells. The effect of Lions Mane Mushroom in terms of combatting depression is two-fold. Firstly, when you take lions mane there is an anti-inflammatory effect, which has shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression (Yao, et al., 2015). Other studies have found that lion’s mane extract can also help regenerate brain cells and improve the functioning of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses, the degradation of which has also been linked to depression and anxiety.
Regeneration of Nervous System damage
The nervous system is made up of nerve cells, which are notoriously difficult, or almost impossible, to regenerate in normal conditions. This means that injuries to the brain, spinal cord, or nerves can be devastating. They can cause permanent or very long lasting damage to mental functions or paralysis. Research suggests that Lions Mane extract might help speed up recovery from nervous system injuries (Wong, et al., 2018). It can speed up regeneration of nervous tissue by up to 50%! Another study pointed out that mice that were given Lions Mane extract after a stroke showed much quicker improvement and recovery, and the reduction of inflammation and damage to the stroke site.
As if all these brain-related benefits weren’t enough, Lions Mane mushrooms also have beneficial effects on other organs and systems in the body. Lets go though some of them.
Ulcers and gut protection
Ulcers can be formed anywhere along the digestive tracks, but are most often found in the stomach and colon. The most common reasons are either the degradation of the mucous layer protecting the cells of the digestive system from its own acid (most commonly caused by usage of certain medication, like NSAID’s), or the presence of the Helicobacter Pylori bacterium.
Lions mane also shows its “lion like” domination here. In addition to being anti-inflammatory, and reducing overall inflammation in sites with ulcers (thus helping reduce symptoms), it also prevents ulcers from forming by both helping fight against the H. Pylori bacteria and helping regenerate the mucosal layer of the stomach. Some studies have also shown Lions Mane to be effective in reducing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease as well as Chron’s disease (Qin, et al., 2016).
Reduced heart disease risk and May help with diabetes symptoms
One of the top killers in the world is heart disease. Indeed, I will devote a whole post to heart diseases in due course and how your entire lifestyle is contributing to your risks of them. For the purpose of this article, let’s have a quick glance at some of the major risk factors. Obesity, high triglycerides, large amounts of bad cholesterol, high blood sugar (all of which are caused by bad diet) and an increased tendency to forming blood clots (which is mostly genetic). Studies have shown that Lions Mane extracts can lower many of these factors. It improves the fat metabolism, thus leading to a reduction in triglyceride levels. They can potentially prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the blood, reducing the production of bad cholesterol. And finally, it seems that one of the compounds in Lions Mane Mushrooms can also decrease the rate at which blood clots are formed, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack (Mori, et al., 2010).
Lions mane mushrooms also seem to be able to contribute to a reduction in blood sugar levels which not only contributes to lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, but also helps manage blood sugar levels with people who suffer from diabetes.
The boost to nerve regeneration can also help with people who suffer from diabetes by helping prevent and health the nerve damage that is common with diabetes.
So, to recap, Lions Mane:
1. Protects against neurodegenerative diseases
2. Helps regenerate nerves and increase brain activity
3. Helps fight anxiety and depression
4. Protects the digestive tracks from ulcers and inflammation
5. Reduces risk of heart disease
6. Helps reduce symptoms of diabetes
7. Has a general anti-inflammatory effect on the body
Looking at all of these reasons in my opinion makes lions mane one of the most powerful plant based supplements I’ve ever come across. Id recommend anyone to start taking it immediately and there are lots of great brands out there. I love lions mane so much that I’ve included it in our Honest Earth performance protein powder, in addition to its other super beneficial ingredients, which you can purchase once we launch on August 1st. If you’d like to receive a 25% discount code for your first purchase with us then simply visit www.thehonestearth.com and enter your email address and you will receive the discount code a few days before we launch.
Thanks for reading as always.
Aaron is the founder of www.thehonestearth.com To lead a quality life, one must be nourished with quality. We make the best plant based protein powders & supplements with sustainable ingredients from around the world.
Lai, P., Naidu, M., Sabaratnam, V., Wong, K., David, R. P., Kuppusamy, U. R., . . . Malek, S. N. (2013). Neurotrophic Properties of the Lions Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 15(6), 539–554. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i6.30
Mori, K., Kikuchi, H., Obara, Y., Iwashita, M., Azumi, Y., Kinugasa, S., . . . Nakahata, N. (2010). Inhibitory effect of hericenone B from Hericium erinaceus on collagen-induced platelet aggregation. Phytomedicine, 17(14), 1082–1085. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2010.05.004
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, 32(1), 67–72. doi:10.2220/biomedres.32.67
Qin, M., Geng, Y., Lu, Z., Xu, H., Shi, J., Xu, X., & Xu, Z. (2016). Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ethanol Extract of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), in Mice with Ulcerative Colitis. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 18(3), 227–234. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v18.i3.50
Wong, K., Naidu, M., David, P., Abdulla, M. A., Abdullah, N., Kuppusamy, U. R., & Sabaratnam, V. (2018). Corrigendum to “Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae)”. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018, 1–1. doi:10.1155/2018/9820769
Yao, W., Zhang, J., Dong, C., Zhuang, C., Hirota, S., Inanaga, K., & Hashimoto, K. (2015). Effects of amycenone on serum levels of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-10, and depression-like behavior in mice after lipopolysaccharide administration. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 136, 7–12. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2015.06.012