Mushrooms, as you may know, grow in a number of different species. While the inedible varieties may be fatal to one’s life, edible mushrooms have a few different uses such as medicine, recreation, and of course, basic food. Currently cultivated in at least 60 countries, they have been consumed for thousands of years for these purposes.
Lion’s mane (Hericium Erinaceus) is one such type of mushroom primarily known for its medicinal properties. They’re found growing on the trunks of hardwood trees and are native to Asia, North America, and Europe. Lion’s mane mushrooms can be identified by their long, shaggy, white spines that are clumped together, resembling a lion’s mane – which is where they get their primary name from.
Also called monkey’s head mushroom or bearded tooth mushroom, their flavor is similar to that of seafood such as crab, lobster, or scallops. They are known to be extremely beneficial for maintaining a healthy brain and body due to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunostimulant properties.
Read on to learn more about how lion’s mane mushrooms can contribute to your mental and physical well-being.
Benefits of Lion’s Mane
Increases Cognitive Function
According to a 2009 study by Phytotherapy research, the consumption of lion’s mane has shown increased cognitive function in adults. Thirty adults with mild cognitive impairment were given either lion’s mane extract or placebo daily for 16 weeks. The group consuming lion’s mane showed increased mental functions, though the effects wore off after their dosage was stopped.
Lion’s mane mushrooms contain two compounds called hericenones and erinacines that stimulate the growth of brain cells. A 2011 study in mice showed that it could protect against memory loss, preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Supports Digestive Health
Lion’s mane protects the digestive tract (stomach and intestines) from forming ulcers caused by bacteria called H.pylori. An animal study found that it was more capable of preventing ulcers caused by alcohol consumption than acid-lowering drugs without any side effects.
However, no human trials have been conducted yet. It also has antimicrobial properties and supports the growth of good bacteria, thus promoting a healthier gut.
Fights Cancer Cells
A 2011 study published in Food and Function suggests that lion’s mane may combat leukemia cells. Further, a study in the same year published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that it helped to decrease the size of cancerous colon tumors in mice.
Another study in mice showed that lion’s mane slowed the spread of cancer cells to the lungs by 69%. However, these studies have yet to be conducted in humans to receive a definitive result.
Boosts Immune System
More animal research suggests that the mushroom can boost one’s immunity by stimulating activity in the intestinal immune system, thus protecting the body from pathogens. Studies also found that a daily dose of lion’s mane increased the lifespan of mice injected with salmonella by almost four times.
Aids Nerve Regeneration
Studies have found that lion’s mane can help heal nerve injuries that cause trauma to the brain or spinal cord. They do this by increasing the growth and repair of nerve cells. They may also reduce the extent of brain damage after a stroke. Recovery time was decreased by 23-41% in rats with nervous system injuries.
Reduces Oxidation and Inflammation
Lion’s mane mushrooms contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that can decrease the impact of conditions caused by chronic inflammation and oxidative stress such as heart disease, obesity, liver damage, etc. They help in lowering high blood sugar levels.
Prevents Mental Health Issues
Mental health problems like anxiety and depression can be treated to a certain extent with lion’s mane. Administration of lion’s mane extract to a group of 30 menopausal women for a period of one month showed that the women were less irritable, less anxious, and more attentive.
Side Effects and Precautions of Lion’s Mane
> There has been no human testing so far, but lion’s mane appears to be safe for medical use for up to four months. Due to insufficient research, safe long-term use of the mushroom and all of its potential side effects remain unknown.
> However, there have been no negative effects seen in tests conducted on rats despite the high doses administered (2.3 gm per pound).
> There may be some mild stomach discomfort.
> It may slow blood clotting, possibly causing extra bleeding during or after surgery, so stopping intake two weeks before surgery is recommended. It could also increase bruising and bleeding though there have been no such reports.
> Lion’s mane may also lower blood sugar, so those with diabetes would need to monitor their blood sugar levels while consuming the product.
> Pregnant or breast-feeding women should avoid using lion’s mane as there is no research to support safe usage.
> Some users have experienced difficulty in breathing, so It may aggravate symptoms of asthma
> Those allergic to mushrooms should obviously avoid lion’s mane to prevent reactions such as skin rashes.
How To Use Lion’s Mane
Now that you know both lion’s mane’s benefits and side effects, you may want to include it in your daily regimen. You could cook them well (until the outer layer is crispy) and eat them with a meal, but they don’t taste that great.
The best way to take it is lion’s mane supplements, which are available in the form of capsules, extracts, or powders – be sure to read the instructions or consult your doctor regarding the dosage.
Depending on the quality and concentration of the product, an ideal dosage is between 250g to 500g, but this may vary depending on the user’s age, health, and other factors. Try to find one that includes both the fruiting body and the mycelia, to maximize its effects.
The research conducted on lion’s mane so far is limited but looks rather promising, so go ahead and include it in your routine to attain its many advantageous properties and make the most of your all-around health.