Lion’s mane mushrooms for gut and cognitive function protection
They might sound like the glorious hairdo of a hirsute fairy tale beast, but lion’s mane mushrooms, or Hericium erinaceus are actually a pretty smart food, and you’ll soon see why.
Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries, these mushrooms were always thought to harbour neuroprotective properties – that the Chinese and Japanese have known about for generations. Primarily dried and used in a tea or tonic, lion’s mane mushrooms are referred to in these parts of the world as “nature’s nutrient for the neurons”. They grow on very old or decaying broadleaf trees and it’s no surprise that it resembles a long haired, lion’s mane (although it also looks like a natural sponge).
Scientists, their curiosity piqued by the popularity and belief in Lion’s mane mushrooms in Chinese and Japanese folklore, have found that these mushrooms, truly do have medicinal uses. They’ve been linked with an improvement in conditions such as dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases that impair brain function and cognitive ability. They’ve also been shown to help relieve depression and anxiety and the ‘muddled brain’ symptoms of the menopause.
The science behind Lion’s mane and it’s neuroprotective effects
Lion’s mane mushrooms contain around 70 biological compounds that have been isolated and marked up as having medicinal potential.
Two of these compounds are erinacenes and hericenones. These compounds have been found to stimulate the synthesis of nerve growth factor, or NGF, which helps to protect the brain by preventing the death of nerve cells.
Therefore, scientists hypothesize that lion’s mane mushroom could be useful in the prevention and treatment of dementia. It’s repeatedly been shown to improve cognitive impairment in patients, as well as improving the symptoms of depression and the menopause.
Other studies have concluded that the high levels of beta glucans (a substance that has a protective and boosting effect on the immune system) in lions’ mane mushrooms could go on to prove beneficial for the management of brain diseases.
Lion’s mane and gut health
What’s more, this medicinal mushroom has shown potential for good gut health, too. Researchers have found that it can have a positive effect in patients with stomach cancer, gastritis and stomach ulcers, and studies continue.
Taking Lion’s mane
Lion’s mane is a delicious mushroom on its own and is especially good in vegetarian and vegan cooking as a meat substitute due to its texture and protein content.
If you’re looking for a concentrated supplement, look for pure, traditionally and naturally grown lion’s mane powders. The suggested dose is 1-2g per day.