Scientists have found that the properties of the ancient lion’s mane mushroom carry a wealth of benefits.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are a fungi species formally known as Hericium erinaceus. This strain of fungi has been proven to produce much-needed medications for centuries as well as various bioactive compounds that have pending evidence to support further benefits. As of late, these mushrooms have been becoming increasingly popular as a dietary supplement. To support use of the lion’s mane for this purpose, studies have been performed on lab animals, and there has been some skepticism on its usability due to the potential for the extract to cause pain, spasticity, and brain damage in humans.
Despite these health risks, the strand has been used in China dating back to ancient times to support health and wellness, and to treat various ailments, as well as for culinary use. In fact, traditional Chinese medicine still uses the lion’s mane mushroom today for cancer prevention, to reduce inflammation and improve immune system function, as well as to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve cognitive function. Other uses include diabetes management, nerve cell growth, and wound recovery.
It is necessary to understand how to safely consume lion’s mane mushrooms, of course, so patients aren’t likely to experience the pain or discomfort noted by skeptics. The outer layer of the fungi can either be cooked until crispy or can be consumed in various dosages in the form of capsules. If a negative reaction occurs, an individual should immediately discontinue use and seek medical attention, if necessary.
One of the most exciting newly found benefits associated with consumption of these mushrooms is the ability of the fungi to potentially improve memory. Professor Frédéric A. Meunier from Queensland Brain Institute and Dr. Ramón Martínez-Mármol conducted a study finding that the lion’s man improved brain cell growth, and neurons were found to be twice as long as neurons that did not have any exposure to the mushroom. In the study, the team discovered new active compounds in the fungi that produced these results.
N-de phenylethyl isohericerin (NDPIH) and hydrophobic derivative hericene A, were identified as promoting extensive axon outgrowth and neurite branching causing neurotrophic activity. NDPIH acts via a complementary neurotrophic pathway. Lab mice who consumed lion’s mane exhibited increased neurotrophic expression and downstream signaling, resulting in memory improvement that the other mice did not experience.
The findings of Martínez-Mármol research, according to scientists, are promising for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. These results could also be beneficial for the prevention of cognitive decline. They offer a natural alternative to FDA-regulated treatments.
There is some concern, however, that the supplements are not FDA approved to prevent or cure any disease, and that this lack of regulation could mean that the risks outweigh any benefits and there are currently no plans to regulate lion’s mane mushrooms.
Trials are still underway in Korea to test the effectiveness of treating Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and further research will need to be conducted to definitively determine whether the results are transferrable, and safe, to humans.