Lion’s mane mushroom or Hericium erinaceus is unlike any other mushroom commonly seen. It does not look like a typical mushroom with a cap and a stalk. Instead, it grows as a clump of long, dangling spines. This mushroom, which belongs to the group of tooth fungi, is also known as bearded tooth mushroom, bearded hedgehog mushroom, bearded tooth fungus, pom pom mushroom and satyr’s beard. Among the Chinese, it is called hou tou gu, which means monkey head mushroom. In Japan, this mushroom is called yamabushitake or “mountain priest mushroom”. Koreans call this the deer tail mushroom or “norungongdengi-beoseot”.
What does Hericium erinaceus mushroom look like?
Lion’s mane mushroom is different from other mushrooms. It grows in globular clusters, with spines that are long and flowing. The teeth or spines manufacture and release the mushroom spores. These teeth grow to more than 1 centimeter long from one single clump. The mushroom is white but will turn yellow to brown as it ages.
The name of this medicinal mushroom is in reference to the resemblance of the cascading white tendrils to the mane of a lion. This is a parasitic fungi that thrives on trees and fallen logs.
Hericium erinaceus is a saprotroph and a parasitic fungi. As a saprotroph, it can feed on decaying matter. As a parasitic fungi, lion’s mane mushroom can attack living trees. It can release enzyme and compounds that can kill living trees and become food for the mushroom.
This mushroom is not just prized for its unique appearance. It also prized as a gourmet food. It has a wonderful chewy texture. The taste resembles that of seafood.
Aside from that, higher value is given to the mushroom’s medicinal benefits.
Yamabushitake is what the Japanese call this mushroom. The name translates to “people who sleep in the mountains”. This is a reference to the hermit monks of the Shugendo sect that lived in the mountains. The mushroom is claimed to resemble long and flowing garments of these monks, who were also regular users of the mushroom.
Where can Hericium erinaceus mushroom be found?
The lion’s mane mushroom is native to Japan, China, Europe and North America.
This mushroom is typically found during the late summer season and during the fall. It is usually seen thriving on dying or dead hardwoods such as oak and beech.
Hericium erinaceus mushroomactive compounds list
This mushroom is rich in active compounds that include the following:
- polysaccharides, such as B-glucan, heteroxylans and heteroglucans
- cyanthane-derivative triterpenes known as erinacineand hericenone
- beta glucans
Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane can give numerous benefits in the body. This is typically taken as tea to harness its health benefits such as the following:
Support for the brain and the nerves
The active compounds in the mushroom are powerful catalysts for the regeneration of brain tissues. This can aid in the improvement of cognitive functions as well as memory capabilities. Studies led by Dr. Hirokazu Kawagishi found that lion’s mane mushroom can stimulate NGF synthesis. NGF is nerve growth factor, a protein that plays a central role in the growth, repair, maintenance and regeneration of neurological tissues. The action of NGF can help in the healing and improvement of neurological disorders. This action is also believed to be a potential cure for diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Active compounds responsible for this action are erinacines and hericenones. NGF production is higher in the presence of hericenones. Erinacines are among the top natural compounds that stimulate NGF production. This effect is especially seen in the brain because erinacines can easily pass through the blood-brain barrier.
Reduction in amyloid plaques
Amyloid plaques can interfere with normal and efficient brain neurotransmission. These plaques contain beta-amyloid proteins that form clumps within the brain tissues. These proteins come from he fatty membranes around the nerve cells. These are smaller proteins that can break off from the rest of the cell and aggregate. These plaques are linked to the development of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other similar neurodegenerative conditions.
Compounds in lion’s mane mushroom can reduce amyloid plaque formation. This effect is believed to help in the prevention and in the treatment of these conditions.
Improved brain function
This medicinal mushroom is also a powerful superfood. It acts as a potent adaptogen that works on the immune system, nerves and brain. In Asia, the mushroom is used for thousands of years for its energizing effects. It said that this mushroom gives a person “a lion’s memory and nerves of steel”.
Hericium erinaceus is also used by Buddhist monks for centuries as a brain tonic. They use it as tea in order to enhance their brain powers. It also helps to heighten their concentration during meditation.