The Lion’s Mane mushroom (scientific name hericium erinaceus) is a rare edible mushroom that is native to certain parts of Japan, China, and Vietnam. You can find similar mushrooms that are in the same family as the Lion’s Mane, but the ones found in Asia are usually used in medicines.
Besides Lion’s mane, this mushroom also goes by different names, like Bearded Tooth Mushroom, Satyr’s Beard, pompom mushroom, and Bearded Hedgehog mushroom, which all presumably came from the mushroom’s fluffy, somewhat hairy appearance. In Japan, it is called yamabushitake, which roughly translates to “mountain priest mushroom”. In China, this mushroom is known as hou tou gu (monkey head mushroom), while in Vietnam, it is called the nam dau khi, which also has the same meaning.
Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
- INCREDIBLE nootropic benefits for the brain: helps improve memory and cognitive functions
- Improves the efficiency of the immune system
- Improves digestive health and helps fight ulcers and infections
- Can help treat anxiety and depression
- Helps lower high blood pressure
- Contains high amounts of antioxidants
- Has chemical components that can help fight infections
- Stimulates the creation of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)
- Helps keep cholesterol levels in check
Support for the brain and the nerve regeneration
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 Nerve Growth Factor 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 neuro-degenerative 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.
One of the reasons why Lion’s mane mushrooms are getting increasingly popular nowadays is because they have beneficial neuroprotective effects, meaning they can help protect the brain from degeneration. A Japanese researcher, Dr. Hirozaku Kawagishi, discovered that lion’s mane mushroom (yamabushitake in Japan) stimulates the natural synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor in humans. What makes this discovery significant is that NGF is the primary protein responsible for repairing neurological disorders and improving mental health.
Help the Digestive System
People who constantly suffer from digestive problems like Inflammatory Bowel Disease may find some of the health benefits of lion’s mane mushroom very helpful. For instance, lion’s mane has anti-microbial properties that are proven helpful in fighting against the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which is the one that causes gastritis and peptic ulcers.
Bolster the Immune System
Medical researchers also found that the polysaccharides, adenosine, and oleanolic acid present in lion’s mane mushrooms, stimulate the induction of interferons and helps regulate the functions of the immune system. This means the production of healthy white blood cells increases, thus enabling the body to heal itself more efficiently.
These are only a handful of the many health benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms. If you want to experience the amazing power of these edible fungi for yourself, ask your physician about it. More and more research is being done on mushroom-based pharmaceuticals.
What does Hericium erinaceus mushroom look like?
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”.
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.
I highly recommend that you watch the entire Paul Stamets video interview on the Joe Rogan Experience show if you want to learn things about edible and medicinal mushrooms you never thought possible. It’s easily found on Youtube and here’s just the clip where he focuses on Lion’s Mane mushrooms.
Where do Lion’s Mane mushrooms grow?
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