Lion’s mane mushroom, scientific name Hericium erinaceus, is a medicinal and edible nootropic mushroom belonging to the tooth fungus group. This species has many names including the bearded tooth mushroom, Yamabushitake, Satyr’s Beard, and the pom pom mushroom.
It has been used for centuries as a health treatment and general tonic by traditional Chinese (the mushroom was considered a prized possession by the Chinese and was served only to emperors) and Japanese medicine, and in the present day, it is consumed in many other Asian countries like India and Korea. Moreover, it was usually eaten in Chinese cooking as a meat replacement due to its high protein content.
Nutritional facts of Hericium erinaceus
This mushroom comprises of above 32 different bioactive compounds and is a rich source of minerals such as selenium, zinc, iron, and potassium. In addition, it contains mainly amino acids (20 percent) and various polypeptides and polysaccharides. And like seafood, Yamabushitake is a viable plant-based source of vitamin B12.
Health benefits of Yamabushitake:
Improves cognitive function and learning memory
As a nootropic, it contains molecules known as erinacines and hericenones, two substances suspected to stimulate nerve growth factor, also known as NGF.
What is nerve growth factor?
NGF was first identified in the 1950s by Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini. Stanley Cohen won a Nobel prize for its discovery. NGH enhances cognition by reducing inflammation, improving overall brain health, and encouraging neural growth. Another way in which nerve growth factor improves cognition is by promoting myelination (myelin is a protective layer of fatty cells that forms along the offshoots of your neurons named axons).
In 2013, a study at Mushroom Research Centre, Faculty of Science, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia concluded that the aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus contained neuroactive substances that induced nerve growth factor synthesis and promoted neurite outgrowth in NG108-15 cells.
Depression and anxiety
A 2010 study at the Department of Clinical Psychology, Japan, which was published in Biomedical Research, analyzed 30 women to show that the species could potentially reduce depression and anxiety.
The active substances in this mushroom inhibit the blood flow to cancer cells and the migration of cells from the origin to other internal organs such as the lungs. A 2014 study at the Department of Medicine, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, United States, established that extracts from Yamabushitake are also toxic toward colon, liver, and gastric cancer cells. Furthermore, a 2011 research from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concluded that Hericium erinaceus extract helped reduce the size of cancerous colon tumors in mice.
Improves the rate of wound healing
An extract of H. erinaceus fruiting bodies was demonstrated to improve wound healing when topically applied. In 2011, scientists at the Department of Molecular Medicine, University of Malaya, Malaysia, noted less scar width and greater blood vessel formation in the topical H. erinaceus group when comparing wounds dressed with distilled water.
Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, is characterized by the inflammation of the gut walls. It can be treated with Yamabushitake mushroom, reducing the inflammation level.
Other benefits of Hericium erinaceus:
- improved digestive function (heals ulcers too);
- helps eliminate brain fog;
- Alzheimer’s disease;
- helps to fight free radical damage;
- regulated blood sugar levels (therefore, it helps in controlling type 2 diabetes);
- restores mental alertness;
- protects against harmful bacteria and yeast infections;
- reduces anxiousness and irritability;
- strengthens the immune system;
- reduces LDL cholesterol levels.
The proper Yamabushitake supplement dosage depends on the strength of the extract. The most popular recommendation is currently about 1500 mg per day. However, when first taking this supplement, start with a lower dose (500 mg per day). Also, this supplement has been tested in animals showing no side effects even up to 5 grams per kilogram.
Side effects of lion’s mane mushroom
There are no known side effects. Nevertheless, there’s some concern that this supplement may aggravate symptoms in patients with asthma and allergies. In addition, there is no research on the interaction of Hericium erinaceus extract with prescription medications, so always consult your healthcare specialist before taking the supplement, particularly if you are pregnant or you have a history of asthma and/or allergies.
How to buy
As a supplement, Yamabushitake is commonly offered as an extract, in capsule or in a powdered form. Remember to choose a product which is 100 percent pure and has no added preservatives or fillers. Additionally, if you decide to pick your own, before eating any wild mushroom, make sure that it is accurately identified.
Dried mushrooms should be stored in a tightly sealed container, in a cool, dry place. Also, store fresh H. erinaceus mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
The important step in preparing all edible mushrooms, especially those in the Hericium genus, is to cook them slowly.
The mushroom is particularly tasty when served with fresh vegetables, and can be broiled, sautéed, grilled, or added to any recipe that requires mushrooms.
Remember to drink the liquid when you cook them because that’s where most of the nutritious polysaccharides exist.
According to a 2015 research published in the Archives of Physiology and Biochemistry, this lion’s mane mushroom and garlic’s allicin can have synergistic effects.