Hericium erinaceus, nicknamed, the “lions mane” mushroom is a medicinal mushroom that may have great benefits for the brain. This highly edible mushroom can be grown commercially and is often available commercially in Asian marketplaces in both fresh and dried forms.
Lion’s mane has been used for many centuries by the Chinese due to its unique medical benefits. Mostly the mushroom has been used traditionally to treat digestive related issues. The mushroom has been used in Chinese medicine for problems such as: gastric ulcers, pancreas inflammation and digestive diseases.
As of late, modern science has brought us to understand more about lion’s mane mushroom and its effects on the brain. Research has shown lion’s mane mushroom to possibly improve cognitive function especially, in those who are cognitively impaired. This is believed to be caused be the substances ability to trigger an increase in the nerve growth factor (NGF)
Nerve growth factor is very important for the survival and growth of certain neurons. Neurons are responsible in the brain for transmitting signals that involve neurotransmitters and receptors. Damage to neurons and neuronal systems can result in permanent brain damage that can result in cognitive impairment and cognitive decline.
Nerve growth factor is released in the brain as a protein. It is related to another group of other brain factors known as neurotrophins. These factors are extremely important in keeping the integrity of important neuronal systems in place. They are also responsible in the growth of neurons and are especially important in the development and stability of a growing and developing brain.
Improving nerve growth factor may work specifically as a nootropic. These nootropic benefits may become especially apparent in those who are already mentally impaired or aged. Damaged memory may be able to be partially fixed and new neurons created to improve future memory functions. NGF may also help to reduce possible damages in the future directly related to brain damaged neurons.
Recent science has shown nerve growth factor to place an important part in neurodegenerative diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Increasing nerve growth factor and improving its function may greatly enhance the ability of the brain to reduce damages and even partially reverse them. Many cognitive diseases have been linked to malfunction of nerve growth factor.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom and Nerve Growth Factor
Nerve growth factor itself cannot cross the blood brain barrier. There are certain bioactive compounds like ones in the Lion’s Mane Mushroom that can easily cross the blood brain barrier and increase NGF once across.
The active parts of the mushroom fruit are known as Hericenones. These are believed to be to active parts promoting NGF in the actual mushroom itself. The root also known, as mycelium of lion’s mane is also highly potent for promoting NGF, in fact, it is thought to be up to 5x as potent as the fruit. The active component promoting NGF in the mycelium of Lion’s Mane is Erinacine. If one were to find the best lion’s mane extract they would find one from the mycelium of the fungi.
Lion’s Mane Concerns
There are several concerns with Lion’s Mane even though there is a significant amount of research surrounding NGF and the benefits of this mushroom. If it can indeed work to increase NGF this can have great benefits however this area still needs more research and therefore it is unsafe to make assumptions
Lion’s mane should never be considered a primary agent for brain damage and disease. The research is there but it is still an area of interest and study. Also, there may be other issues relating to nerve growth factors and their functions. Increasing them may not always be an answer to the problems.
The last concern with lion’s mane is its purity and quality as a supplement. There are many suppliers and it is indeed best to find one that is reputable and has quality products. The mushroom can also be obtained in its fresh and dried form from the market. These can be consumed in larger amounts to reap the mushrooms benefits. This may be inconvenient for some however the purity can be observed and scaled.
medium;”>https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb/31/9/31_9_1727/_article – Lion’s Mane Nerve Growth Factor
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10098941 – Nerve Growth Factor Cholinergic Memory Improvement (Any Age)