LION’S MANE MUSHROOM/BEARDED TOOTH FUNGUS
Latin name: Hericium erinaceus, Japanese name: yamabushitake
The lion’s mane mushroom, also known as bearded tooth mushroom or fungus, as well as satyr’s beard, bearded hedgehog mushroom, pom pom mushroom is native to the northern hemisphere, specifically Europe, East Asia, and North America. It grows primarily on cracks in the trunks of beech and oak trees, but also on walnut and apple trees. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to treat ulcers and other problems of the gastrointestinal system. In North America, native Indian tribes used it as an antihemorrhagic agent, applying it to the wound in dried and pulverized form.
Laboratory and animal studies have confirmed that the lion’s mane mushroom may be beneficial for stomach and duodenal ulcers and for gastritis, and in addition may improve digestion and may help in preventing and treating tumors that develop in the stomach and the intestines. A clinical study in 2013 concluded that lion’s mane mushroom speeded up the healing of stomach ulcer. Japanese researchers observed two mechanisms. The polysaccharides present in lion’s mane mushroom can modulate the immune system, forcing it to respond more effectively. At the same time, the fungus contains low molecular weight substances (phenols, fatty acids) that possess chemotherapeutic properties, acting directly on the cancerous cells.
There are promising research results for applications to Alzheimer disease and other neurodegenerative ailments. Certain components (hericenons C, D, E, F, G, H) of the lion’s mane mushroom have been shown to stimulate the synthesis of the NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) protein. NGF can protect brain cells from dying, and its natural accumulation in the brain may result in mood improvement, without any side effects. In a study conducted in Japan, lion’s mane mushroom extract was given to 50-80 year old patients suffering from cognitive damage, and significant improvements were observed in their cognitive functions in 2-4 months.
According to a study at the University of Munich, the nutritional composition of lion’s mane mushroom is the following. 100 g of fresh mushroom contains
- 254 mg potassium
- 109 mg phosphorous
- 8 mg sodium
In addition, other substances greatly valued also by traditional Chinese medicine can be found in the lion’s mane mushroom, such as
polysaccharides and polypeptides
- 19 amino acids
Lion’s mane mushroom extracts can be used in the successfull treatment of ulcers (stomach and duodenal ulcers), chronic gastritis, as anti-inflammatory agents, and in significantly improving the conditions of stomach and esophagal cancer patients.
Positive effects of lion’s mane mushroom for the human body:
- The lion’s mane mushroom’s harmonizing effect makes it suitable to maintain the health of the stomach and the intestinal tract.
- Prevention, as its high nutritional value can help in preventing disease by strengthening the body.
- It has a beneficial effect on the inflammation of peripheral nerves.
Among eastern healers, the lion’s mane mushroom, which is best known as a delicious and nutritious mushroom, has been in high esteem as a medicinal fungus for centuries. According to myth, those that eat lion’s mane mushroom will have nerves of steel and nearly perfect memory. According to one study, patients that consumed 5 g of lion’s mane mushroom extract daily (in the form of soup) were observed to have positive changes in carrying out basic learned functions (such as eating, dressing, walking, etc); while a clinical study on 30 people found significant cognitive improvements among those treated compared with the control group.
Increased production of NGF may improve brain function, slow down aging, and thus inhibit the development of age-related senility and Alzheimer disease. In medicinal folklore, the lion’s mane mushroom is used to reduce depression.
The extract of the thallus of the lion’s mane mushroom has resulted in improvements in the conditions of mutilple sclerosis patients, as the rate of regeneration of the myelin sheaths of neuron fibers increased. This can be explained by the elevated level of NGF, which contributes to the protection of nerve endings and myelin sheaths, and also to impeding inflammatory and nerve damaging processes via its stimulation of the immune system.
In vitro and in vivo clinical studies have confirmed the role of NGF in the sensation of pain. Increased NGF levels have reduced painful neuropathy in diabetic and HIV patients. Experiments on rats have shown that administration of lion’s mane mushroom speeds up the regeneration of damaged nerves; the earlier the fungus extract was given, the faster the recovery was.
Japanese clinical tests have shown that lion’s mane mushroom had antibacterial effects on MRSA patients. MRSA is methicillin/oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection; in most cases, it is the infection of a wound, skin, soft tissue, blood, or it is sepsis or pneumonia.
Lion’s mane mushroom extract has been successfully used in treating Crohn's disease patients as well.
Based on the evidence so far, it is safe to recommend the consumption of lion’s mane mushroom as functional nutrient in such cases, as it has no side effects, and in many cases, results in positive improvement. Nerve damage—whether caused by diabetes, alcoholism, or chemotherapy—is a problem that ruins the lives of many patients, and even small improvements may mean a lot to those that suffer from it.
Most likely, lion’s mane mushroom will not be the complete solution to their problems, but its extract, if regularly taken, may help such patients in coping with their symptoms. Lion’s mane mushroom can be used to prepare delicious meals, which also help preserve our health.