Lion’s Mane Mushroom for Mental Clarity and Regenerating Brain Cells

It fascinates me that mushrooms have existed on our planet for 810 million years! For at least 360 million years, they have been integral to the development of life on Earth as we know it; land plants and terrestrial animals would not have existed without them.  Not only were fungi some of the first complex life forms on land, but they were also the tallest life forms on the planet, mining rocks for mineral nourishment, slowly turning them into what would become soil.

Going back several thousand years, mushrooms are listed in the Shennong Bencao Jing, the oldest known list of edible substances. The use of edible mushrooms wasn’t limited to China, however. One of the oldest human mummies ever found (discovered 4,000 years ago in an area between Austria and Italy) was found with pittosporum botulinus in his medicine kit. This mushroom is still used today as a natural antibiotic and antiparasitic. Hieroglyphics in Egypt describe mushrooms as plants of immortality and “sons of Gods” sent to the earth on lightning bolts. In Egyptian culture, mushrooms were so revered that they were only eaten by pharaohs, nobles, and priests in holy rituals. Even the Vikings may have consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms before battle, which casts new light on their famed “Berserker” method of fighting!

Today, interest in edible mushrooms is at an all-time high. They’ve become the focus of both popular interest and scientific research. Over 400 studies have been published on Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) alone, which is likely more than the combined scientific research that had been published on all mushrooms just 30 years ago.

What makes mushrooms so unique?

  • Mushrooms are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. In fact, some mushrooms have as high as 12 percent total mineral content! They are rich in zinc, copper, iron, phosphorus, and potassium.
  • Mushrooms are one of the highest dietary sources of beta-glucans, a type of soluble fiber that is being intensively studied for its benefits on the immune, cardiovascular, endocrine, and neurological systems.
  • Mushrooms have shown exciting potential for supporting brain health as we age. They may protect against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which are increasing in prevalence each year.
  • Mushrooms can increase our resistance to viral (and bacterial and fungal) infections, which is highly relevant in the post-Covid era.

One of my favorite mushrooms, Lion’s Mane, is not only one of the most therapeutic mushrooms, but it’s also beautiful (with a coral-like or “shaggy mane” like appearance) and delicious to eat. It is perhaps best known for its ability to support the nervous system and the brain: it helps to repair nerves, reduces inflammation in brain cells, inhibits structural deterioration in the brain, and improves memory and cognitive function. It has also shown promise in its ability to support a healthy mood and reduce the symptoms of depression.

Lion’s mane is often called the “smart mushroom” because it sharpens mental clarity and reduces brain fog. It contains 2 compounds, hericenones and erinacines, which increase peripheral nerve regeneration by targeting nerve growth factor activity. In other words, lion’s mane can generate new brain cells! In fact, one study found that lion’s mane DOUBLES the growth of brain cells. This is important because the brain’s ability to grow and form new connections between neurons typically declines with age, which may explain why cognitive function worsens in many older adults. Lion’s mane has also been shown to improve mood and help soothe and calm the nervous system. It does this by increasing the function of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that processes memories and emotional responses.

I’ve experienced the mood and cognitive benefits of lion’s mane firsthand. It’s essential to use 100% organic mushroom fruiting body grown on a wood substrate to ensure you get all the beta-glucans, terpenes, triterpenoids, and micronutrients. I mix a rounded teaspoon into some collagen protein every morning.

 

Michael Chase, MS, NTP
Nutrition Science and Dietetics

 

 

www.chriskresser.com

Ratto D, Corana F, Mannucci B, Priori EC, Cobelli F, Roda E, Ferrari B, Occhinegro A, Di Iorio C, De Luca F, Cesaroni V, Girometta C, Bottone MG, Savino E, Kawagishi H, Rossi P. Hericium erinaceus Improves Recognition Memory and Induces Hippocampal and Cerebellar Neurogenesis in Frail Mice during Aging. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 27;11(4):715. doi: 10.3390/nu11040715. PMID: 30934760; PMCID: PMC6521003.

Sonam Tamrakar, Dongmei Wang, Eri Hiraki, Chunguang Han, Yang Ruan, Ahmed E. Allam, Yhiya Amen, Yoshinori Katakura, Kuniyoshi Shimizu, Deacylated Derivative of Hericenone C Treated by Lipase Shows Enhanced Neuroprotective Properties Compared to Its Parent Compound, Molecules, 10.3390/molecules28114549, 28, 11, (4549), (2023).

Ryu S, Kim HG, Kim JY, Kim SY, Cho KO. Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain. J Med Food. 2018 Feb;21(2):174-180. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2017.4006. Epub 2017 Nov 1. PMID: 29091526.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Individuals should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The statements made in this informational document have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any product discussed is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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