The History and Health Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushroom
What is Lion's Mane?
Also known as Yamabushitake, this mushrooms is notorious for it's unique looks as it's large, white, and shaggy, resembling a lion’s mane. They grow on old or dead broadleaf trees and can be enjoyed raw, cooked, dried, steeped as a tea, or as supplements. Many describe their flavor as “seafood-like,” often comparing it to crab or lobster .
History of Lion's Mane
Lions Mane can be found growing on many different tree species. In traditional Chinese medicine, it was used as a tonic for supporting overall health and longevity.
Buddhist monks were said to have used Lion’s Mane mushroom powder as a tea to enhance brain power and heighten their focus during meditation. This mushroom is referred to as Hou Tou Gu (Monkey Head Mushroom) in China and Yamabushitake in Japan .
What does it do?
Protects Against Dementia
Lion's Mane has been shown to protect against cognitive decline, which is caused by β-amyloid pigmentation* , as it stimulates new brain cells and protects them from damage against Alzheimer's disease. One human study in Nagano Japan revealed using 3g of 98% Lion's Mane powder three times per day showed significant improvements after 16 weeks in subjects suffering from general cognitive decline .
*β-amyloid is a large membrane protein that normally plays an essential role in neural growth and repair. A corrupted form can destroy nerve cells, leading to the loss of thought and memory in Alzheimer's disease.
Nervous System Recovery
Lion's Mane ethanol extract appears to increase nerve growth factor levels* .
When looking at neurons specifically, Lion's Mane appears to promote neuronal prolongation and formation of myelin, which can even help speed recovery from nerve injuries by stimulating the growth and repair of nerve cells .
*Nerve growth factor is an insulin-like protein, which regulates growth, development and maintenance of sympathetic and embryonic sensory neurons.
Studies have been done expressing that Lion’s Mane mushroom extract improves fat metabolism and lowers triglyceride levels .
One study in subjects fed a high-fat diet and given daily doses of Lion’s Mane extract observed 27% lower triglyceride levels and 42% less weight gain after 28 days.
Obesity and high triglycerides are both considered risk factors for heart disease, so this is one way that Lion’s Mane can contribute to heart health.
Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Research has also shown that Lion’s Mane contains powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that may help reduce the impact of certain illnesses .
One study examining the antioxidant abilities of a variety of different mushroom species found that Lion’s Mane had the fourth highest antioxidant activity and recommended it be considered a good dietary source of antioxidants .
Several studies have found that Lion’s Mane extract reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in subjects and may be especially useful in the management of inflammatory bowel disease, liver damage and stroke.
Lion’s Mane may be beneficial in lowering symptoms of diabetes by improving blood sugar control and reducing some diabetic side effects.
Several studies have shown that Lion’s Mane can cause significantly lower blood sugar levels, even at daily dosages as low as 2.7 mg per pound of body weight . It can lower blood sugar by blocking the activity of the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which breaks down carbs in the small intestine.
Another benefit of the anti-inflammatory properties of Lion's Mane is the ability to improve digestive/gut health. Fighting inflammation can result in the growth of good bacteria in the gut, which can benefit people with irritable bowl syndrome.
Studies have also shown that antibacterial activity Lion's Mane has on the gut improves overall digestion and can even protect against stomach ulcers .
Evidence has shown that Lion's Mane can contribute to certain cancer prevention or treatment thanks to it's high levels of antioxidants; however, it is not promised that this is 100% effective.
A study done in Changsha, China found that the extracts of Lion's Mane mushroom may fight, specifically, liver, colon, and gastric cancer cells. The study further showed that the compounds in Lion's Mane can be used alone for potential treatment of cancer, or in conjunction with chemotherapy .
Lion's Mane is known for it's drastic effective on the brain. Not only does Lion's Mane improve brain function over time, but it provides a natural boost of focus throughout the day, as well as improving immune system, improving nerve injuries, reducing inflammation, and other great properties.
It has been reported that effective doses vary from 500mg-3000mg (96% purity extract), though it is important to consult with your doctor before taking a Lion's Mane supplement.
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