Want more brain power and energy in your day? Lions Mane Mushroom might be the choice for you. Ready on to discover its great benefits.
It’s Monday morning and a colleague comes over to your desk to chat about your weekend. You take a moment to think…You then take a few more moments to think... and nothing seems to come to the forefront of your mind about what you did this past weekend. How can that be? You had a good breakfast and a decent sleep, and to top it all off it was just yesterday! Wondering how you can get the brain to function better? Keep reading to find out!
Cognitive function is a reflection of a person's overall health and wellness status. Normal cognitive decline consists of: (1) Mild changes in how quick information can be processed (2) Ability to store new information (3) Mild changes in memory. High on the list of chronic diseases as we age include, Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative diseases. Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder of aging with loss of cognitive function and is characterized by the death of neurons.
Achieving optimal cognitive health and preventing Alzheimer’s diseases is rooted in prevention where good nutrition, regular aerobic exercise, restoring sleep and both mental and social engagement are fundamentals. Besides these factors, supplementation can be an added benefit, particularly Mushrooms!
Brief History of Medicinal Mushrooms
Mushrooms have been used by humans for thousands of years as food (culinary) and/or as medicine. There are more than 14,000 species of mushrooms that are recognized and 2000 of these are edible. Of these 2000 edible mushrooms, about 270 of them are now considered as potential therapeutic agents that can aid in human health (Sabaratnam et al., 2013). Culinary mushrooms are a great addition to daily diet as they are rich in proteins, fibers, vitamins and minerals which plays a role in stimulating the immune system and possible applications in cancer management. As such, mushrooms are being developed as nutraceuticals to make consumption easier.
What is Lions Mane Mushroom?
Today’s focus is a mushroom called, Hericium Erinaceus, commonly known as Lion’s Mane. It is an edible medicinal mushroom that has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This medicinal mushroom is native to areas across the northern hemisphere including, North America, Europe, China, Japan and Russia. Lion’s Mane is high in bioactive compounds including polysaccharides and micronutrients which can have neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties. It has gained quite a bit of popularity for its ability to enhance brain and nerve health.
Let’s get into more detail about the benefits of Lion’s Mane….
5 Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
1. Improves Cognition
The brain naturally slows down over time - this is a natural part of aging! Symptoms include memory loss and lack of focus which is mainly caused by shrinking neurons and damaged brain cells. The most commonly known benefit of Lion’s mane mushroom is how it can support brain function through supporting memory, concentration and focus (So important living in a society where we are always multitasking!).
The effect is largely due to its ability on stimulating nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF is a neuropeptide that helps regulate growth, maintenance and survival of neurons or nerve cells. Neurons are like messengers that send and process information from the brain to the rest of the body. It can also help brain cells stay resilient in times of stress and aging!
These benefits are seen with daily supplementation with Lion’s Mane. In one study, 250mg tablets used three x a day for 16 weeks was associated with marked improvement in Dementia (Spelman, 2017). The recommended dose of Lion’s Mane to increasenerve growth factor production is about 3-5 g per day.
2. Promotes Increased Physical Energy
Lion’s Mane can promote steady energy boosts. This is due to the fact that Lion’s Mane is high in antioxidants. This provides overall support to cellular health, which in turn helps to generate more physical energy.
3. Improves Mood
Lion’s Mane mushroom can be used as a treatment option for anxiety and depression, which are two of the most common mental illnesses affecting people today.
This effect is through its ability to support the health and growth of nerves within the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that controls emotions and memory.
As well, lion’s mane is known to reduce inflammation, so some of its effect to improve mood can come from reducing inflammatory proteins in the brain.
4. Improves Digestive Health
Lion’s mane has the ability to influence the digestive organs, including stomach, liver, intestines and the colon. Lion’s mane has been shown to help treat gastritis and duodenal ulcers in Chinese Medicine. It can inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium known to cause gastritis and ulcers (Blagodastki et al., 2018). Since Lion’s Mane can have a positive effect on digestive health and gut flora, this and provide further benefit to mental health and mood due to the two-way communication between the brain and the gut.
5. Improve Immune Function
Lion’s Mane mushroom can enhance the immune system through reducing inflammation and acting as an antioxidant. It may encourage the growth of beneficial gut bacteria which in turn can help to strengthen immunity.
How Best to Take Lion’s Mane
Cooked: Lion’s mane can be cooked and eaten as whole mushrooms. It is beneficial to cook lion’s mane mushroom until it is crispy on the outside, otherwise the taste can be bitter. Unfortunately, lion’s mane is not available in most grocery stores however.
Supplement: Lion’s mane can be taken as nutritional supplements in capsule, tablet or powder form. In powder form it can be added to bone broth, tea and/or coffee which is quick and easy.
Lions Mane Mushroom Conclusion
Lion’s mane mushroom is considered to be a superfood that shows promising results! It is most commony used as a preventative tool for neurodegenerative diseases and can improve cognitive function. If you need a little extra support with memory and cognition, Lion’s Mane may be your best friend! Do keep in mind, that no superfood works on its own. So, always remember to continue making positive strides to improving diet and lifestyle and use Lion’s mane as an addition.
** Disclaimer: The advice is in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.
Written by Dr. Saira Kassam in 2019