Mushroom health is certainly on trend right now, with stars from Gwyneth Paltrow to Kim Kardashian using mushroom supplements for health and beauty, the internet has been raving. However, mushroom’s have been used as a holistic remedy since early man and are extremely prevalent in ancient Greek, Chinese, and Indigenous culture.
Hericium erinaceus, often referred to as Lion’s Mane or “The Hedgehog Mushroom '' due to it’s fluffy and poofy appearance, has been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for centuries for its many potential benefits. Lion's Mane Mushrooms are typically consumed as an extract in the form of a daily supplement but can also be dried and steeped in tea, eaten raw, or cooked in a dish. With over 70 bioactive compounds in Lion’s Mane, it’s list of uses is extensive.
Ancient Buddhist Monk’s are said to have used Lion’s Mane to enhance concentration during meditation. Mushrooms are widely considered to be a natural Nootropic (a compound used to enhance and improve cognitive function). Lion's Mane specifically has been studied extensively for it’s Nerve Growth Factor or NGF that promotes neuron growth in the brain. The neurogenesis that Lion’s Mane promotes occurs mainly in the frontal part of the brain that controls decision making, memory, and higher thinking. The production of neurons in the brain can correspond to an increase in memory as well as learning and concentration.
Studies done in mice and rats show that Lion’s Mane may also be beneficial in treating anxiety or depression. This 2015 study shows that mice given the mushroom’s extract showed less depressive behaviors and “suggest that amycenone has antidepressant effects in LPS-induced inflammation model of depression. Therefore, amycenone (from the Lion's Mane) could represent a potential supplement to prevent inflammation-related depression”. Additionally this 2018 study supports the findings from the 2015 study that Lion’s Mane could potentially hold antidepressant agents.
Other research performed on mice found that Lion’s Mane could hold potential benefits for digestive health and ulcers due to its antibacterial properties. Another study on mice given Lion’s Mane indicates that this mushroom may stimulate nerve cells to repair themselves at a more rapid rate. Similar research also suggests that when applied in a topical form, wounds on the skin of mice healed faster, showed less scarring, and their healed wounds contained more collagen. The mushroom’s anti-inflammatory properties, as well as it’s potential to produce more collagen in the skin, explains the current craze in the beauty industry we see today.
Most modern research has been done on animals, but with Lion’s Mane being such a predominant ingredient for food and medicine in Asian cultures, it can be assumed that in moderate quantities, it is perfectly safe to ingest. However, it should also be noted that even in high doses, the animals studied did not show any adverse effects. With so much research and history behind this mushroom, it’s safe to say that it’s potential benefits are much more than just another internet health trend.