World-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets refers to the medicinal mushroom lion’s mane as brain food that increases intellect and nourishes the nervous system. People who suffer with anxiety may soon be referring to this mushroom as a lifesaver.
Fungi foragers love getting outdoors and harvesting the wide variety of great tasting mushrooms. What few realize is that some of the tasty treats they are collecting have important health benefits.
Lion’s mane, referred to as a “toothed fungi” due to its appearance, contains five polypeptides and polysaccharides that can enhance the immune system. It has shown a significant inhibitory effect on several types of cancers, and can improve cognitive function. The results of a human study using powdered lion’s mane three times a day for 16 weeks suggest it is effective in improving mild cognitive impairment. (“Improving Effects of the Mushroom Yamabushitake [Hericium erinaceus] on Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Double-blind Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial.”)
Preliminary studies also suggest this mushroom can improve digestion, enhance lipid profiles, and aid in nerve regeneration, remyelination, and increased nerve growth factor.
Our brain and anxiety
The average human brain has anywhere from 80 to 120 billion neurons, and many more neuroglia which support and protect the neurons. As with every other cell in our body, it only makes sense that we should be taking care of our neurons for the sake of good health. Regular exercise is one way to help nourish existing neurons and it also helps in the production of new neurons. Paul Stamets offers another way to nourish our neurons. He says: “Lion’s mane mushroom mycelium is nature’s nutrient for your neurons.”
Neurogenesis does not occur everywhere in the brain, but it does occur in the hippocampus and olfactory bulb, and researchers think that it may occur in the cerebral cortex as well. New neurons develop from neural stem cells located in our brains, and feeding these cells with needed nutrients can help reduce or eliminate anxiety.
Neurons are the longest living cells in our body, yet large numbers of them die over time due to a number of factors. The result of unnatural neuron deaths leads to the development of diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s. When neurons die people lose their ability to function at full capacity, and this is applicable to anxiety.
Results from a study conducted at Kyoto Bunkyo University in Japan showed that lion’s mane intake has the possibility to reduce not just anxiety but depression as well, within four weeks.
In addition to helping with anxiety, lion’s mane is an immunosupportive, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticoagulant and a mild ACE inhibitor.
Where to find lion’s mane
Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is also known as comb fungi, bearded tooth, and bearded hedgehog. It is known as yamabushitake in Japan, which means “mountain priest mushroom.” This fungi is native to the U.S. and Canada, as well as in parts of Europe and Asia. It grows on dead or injured hardwood trees in forested areas. The great news for foragers is that this mushrooms has look-a-likes but they are also edible. These include Hericium abietis, Hericium coralloides, and Hericium americanum.
When foraging for lion’s mane be sure you collect only the healthy white-colored mushrooms. The “icicle” part of the fungi can be cut off, sautéed, and enjoyed in a stir fry; or once sautéed, serve on a hamburger or in an omelette. The “meaty” part of lion’s mane can be sliced thin and sautéed or baked. It’s okay if the outer edges are a slightly beige; they can be cut off and you can use the white “meat” inside. All parts of the fungi can be dehydrated and then ground into a powder to use in salads or mixed in with your meals. Your family will be sure to love this aromatic fungi. Always remember though, all wild edible fungi must be cooked thoroughly before consuming.
For those who are not in a position to forage for this health-nourishing fungi or they are out of season, there are fungi growing kits available from online suppliers. There are also capsules available (consult with a qualified health practitioner before using supplements). American readers can go to Grow Organic and Canadian readers can go to Wylie’s Mycologicals for certified organic growing kits. In my experiences, lion’s mane will keep in the fridge at least a week, but never place it in a plastic bag because any fungi will spoil quickly if kept in plastic. Brown paper bag storage in the fridge is best!
If you want to consider taking supplements that are pure and organic, visit Purica’s website to find a store near you that sells it.
We can all use some brain food that increases cognition and nourishes our nervous system, regardless of whether we are afflicted with anxiety or not. Add lion’s mane to your diet and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer.
Rogers, R. D. (2011). The fungal pharmacy: The complete guide to medicinal mushrooms and lichens of North America. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
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