Yamabushitake – A look into Lion’s Mane
Yamabushitake, as Lion’s Mane is known in Japan, is a white, hairy, edible and medicinal mushroom or fungus. Scientifically known as Hericium erinaceus is native to Eastern Asia, where it has a long culinary and medicinal history in both China and Japan. In the wild, they grow on logs and stumps of dead hardwood trees such as oak, walnut, beech, maple, elm and sycamore. The lion’s mane mushroom is known as the ‘wood destroying fungi’ or ‘white rot’ as it grows very abundantly and accelerates decomposition. To produce fruit bodies (grow above ground and contains the stem, cap and spore-bearing surface (which includes the gills, pores, ridges, teeth) of the fungus). It requires a cool temperature of between 18-24 degrees Celsius as well as a moist and humid environment.
The first cultivation of Hericium erinaceus was in the year 1988. It took place in China where bottles and polypropylene bags were used, thus allowing for the fungus to be available year-round to consumers. Today Yamabushitake continues to be cultivated in Japan and China, as well as Malaysia and Canada, using both modern techniques as well as cultivation using logs and stumps as the fungus would do in nature. Malaysia is a new development in the growth of Lion’s Mane mushroom as it is a tropical climate. However, research has shown that the increase in temperature has not affected the nutritional composition of the mushroom.
Cultivation in Japan is done using sawdust from oak trees and other hardwood trees as well as cacao husks. The mushroom is harvested within 45 days and if not sold fresh it is air dried to preserve it and allows the mushroom to the processed into tablet or capsule form as well as into a powder for tea.
Some companies (a few in Malaysia) use ovens to dry Yamabushitake. Though effective at preserving the mushroom it kills many of the beneficial properties of the fungus. Therefore, like with all things, it is important to inquire about how the mushroom was preserved. If you can’t find out, eating the mushroom fresh and adding it to cooking, soup stock or even steeping it into tea.
Benefits of Lion’s Mane
If you have heard of Lion’s Mane or Yamabushitake you will know that this wonderful white and long-haired mushroom is amazingly beneficial for the brain.
Beta-glucan a polysaccharides in Hericium erinaceus is incredibly beneficial and effective at balancing numerous imbalances in the body.
- contains antitumor activity – extend the life of cancer patients
- an effective immunomodulatory, boosting the immune system, working as an antioxidant and providing nerve protection.
- reduces the risk of atherosclerosis
- balances cholesterol levels
The fruit bodies of Hericium erinaceus contains hericenones which depending on how the fungus is treated can to an extent provide NGF (Nerve Growth Factor). Erinacines, which are found in the mycelium (root) of the mushroom, have a far greatest potential for NGF. Both are low molecular in weight and are able to pass through the blood-brain barrier. Erinacines aid in nerve repair, reduce endoplasmic reticulum stress as well as neurodegenerative cell death.
Erinacines also provide nerve repair for accident victims, a daily dosage can promote the regeneration of injured nerves during early stages of recovery. This makes Lion’s Mane very beneficial for individuals who have had any head injury. The smallest pressure placed on the head will to even a small degree affect the brain, an injured brain take a long time to heal. Other benefits of erinacines includes;
- gastric and esophageal carcinoma
- decreases lipid peroxide levels
- decreases oxidative stress in diabetics
The best way to reap the benefits of Lion’s Mane is to consume the fresh mushroom. Processing of Hericium erinaceus (as stated previously above) affect the neurite stimulating activities of the fungus. Not standardized cultivation techniques and conditions may affect the medicinal properties as well. Furthermore, always make sure the whole mushroom is used – down to the root and that if preserved lion’s mane has been air dried. Lion’s Mane is low in calories (approximately 24 kcal per 100g), and forever 100 g the fungus contains 3.6 g of carbs and 2.4g of protein. Benefits of consuming the whole fungus include;
- treatment of ulcers
- reduction of inflammation
- benefiting stomach
- healing the digestive tract
- healing duodenal ulcers
Cooking with Lion’s Mane
Hericium erinaceus is a very delicious mushroom and works perfectly as a substitute for mushrooms you may usually use such as shiitake, white mushrooms or oyster mushrooms. It may seem a little daunting to try sometime new, but trust me, it will be delicious! I picked up some lion’s mane at my local farmer’s market a month or so ago and have been getting it every week since. It is easy to use and you feel great after eating whatever you make with it. They work well in sauces and stir-fry as well as by themselves fried in a pan in coconut oil or butter.
Hericium erinaceus can also be added to soup stock to enhance both the flavour and the nutritional benefits of the stock. If cut up finely they can also make a perfect additive to a vegetable soup, mushroom soup or any other type of hearty soup.
If gently steeped, just as in a soup stock, lion’s mane is a great additive to teas. Let the fungus sit in hot water overnight and afterwards you will have a wonderful elixir to add to teas, coffee or smoothies. If you can’t wait that long, let it steep for between 5-10 minutes, perhaps combine it with a herbal fruit tea and sit back and enjoy the brain stimulation.
Supplementing with Lion’s Mane
The best way to incorporate this beneficial food into the body is through diet, consuming the fresh fungus in everyday meals. However, sometimes it is not always the most convenient route. There are a lot of great products on the market that provide a very good source of lion’s mane, below are a list of a few that I personally find work and taste great.
Four Stigmatic – Lion’s Mane Elixir
I love this product, it is so very versatile and delicious. The nutrients are properly extracted and each packet contains 1,500 mg of Hericium erinaceus, 30% of which is polysaccharides. This makes this wonderful, little orange packet a mega brain booster. Try throwing it into your morning coffee, tea, smoothie or even breakfast cereal and bliss balls. The combination of anise, peppermint and stevia provide a subtle hint of sweetness and an additional aid for balanced digestive health.
Host Defense Organic Mushrooms – Lion’s Mane
This freeze-dried organic lion’s mane supplement is each to take and carry with you as it comes in a capsule. It contains a high amount of polysaccharides as well as a host of beneficial plant secondary compounds. It also contains a large amount of mycelium (the fungus root), thus it has a high amount of erinacines making it an overall incredibly beneficial supplement for nerve regeneration, antioxidant aid and many other wonderful health benefits.
New Chapter – Lifeshield Lion’s Mane Complex
This is another fantastic product. Not only does it contain the beneficial mycelium of Hericium erinaceus it also contains the mycelium of reishi, chaga and poria. One received the amazing nerve, immune, digestive etc benefits of lion’s mane along with the calming effects of reishi, the immune boosting power of chaga as well as the anxiety-reducing benefits of poria.
See which product you like best and begin including lion’s mane into your daily routine. You may not feel the change right away but note how you feel after taking it continuously for one week.