Lion’s Mane – Brain Superfood

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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. Lion Mane 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).  Lion’s mane requires a cool temperature of between 18-24 degrees celsius as well as a moist and humid environment. 

The first cultivation of Lion’s Mane 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 Lion’s Mane continued to be cultivated in Japan and China, as well as Malaysia and Canada, using both modern techniques as well as cultivating using logs and stumps as the fungus would do in nature. Malaysia is a new development in the growth of Lion’s Mane 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 the sawdust from oak trees as well as 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 allow 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 Lion’s Mane. 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 on how the mushroom was preserved. If you can’t find out, eating the mushroom fresh and adding it into 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 Lion’s Mane is incredibly beneficial and effective at balancing numerous imbalances in the body.

  • contains antitumor activity – extend the life of cancer patients 
  • an effective immuno modulatory, boosting the immune system, working as an antioxidant and providing nerve protection. 
  • antimicrobial 
  • anti hypertensive
  • anti diabetic 
  • reduces the risk of atherosclerosis 
  • balances cholesterol levels

The fruit bodies of Lion’s Mane contains hericenones which depending on how the fungus is treated can to an extent provide NGF. Erinacines which are found in the mycelium (root) of Lion’s Mane has 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
  • anti-aging 
  • hemagglutinating
  • antioxidant
  • 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 lion’s mane (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 for ever 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

Lion’s mane 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 of 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 frys as well as by themselves fried on a pan in coconut oil or butter. 

Lion’s mane 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 over night 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 very good source of lion’s mane, below are a list of a few that I personally find work and taste great. 

  1. 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 lion’s mane, 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.  The combination of anise, peppermint and stevia provide a subtle hint of sweetness and an additional aid for balanced digestive health. 
  2. Host Defence 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 over all incredibly beneficial supplement for nerve regeneration, antioxidant aid and many other wonderful health benefits. 
  3. New Chapter – Lifeshield Lion’s Mane Complex. This is another fantastic product. Not only does it contain the beneficial mycelium of lion’s mane it also contains the mycelium of reishi, chaga and poria. One received the amazing nerve, immuno, 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. 

References 

Abdulla, M. A., Fard, A. A., Sabaratnam, V., Wong, K., Kuppusamy, U. R., Abdullah, N., & Ismail, S. (2011). Potential Activity of Aqueous Extract of Culinary-Medicinal Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) in Accelerating Wound Healing in Rats. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 13(1), 33-39. 
 
Bing-Ji Ma , Jin-Wen Shen , Hai-You Yu , Yuan Ruan , Ting-Ting Wu & Xu Zhao. (2010). Hericenones and erinacines: stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF) biosynthesis in Hericium erinaceus.  Mycology, 1:2, 92-98. 
 
He, X., Wang, X., Fang, J., Chang, Y., Ning, N., Guo, H., . . . Zhao, Z. (2017). Structures, biological activities, and industrial applications of the polysaccharides from Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) mushroom: A review. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 97, 228-237. 
 
Hiwatashi, K., Kosaka, Y., Suzuki, N., Hata, K., Mukaiyama, T., Sakamoto, K., . . . Komai, M. (2010). Yamabushitake Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) Improved Lipid Metabolism in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 74(7), 1447-1451.
 
Khan, M. A., Tania, M., Liu, R., & Rahman, M. M. (2013). Hericium erinaceus: an edible mushroom with medicinal values. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 10(1). 
 
Lai, P., Naidu, M., Sabaratnam, V., Wong, K., David, R. P., Kuppusamy, U. R., . . . Malek, S. N. (2013). Neurotrophic Properties of the Lions Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 15(6), 539-554. 
 
Liang, B., Guo, Z., Xie, F., & Zhao, A. (2013). Antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activities of aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus in experimental diabetic rats. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine,13(1).
 
Mizuno, T. (1999). Bioactive Substances in Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Yamabushitake), and Its Medicinal Utilization. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 1(2), 105-119
 
Mori, K., Inatomi, S., Ouchi, K., Azumi, Y., & Tuchida, T. (2009). Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research, 23(3), 367-372. 
 
Mori, K., Ouchi, K., & Hirasawa, N. (2015). The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Lions Mane Culinary-Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) in a Coculture System of 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and RAW264 Macrophages. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 17(7), 609-618. 
 
Sabaratnam, V., Kah-Hui, W., Naidu, M., & David, P. R. (2013). Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help? Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 3(1), 62-68. 
 
Wong, K., Naidu, M., David, R. P., Bakar, R., & Sabaratnam, V. (2012). Neuroregenerative Potential of Lions Mane Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Higher Basidiomycetes), in the Treatment of Peripheral Nerve Injury (Review). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 14(5), 427-446. 
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