With its thin, snowy white icicle shaped spines which cascade downward to form a shaggy mass, the lion’s mane mushroom is named for its unique appearance, which resembles a pale version of a lion’s mane.
Other names by which this mushroom is known include hedgehog mushroom, bearded hedgehog mushroom, pom pom mushroom, sheep’s head, bear’s head, and bearded tooth fungus, and in China it’s called the monkey head mushroom.
Lion’s mane mushrooms grow wild on various hardwoods, particularly beech trees. Freshly harvested they’re tender and perfectly edible. When cooked their flavor is somewhat like lobster or shrimp, and like other soft edible medicinal mushrooms they have a firm meaty texture.
Nootropic is a Greek word whose literal meaning is “turning of the mind,” and a nootropic is considered to be a substance that enhances the overall functioning of the brain, including improving cognition, intelligence, memory, attention and concentration.
Various constituents derived from lion’s mane mushrooms, particularly including hericenones, erinacines and amycenones, are considered to be very effective nootropics.
Doctor Hirokazu Kawagishi of Shizoka University in Japan, who has done extensive research on the lion’s mane mushroom, has discovered that these compounds, which have the ability to cross the blood brain barrier, stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) and are therefore beneficial for use in the treatment of various neurological disorders including dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Besides benefiting those suffering from the above ailments due to the triggering the synthesis of NGF, studies have also found that constituents found in lion’s mane promote the rebuilding of the myelin sheath, which is the insulating tissue surrounding nerves.
Myriad Healing Properties
Other scientific studies that have been conducted on lion’s mane mushrooms and its therapeutic components show that this medicinal mushroom is useful in promoting accelerated wound healing and scar reduction and reducing inflammation.
It also has shown promise as an antioxidant, in the reduction of blood sugar levels, and in improving the metabolism of fats.
There is also evidence that lion’s mane mushrooms improve immune function, are hepatoprotective, and have anti-tumor properties, and clinical studies also indicate that regular intake can even be helpful in mitigating symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Lion’s mane has long been used in China and Japan to treat gastric disorders, and there is clinical evidence that the beta glucan polysaccharides and polypeptides contained in these mushrooms enhance the function of the gastric mucus barrier, making them useful in the treatment of chronic stomach disorders such as ulcers.
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