The growing interest in traditional Chinese medicine has brought a number of different traditional medicines to the forefront of natural health and healing. Among these are medicinal mushrooms, which can have a wide range of effects on your well-being, which is why it's so important to understand the difference between these types of mushrooms.
Among these mushrooms is the lion's mane mushroom, which has a wide range of effects on the brain, nervous system, diabetes, immune function, aging, mental health, inflammatory response, digestive system, cardiovascular system and some cancers.
In this article, we'll discuss what the lion's mane mushroom is, how it works, the risks of using it and how to optimize the benefits you'll gain from this healing mushroom.
What are Lion's Mane Mushrooms?
Hericium erinaceus lion mane mushroom is an outstanding option to consider for brain health. However, medically reviewed research suggests a wide range of benefits beyond the central nervous system.
An edible mushroom in the tooth fungus group, it tends to grow on hardwoods and has a long spine, growing in clumps. The fruiting bodies form long, white tubular shapes that cascade down, forming the appearance of a lion's mane.
What are the Health Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushrooms?
The neurological properties of lion's mane are among the most highly-researched areas of the mushroom's potential. They include a range of studies showing improved nerve and brain cell recovery following a traumatic event, such as a brain or spinal cord injury, neuroprotective qualities that prevent oxidative stress and damage in stroke and disease and improved cognitive function by rebuilding damaged and dead cells to create new or improved connections within the brain.
However, the extensive benefits of lion's mane don't stop there, but also include cardiovascular, digestive, immune, diabetes, anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting and mental health benefits.
Neuroprotective Properties of the Lion's Mane Mushroom
Medically reviewed research suggests that the fungi have a strong neuroprotective benefit, with testing in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease patients showing strong potential. In essence, the fungus increases neurite outgrowth, slowing or potentially even reversing brain cell damage, the primary features of these diseases. It also protects and delays brain cell death, prolonging overall cognitive clarity.
Studies have also shown that the fungi may slow the progression of Parkinson's Disease, which combined with Alzheimer's Disease research makes it a prime candidate for additional studies in related diseases such as Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), Lewy Body Dementia, Multiple System Atrophy and Corticobasal Degeneration.
Neurotropic Properties of Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Studies have shown that lion's mane has strong properties for regenerating damaged nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system between the brain and spinal cord. In addition, the mushroom provides strong results for treating neuropathy, or damage to peripheral nervous system cells, specifically in cases where neuropathy is caused by diabetes.
In the future, human studies may show improved recovery times of 23-41% from spinal cord injuries due to the use of lion's mane. It's even able to help restore eye nerves, possibly providing a way forward to deal with nerve-related blindness by restoring neurite outgrowth in the retina by 21.7%.
Beneficial Cognitive Effects of Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Animal studies have shown that cognitive function can be stimulated in Alzheimer's Disease, while the therapy provided improvement in mild cognitive impairment while the patients continued taking the supplement. The consistent results of lion's mane mushrooms in delivering strong positive effects on the central and peripheral nervous system shows great promise in the future in treating a range of related diseases.
It also works well to improve concentration for those not suffering from serious neurodegenerative diseases and has a history of being used as a tea for Buddhist monks prior to medication to improve focus. Combined with the mushroom's cardiovascular effects, it can also work well for both preventing and treating ischemic strokes.
Digestive Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Worried about ulcers? Several studies have shown that lion's mane can protect against and help shrink gastric ulcers. Researchers in Malaysia have determined that bioactive compounds found in the fungus have a gastroprotective action, attributed in a later Chinese study to the mushroom's polysaccharide compounds.
Its anti-inflammatory action is also attributed to improving symptoms of gastritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Combined with lion's mane's mental health benefits, it can help reduce stress, which in and of itself will help reduce digestive upsets.
Cardiovascular Effects of the Lion's Mane Mushroom
In the cardiovascular system, lion's mane can prevent the increase of LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce overall triglycerides in the bloodstream. Test tube studies have also shown potential for reducing oxidation of cholesterol.
But perhaps as important is its impact on ischemic stroke, which can be caused by related blood clots. Given the combination of the impact of lion's mane in both reducing the risk of stroke along with its neuroprotective and neurotropic properties, this medicinal mushroom is an excellent option for preventing and treating ischemic stroke, in which blood flow is blocked to the brain.
Immune-Boosting Effects of the Lion's Mane Mushroom
In addition to the strong antioxidant activity of the mushroom, the high polysaccharide levels found in the fungi help to boost immune function. These features, combined with the anti-inflammatory effects of lion's mane, make it a decent tonic to boost immune function overall through improved health.
Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Lion's Mane Mushrooms
As mentioned in the digestive section, lion's mane has strong anti-inflammatory action. This includes anti-inflammatory activity in fatty tissues, one of the few natural remedies to do so. This is important because reducing inflammation in fatty tissue can lower the risk of metabolic disorders such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
It also has antibacterial action against h. Pylori, a common bacterium that does not impact most people, but for people who are sensitive to it, it can cause severe gastric distress, including ulcers in the stomach and intestines. By adding lion's made to a regular regimen, it can help lower pain levels from inflammation.
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Cancer-Fighting Effects of Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Cancer is a difficult disease to fight, but by tapping nature's pharmacopeia, we can make strong progress in finding less-dangerous treatments for this terrible disease. In at least one study, lion's mane has been proven to reduce the number of leukemia cancer cells, specifically linking these effects to the phytochemicals present in the fungi.
It may also be effective in gastric cancer, arresting cancer cell growth and even causing cell death in some cases, while also working effectively against lung, cervical, liver, colon and breast cancers. In fact, animal model research suggests that lion's mane extracts can effectively treat the spread of cancer, inhibiting metastasis of cancer cells by 66-69%.
Diabetes Improvements from the Lion's Mane Mushroom
In addition to the neurotropic effect helping improve diabetic neuropathy, there is a range of other benefits in taking lion's mane for diabetes. Studies have shown that the mushroom moderates many diabetic symptoms, including blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and several other symptoms of the disease. It also reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, which in turn lowers the odds of developing diabetes in the first place.
Sleep and Mental Health Effects of the Lion's Mane Mushroom
When you're coming off a crazy schedule, lion's mane mushrooms help you fight fatigue, returning you to a more normal circadian rhythm. At the same time, its anti-inflammatory effects can reduce the impact of anxiety and depression.
Its neurotropic and neuroprotective properties help regenerate brain cells and improve function in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for moderating emotions and storing memories. A small study also showed that women going through menopause who ate lion's mane cookies daily self-reported fewer feelings of anxiety and irritability.
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Are There Any Risks to Using Lion's Mane Mushrooms?
As with any fungus being used for medical treatment, you'll want to avoid the lion's mane if you have mold or fungus allergies. Most side effects have been related to this specific issue, as it's a common food eaten in eastern Asia.
As with so many medicines, it has not been tested on pregnant and lactating women, so use with caution in these situations. However, it's been commonly used in food for extended periods of time and is generally considered very safe for dietary supplements for long term use.
How to Get the Best Benefit From Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Because the compounds in the fungi cover a wide range of compounds, it's recommended that both water and alcohol extraction are used to create lion's mane mushroom extract so that you're able to benefit from the full range of compounds. The recommended dosage to improve production of nerve growth factor is 3-5 grams daily.
By taking the time to understand how the lion's mane mushroom can impact your health, you're in a better position to decide whether it's the right choice for your health needs. As with all changes to your healthcare routine, make sure to talk to your doctor for medical advice about whether the lion's mane mushroom is a good option to consider for boosting your health.