Anxiety & Stress, Fungi 101, Immune System, Recipe
What is Lion’s Mane?
Lion’s Mane, or Hericium erinaceus, is an edible fungus with many beneficial health properties. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, and is rapidly gaining popularity in the western world for its health and wellness benefits.
Lion’s Mane - Connecting Past, Present and Future
The powers of medicinal mushrooms have been researched and used for centuries, but just how long have they been helping humans? The potential anti-inflammatory benefits of natural fungi were identified as early as 450 BCE by Greek physician Hippocrates (yep, that Hippocrates).
Lion’s Mane, or Hou Tou Gu, has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to improve cognitive function, improve memory, support heart health, promote digestive function and more for centuries.
Not only has Lion’s Mane been used for its physical health benefits, but it has also been used to benefit the mind. Buddhist Shaolin monks also used Lion’s Mane during meditation practices to enhance their concentration and focus. This tradition, in part, led to the popularization of using Lion’s Mane for improving memory and concentration.
How Lion’s Mane Benefits Us
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms are packed with polysaccharides, or types of carbohydrates that are main components of dietary fiber. These have been researched to determine their impact on reducing risk factors of chronic diseases and certain types of cancer.
Lion’s Mane also contains certain types of polysaccharides called beta-glucans. Research shows that beta-glucans can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol a by helping our immune systems better fight off pathogens
Research also shows that the anti-inflammatory effects of Lion’s Mane could reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Additional studies have shown that Lion’s Mane can help improve how the hippocampus, or part of our brain that processes memories and emotion, functions.
Amongst the active molecules in Lion’s Mane are different proteins called nerve growth factors, or NGF. NGF benefits the overall health of the central nervous system. Compounds in Lion’s Mane stimulate the production of more NGF, thus leading to the production of more neurons.
How to Find and Use Lion’s Mane
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are easily identifiable by their long white “teeth. They typically grow in a large clump of hanging spikes. Lion’s Mane mushrooms don’t have any toxic look-alikes, but definitely forage intelligently and responsibly! The younger a Lion’s Mane mushroom is, the whiter it is. As it grows older, it turns yellow and then brown at the end of its life. They grow in late summer and early fall in the wild throughout Europe and North America, and can often be found at seasonal farmer’s markets.
If you want to incorporate this multi-beneficial adaptogenic mushroom into your daily life, there are plenty of easy and delicious ways to do so!
While eating them whole is an option, Lion’s Mane mushrooms tend to taste bitter in their natural form. Because of this, most people choose to take them as a supplement, in powder, liquid or gummy form (hello, WonderDay!). To get the maximum benefits from these superhero mushrooms, take Lion’s Mane consistently.
We are not doctors and cannot give medical advice. If you have any questions about incorporating Lion’s Mane to your existing health regimen, consult your primary care provider.
Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy
Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.
Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.