According to the researchers, who conducted the study on mice, the compounds isolated from Lion’s Mane have the ability to “stimulate neuron projections, extending and connecting to other neurons.”
The mushroom’s ability to improve cognitive performance is now so widely recognized that the distinct mushroom has earned itself the moniker “the smart mushroom.”
The study was conducted at the University of Queensland in collaboration with researchers from Korea’s Gachon University and Chungbuk National University.
Previous studies attribute the cognitive-supporting activity to bioactive compounds in the mushroom that boost neurotrophins. Neurotrophins, in turn, promote the growth and survival of neurons.
The two compounds researchers attribute the neurotrophin-boosting activity to are hericenones and erinacines.
Brief history of the ‘smart mushroom’
While the benefits of Lion’s Mane are still being debated in the West, in Asian countries the practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine have been administering it medicinally for hundreds of years. The fungus grows on old or dead broadleaf trees, and it is used for food as well as medicine. The mushrooms are large, white and shaggy—resembling a lion’s mane—as they grow.
In China, Lion’s Mane is called hóu tóu gu (“monkey head mushroom”). In Japan it is called yamabushitake (“mountain monk mushroom”).
Lion’s Mane has been used in the traditional medicine systems of Korea, China and Japan for centuries. It is prescribed by practitioners to fortify the spleen, nourish the gut, and as an anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer drug.
Lion’s mane is said to be nutritive to the five internal organs: liver, lung, spleen, heart and kidney. It is also used in similar fashion to a modern day multi-vitamin by promoting good digestion, general vigor and strength.
Notwithstanding the centuries of medicinal use and observational research in China, most of the research in Western countries have been conducted on animals or in test tubes. However, there are some noteworthy human studies do offer valuable insight.
A 2009 double-blind clinical trial assessing the oral administration of “Lion’s Mane fruiting bodies” in elderly humans showed improvement in subjects with mild cognitive impairment compared to age-matched controls. Researchers measured improvements using the Revised Hasegawa Dementia Scale.
The group ingesting Lion’s Mane significantly increased their scores during the 16-week treatment period, indicating improvement compared to those not taking Lion’s Mane. Furthermore, researchers noted when subjects stopped taking the Lion’s Mane supplements their scores began to fall, reflecting scores similar to those that were untreated—indicating the need for continued use.
“The substantial historical record for the traditional use of Lion’s Mane for chronic ailments, together with the results of studies so far, suggest Hericium erinaceus is safe and has important potential as a neuroprotective and neurotrophic therapeutic agent in neurological conditions.”
“Neurological Activity of Lion’s Mane”
2017 White Paper issued by the National University of Natural Medicine in
Download PDF here.
Another human study includes a 2020 study of people with mild Alzheimer’s disease. This study found that supplementation with one gram of Lion’s Mane mushroom daily for 49 weeks significantly improved cognitive test scores compared with a placebo.
The support of brain function is just one area of study for Lion’s Mane. Like the many ancient uses from the Orient, Lion’s Mane is also being studied for regulation of blood sugar, lowering blood pressure, minimizing inflammation, and protecting the liver and kidneys.
Citing previous studies that suggest that Lion’s Mane extract promotes nerve growth factor synthesis, the researchers stated their goal was to “determine whether the Hericium erinaceus compounds might also affect central neuronal function.”
The laboratory study evaluated the effects of Hericium erinaceus extracts on six-week-old male mice.
On days 28-30 of the study period, the mice performed a Y-maze test and novel object tests. Immediately following the mice were euthanized and their brains were preserved for biochemical and immunohistochemistry analysis.
“Using super-resolution microscopy, we found the mushroom extract and its active components largely increase the size of growth cones, which are particularly important for brain cells to sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain,” said Professor Frederic Meunier of the Queensland Brain Institute.
The researchers further noted that the mice fed with Lion’s Mane “also exhibited increased neurotrophin expression and downstream signaling, resulting in significantly enhanced hippocampal memory… leading to improved cognitive performance.”
The study was published in the Journal of Neurochemistry in January 2023.
Is it possible the pharmaceutical-saturated American consumer may one day enjoy the medicinal benefits of Lion’s Main that consumers in Asian countries already enjoy?
Time will tell. The pharmaceutical-medical establishment doesn’t like competition from natural alternatives, and Americans are currently limited to “nutritionally supporting” Lion’s Mane supplements. However, based on the findings of the current study, at least one North American company—Arev Life Sciences Global Corporation in Canada—just announced that it would launch its own research to identify advanced isolation technology for its proprietary Lion’s Mane extract.
The future may indeed be promising.
If you would like to receive the health benefits conveyed by Lion’s Mane mushrooms, consider supplementing with Essential Shrooms by Dr. Harris.
Visit the Optimal Health Systems product info page, or click the sidebar banner ad, to learn more.
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