Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is an incredibly intriguing mushroom with a unique physical appearance and many deeply hidden secrets. Occurring on hardwoods as a single clump of dangling spines, this strangest creature in the mushroom kingdom can be identified by its long spines (greater than 1 cm length) that resemble a lion’s mane as they grow.
Lion’s mane mushrooms in cooking and medicine
Hericium erinaceus has been used in gourmet cooking and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Lion’s mane mushrooms can be enjoyed raw, cooked, dried or steeped as a tea. Their extracts often used in over-the-counter health supplements. Young specimens are considered the best. They have a mildly sweet, earthy flavor – a lot of people say they taste a lot like crab meat.
But the main reason for this article is to describe the amazing nootropic effects of this enigmatic mushroom and persuade you to include it into your routine diet. And remember, cooking does not destroy the valuable nutrients.
Lion’s mane mushrooms – a fabulously tasty, quick and easy meal
You can make delicious lion’s mane mushrooms in less than ten 10 minutes by simply sautéing them in butter or olive oil until golden brown and then finishing with a splash of soy sauce. Cut the lion’s mane mushroom into thick slices. Fry the slices of mushroom in a dry frying pan (without oil) over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes. The mushroom will reduce in size as moisture evaporates and the fibres are condensed. Add some olive oil and butter and fry until golden and crisp.
These mushrooms melt in your mouth and make everything you serve along with them taste amazing. Lion’s manes are wonderful straight out of the pan, but this quick and easy side can be enjoyed in a variety of other ways such as: putting atop mashed or baked potatoes, boiled eggs or omelet; making a sandwich with mayo; placing over risotto or pasta … Just use your imagination.
Lion’s mane tea
A traditional way of taking lion’s mane is tea. This is because hot water helps to extract the healthy nutrients from the mushroom. This is also the case for many other medicinal mushrooms
Unique content of lion’s mane mushrooms
Hericium erinaceus fruiting bodies contain 57% carbohydrates (8% as dietary fiber), 4% fat, 22% protein, essential oil (from which 77 aroma and flavour compounds were identified), and other diverse phytochemicals:
- Hericenones and erinacines are polysaccharides isolated from the fruiting body of lion’s mane mushroom that promote nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis, which is involved in the regulation of growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival of neurons. Lion’s mane contains compounds that stimulate the growth of brain cells and protect them from damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. However, more human research is needed.
- Ergothioneine: Sulfur-containing amino acid ergothioneine is a unique super powerful antioxidant that protects cell’s mitochondria from oxidation. Ergothioneine is used as medicine for liver damage, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Our body cannot produce it so it can only be obtained from our diet with mushrooms being a top source of it. Lion’s mane contains 1.6 mg/g of ergothioneine, the highest amounts of ergothioneine that seldom appears in mushrooms.
- Glutathione: Made from the amino acids glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid, glutathione is a powerful antioxidant. It prevents damage to important cellular components caused by reactive oxygen species such as free radicals, peroxides, and heavy metals. Glutathione is produced by the liver and involved in many body processes such as tissue building and repairing, making chemicals and proteins needed in the body, strengthening the immune system. Often, direct supplementation of glutathione is not successful and has to be obtained from foods, notably – mushrooms.
- Polysaccharide β-glucan: Countless clinical trials show that beta-glucan has significant antimicrobial (stops the growth of microorganisms), anticancer, and anti-diabetic properties. It also controls cholesterol levels in our body.
- Enzymes that accelerate the breakdown of nutrients contributing to better absorption of food
- Chitin, the main structural component of the fungal cell, is an excellent natural absorbent (meaning cleansing agent) – it absorbs toxins several times more actively than activated carbon.
These bioactive compounds are believed to be the substances responsible for many health beneficial effects of lion’s mane.
7 Secrets of lion’s mane mushrooms
As we said earlier, the main reason for our discussion is the nootropic effect of Lion’s Mane, so there is no better way to start describing of its benefits with how it improves brain function and continue with some others.
Stimulate the growth of brain cells
Lion’s mane is one of the most powerful natural brain stimulants due to its ability to increase nerve growth factor (NGF) production – neuropeptide primarily involved in the regulation of growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival of neurons. NGF supports neurons – the cells responsible for the processes occurring in your brain and the transmission of information.
Lion’s mane mushrooms contain two special nootropic compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells – hericenones and erinacines. Nootropics are a class of substances that can boost brain performance, enhance cognition and memory and facilitates learning.
One Japanese study showed that lion’s mane is the only type of mushroom that improves the synthesis of NGF. So, whether you’re preparing for an important exam or just trying to focus better at work, Lion’s Mane can help you.
Protect against dementia
As people age, their brain’s ability to grow and form new connections typically declines, which may explain why mental functioning gets worse in many older adults. In Japan, a clinical study was conducted in 50-80 year old people with mild cognitive decline who took lion’s mane extract (3 g daily) for 16 weeks. Study participants taking the extract experienced a significant increase in cognitive functioning without any side effects.
Reduce anxiety and depression
Even though more human research is needed to better understand the correlation between lion’s mane intake and anxiety and depression reduction, some studies show that eating cookies with dried lion’s mane mushrooms powder daily for one month helped reduce self-reported anxiety in menopausal women.
It has been shown that lion’s mane reduces three key markers of fatigue: lactic acid, malondialdehyde and blood urea.
Animal research shows that lion’s mane mushroom can boost immunity by increasing the activity of the intestinal immune system, which protects the body from pathogens that enter the gut through the mouth or nose
Reduce blood glucose
Lion’s mane also shows promise as a diabetes supplement and may be beneficial for diabetes management by improving blood sugar control. These mushrooms lower blood sugars by blocking the activity of the alpha-glucosidase enzyme, which breaks down carbs in the small intestine. When this enzyme is blocked, the body is unable to digest and absorb carbs as effectively, which results in lower blood sugar levels. A study in mice showed that it could reduce blood glucose in normal and diabetic mice by almost 50%. Moreover, it has been shown to increase glucose tolerance and insulin release.
Have anti-aging properties
Lipofuscin is a metabolic waste product of the aging process in humans and animals. It is a yellow-brown pigment composed of lipid-containing residues of lysosomal digestion. It is considered to be one of the aging or “wear-and-tear” pigments, found in the liver, kidney, heart muscle, retina, adrenals, nerve cells, and ganglion cells. It constantly accumulates during cell aging, which contributes to cellular depletion. Lion’s mane has been described to reduce lipofuscin levels in mice.
Take lion’s mane everyday – it has been shown to be very beneficial for your health. Mix one scoop of lion’s mane powder into your tea or coffee once a day for a two week period. It will make you feel good!