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Hericium erinaceus (Lion's mane) Mushroom Science

Lion’s mane is a mushroom that grows on the dead trunk of hardwood trees such as oak or Japanese walnut trees. It is known by a variety of names such as Bearded tooth, Hedgehog fungus, Pompom and Yamabushitake, but it’s most well known as Lion’s mane. 

Lion’s mane is a culinary-medicinal mushroom and when extracted it has potential for therapeutic uses in brain disease and cognitive function. In a study published in the International Journal of Molecular sciences 2019 titled “The Neuroprotective Effect of Hericium Erinaceus Extracts in Mouse Hippocampus after Pilocarpine-Induced Status Epilepticus” showed that doses of Lion’s mane helped the survival of neurons after damages. It has also shown to reduction of the inflammatory pathway within the brain of test mouse subjects. 

The international journal of medicinal mushrooms states "Nerve growth factor is essential for the maintenance of the basal forebrain cholinergic system. Hericenones and erinacines isolated from the medicinal mushroom Hericium ericaceous can induce NGF synthesis in nerve cells". The basal cholinergic system is responsible for cognitive functions such as learning, memory, attention, brain structure, ageing and plasticity. Nerve growth factors also play an important role in survival, growth and maintenance of our nervous system. Within this space Lion’s mane has been widely studied to demonstrate its ability in keeping the nervous system healthy and reverse damages. A result such as this has been demonstrated in “Regenerative activity of Hericium erinaceus on axonal injury model using in vitro laser microdissection technique” by Ramazan Ustun and Peray Ayhan published in Neurological Research Oct 2018. This study demonstrated that axons damaged via a surgical cut using laser were able to be protected and stimulated to regrow. The researchers have concluded that Lion’s mane in combination with neuro growth factor maximises the regeneration of the nerves. This demonstrates that Lion’s mane has the potential to serve as a supplement for those who wishes to prevent, repair and maintain the brain and nervous system. 

Although Lion’s mane has been studied and known for cognitive and nerve growth, another therapeutic effect area which it has shown leads in, is anxiety and depression. There is a region within our brain called the hippocampus which forms part of our limbic (emotion) system. It is responsible for our memory. In those who have anxiety and/or depression the hippocampus loses its size. Dosing with Lion’s mane has been studied by Sun Ryu and his colleagues to demonstrate that the cells within the hippocampus can be stimulated for growth with Lion’s mane. This leads to reducing anxiety and having an anti-depressant like effect. 

Polysaccharides that make up the content of Lion’s mane has also been proven to feed probiotics living in our gut. The digestion of Lion’s mane by our stomach acid seems to “activate” the ingredients which assists in the growth of probiotics. This was demonstrated by researchers who published “The Prebiotic Activity of Simulated Gastric and Intestinal Digesta of Polysaccharides from the Hericium erinaceus” in the journal Molecule

Clinical trial with lion’s mane on cognitive impairment:

A clinical trial in Japan was performed with 30 people aged 50- 80 years old who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. The subjects were split into two groups (15 people each group) for a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with lion’s mane. One group took 4 x 250 mg Lion’s mane tablets orally 3 times a day for 16 weeks and the other group took a placebo.

A cognitive function scale based on the Revised Hasegawa Dementia Scale (HDS-R) was used. Cognitive scores of the Lion’s mane group increased throughout the duration of intake. In particular, at weeks 8, 12 and 16 of the trial, the group taking lion’s mane showed significantly increased scores on a cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group. However 4 weeks after termination of intake, the scores decreased significantly.

The results obtained from this study suggest that Lion’s mane is effective in improving mild cognitive impairment, however are only maintained with continuous administration.

 

 

Photo: Biotonic Labs' Hericium Erinaceus before extraction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

  • Regenerative activity of Hericium erinaceus on axonal injury model using in vitro laser microdissection technique. Neurological research  2018 Dec 20:1-10
  • Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain. Journal of Medicinal Food. Ryu SKim HGKim JYKim SYCho KO 2018 Feb;21(2):174-180
  • Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of themushroom yamabushitake (hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: A double- blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research. 2009;23(3):367-72.