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What Is Lion's Mane Mushroom?

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  • Written By: Alyssa Simon
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2014
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Lion's Mane mushroom is an edible mushroom. Many practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believe it to have valuable medicinal properties in aiding stomach ailments and cancers relating to the digestive system. Often termed a medicinal mushroom in the West, Lion's Mane mushroom, or hericium erinaceus, is also known by other names, including bearded tooth mushroom, hedgehog mushroom and pom pom mushroom. Some recent scientific studies indicate that certain compounds of Lion's Mane mushroom may also have antioxidant properties that stimulate nerve cells in the brains of animals.

Sufferers of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders may benefit from the use of Lion's Mane mushroom if the studies are correct. In some neurological scientific studies, two groups of the mushroom's active compounds, erinacines and hericiones, have shown possible nerve growth factor (NGF) stimulation. NGF is a protein vital to the health of nerve cells or neurons that regulate information to the brain, such as sensory perceptions such as touch, temperature or pain. Adult mice subjected to experiments removing NGF from their brains are reported to develop conditions resembling dementia found in humans.

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A preliminary study in 2004 on human volunteers in the Japanese prefecture of Gunma was conducted at a rehabilitative hospital for elderly patients suffering from degenerative neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease or spinal cord injury. All patients received 0.176oz (5 g) of Lion's Mane mushroom extract in their soup every day for six months. The researchers involved in the study concluded that six out of seven patients showed demonstrably greater capacity for sensory perception than before the experiment started. Although results were considered hopeful, many more extensive studies must be undertaken before the benefits of Lion's Mane mushroom is scientifically proven and definitive. A physician should be consulted before using any supplement as part of a wellness program.

Lion's Mane mushroom grows in the wild in North America, Europe, China and Japan. It can be found on the dead trunks of hardwood trees such as oak or maple, often in late summer and may be identified by its round shape and many downward growing long spores that resemble narrow teeth or animal hair. Although Lion's Mane mushroom is considered to be completely safe and edible, one should not not handle or eat any mushroom found in the wild unless it can be absolutely identified by an expert as non-poisonous or harmless.

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