Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is an indigenous, but rare, herbal fungus with medical values in Hungary, which was awarded ‘The Fungus of the Year’ title. The healing effects have been known in eastern cultures for centuries, especially in gastrointestinal and neurological problems. According to the Chinese legend, who consumes this mushroom regularly, those will have nerves of steel and their memory will become almost perfect. Several of the therapeutic benefits have been proven scientifically.
The size of lion’s mane (in Russulales) can range 10 and 30 cm, it is a bulbous, fleshy, mostly unstipped, whitish mushroom. Its surface is distinctive: it is covered with long-curved, hanging 2-5 cm long prickles. It has its name due to its distinctive appearance, and it also comes from two other known names, the lion’s mane or ’monkey head’ mushroom- the latter refers to a monkey indigenous in China, therefore local people use this name. The flesh of the mushroom is whiter and soft and slightly fibrous at the earlier age, and becomes more succulent later.
Not only its appearance, but also the taste of the fungus is excellent due to 32 flavours. It is also used as a foodstuff, due to the high protein content it is also used as meat substitutes. It is consumed mostly in cub form roasted in butter or oil, or even sliced or in breadcrumbs. Regarding its consistency it is best suited to the seafood while it has a taste of mild coconut, lemon aroma, which is given by its 4-octanol and limonene compounds.
It is thought-provoking that it does not differ from other fungus regarding the mineral content, but its content of the essential amino acid is extraordinary. Investigations for this study revealed a total of 16 amino acids from 19 varieties. This means that it contains almost all the amino acids essential to the human body, except methionine and tryptophan.
Lion’s mane is found in the Holarktic region, i.e. in the northern temperate zones of the North (Europe, North Asia and North America), but its occurrence is rare in all the places. It is most likely to appear in forests where the moisture content of the air is high. That is to say, it is most common in cracks and holes in elderly trees (mostly oak or beech), because it is a parasite (dead mood demolisher).
Its appearance in the autumn months is typical from September to November. Lion’s mane is a well-grown species.
In Hungary, lion’s mane was classified as protected in 2005 due to its natural place of production, that is to say the rarefaction of old forests. Its survival today is only protected by nature reserves due to forestry. The conservation value of the mushroom is HUF 5000.
Its effect on the immune system
Eastern healers recommend lion’s mane for the following problems: gastrointestinal complaints, respiratory diseases, nerve injuries (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease), high cholesterol levels, weakened immune systems.
The active substances of the fungus are promising in the following areas: neuroprotective and neuroregenerative effect (nerve defensive and recover) antioxidant and liver protective effect, anti aging.
Scientific studies have been carried since 2005 regarding the effects of lion’s mane. Mostly results of animal experiments are available, but in recent years, studies on human health have also been investigating the health effects. Results with the following benefits are as follows:
- Boosts memory
It is known as one of the strongest brain stimulants in nature because it promotes the production of neuronal growth factor (NGF) (1). NGF is a synonym of a neuropeptide, a variety of related polypeptide hormone-like substances that help surviving and growing the neurons, thereby improving brain functions and slowing down aging.
A double blind, placebo-controlled study published in 2009 including 30 patients with mild dementia showed that cervical cognitive functions improved effectively in those with mild cognitive dysfunctions due to lion’s mane treatment from the 4th week.
- Reduces anxiety
The NGF boosting effect of lion’s mane supports the autonomic nervous system – the primary system that is involved in your body’s defensive mechanisms. It also reduces irritability and anxiety, which also means that it may have effect on the mild symptom of depression.
- Sclerosis multiplex
By consuming lion’s mane, NGF levels increase in the body, contributing to the protection of the nerve endings and the myelin sleeve, and it also plays a role in the prevention of inflammation and nervous system due to its immunostimulatory effect. Sclerosis Multiplex (SM) is an autoimmune disease associated with chronic inflammation of the central nervous system. However, NGF production by lion’s mane helps slowing down nerve damage.
As we can see, lion’s mane is an herbal remedy with beneficial properties that may have beneficial effects on our body in certain health conditions, so it may be worth eating as a functional food.
He X, Wang X, Fang J, Chang Y, Ning N, Guo H, Huang L, Huang X, Zhao Z. (2017): Structures, biological activities, and industrial applications of the polysaccharides from Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) mushroom: A review. International Journal of Biological MacromoleculesVolume 97, April 2017, Pages 228-237. p.
Sokól, S., Golak-Siwulska, I., Sobieralski, K., Siwulski, M., Górka, K. (2016): Biology, cultivation, and medicinal functions of the mushroom Hericium erinaceum. Acta Mycol. 2015;50(2):1069.
Siller Irén, Dima Bálint, Albert László, Vasas Gizella, Fodor Lívia, Pál-Fám Ferenc, Bratek Zoltán, Zagyva Imre: Védett nagygombafajok Magyarországon – Mikológiai Közlemények, Clusiana 45(1-3): 3-158. (2006)
HOLLÓS (1913): Kecskemét (CS99). RIMÓCZI (1994): Bükk: Vadkert (DU71, Melittio-Fagetum subcarpaticum ). PÁL-FÁM (2001): Mecsek: Parkerdő (BS80).
Susanne Ehlers: Untersuchungen zum Anbau und zur pharmakologischen Wirkung des Speisepilzes Hericium erinaceus. Dissertation. Technische Universität München. Herbert Utz Verlag, München 1999, ISBN 3-89675-561-7.
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