Medicinal mushrooms are those types of mushroom that are used as medicines. Our ancestors knew about them and used them for thousands of years.
They are, however, enjoying something of a modern day resurgence as scientific research reveals more about the potent nutrients they contain.
We now know that medicinal mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses that offer a myriad of health benefits.
All medicinal mushrooms are rich in certain beneficial compounds, and so they all exert a general health benefit when we consume them.
For example, they are rich in beta glucans and terpenes. These are compounds that are hugely beneficial to humans in terms of our immune response, our inflammatory response, our ability to balance blood sugar, our energy production, and our ability to cope with stress.
Supplementing with any medicinal mushrooms will provide many beneficial effects on these very important aspects of our health.
Added to this, each medicinal mushroom contains its own unique nutritional compounds that renders it useful for specific conditions and ailments.
Lion’s Mane mushroom is a perfect example of this. Lion’s Mane is one of the more beautiful mushrooms in appearance.
They are large, white, shaggy mushrooms that grow on the bark of hard wood trees and resemble a lion’s mane as they grow.
The uses of Lion’s Mane are widespread. They are used to treat stomach ulcers, to help improve blood sugar management, to reduce the risk of certain aspects of cardiovascular disease and to help balance our response to inflammation.
However, two other compounds that are uniquely present in Lion’s Mane provide this mushroom with its most widespread and perhaps interesting use.
Studies have shown that Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain two special compounds, hericonones and erinacines, that can induce Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) synthesis in nerve cells.
This means that Lion’s Mane can help nerve cells and nerve tissue to grow, and this is of particular interest when it comes to brain health.
The brain’s ability to grow and form new connections declines with age and this explains why mental functioning and memory decline as we get older.
We all suffer from memory loss to a greater or lesser extent as time passes.
However, in conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, the decline in brain function and memory loss is much more significant, and may become detrimental for the sufferer’s health and wellbeing.
Lion’s Mane promotes nerve cell growth and helps build up and retain the network of cells communicating with each other within the brain.
Research in a controlled group of adults with age-related memory loss demonstrated that those who supplemented with Lion’s Mane had better brain function than those who did not.
Lion’s Mane is often referred to as ‘The smart mushroom’ because of its ability to help improve memory, focus and clarity.
Lion’s Mane also exerts a positive effect on our mood and has been demonstrated to help alleviate both depression and anxiety.
Studies have shown that Lion’s Mane works to modulate the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin within the brain.
These are our feel-good brain chemicals that are released when we feel happy.
Supplementing with Lion’s Mane may have a beneficial influence on mood, promoting happiness and relaxation over anxiety, stress and low mood.
Raising serotonin levels also helps with insomnia and many who supplement with Lion’s Mane report a better sleep pattern; falling asleep easier, sleeping deeper and staying asleep for longer.
Lion’s Mane may be a particularly useful supplement for Parkinson’s sufferers. Promoting brain cell growth may help with the decline in motor function, memory loss, insomnia and in some cases, dementia, that are often associated with Parkinson’s as it progresses.
Lion’s Mane mushroom is also useful for promoting recovery of the nervous system after injury or trauma.
The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the nerve network that extends out from the spinal cord throughout the entire body.
Due to its ability to stimulate the growth and repair of nerve cells, Lion’s Mane may help with any injury or trauma to any part of our nervous system.
Lion’s Mane, like all medicinal mushrooms, is of benefit to many aspects of our general health. It differs from other medicinal mushrooms however in its unique capacity to help our nerve cells grow and in helping maintain the integrity of our nervous system.
Most people who supplement with Lion’s Mane do so hoping for a benefit to some aspect of their nervous system.
(Note that Lion’s Mane may slow blood clotting, and should not be taken by those on prescribed blood-thinning medication.)