The Lion's Share of Health Benefits

9th November 2018

Lisa Botwright discovers an unusual and potent supplement…

An edible and medicinal mushroom, with long shaggy white tendrils, is the focus of scientific interest for a whole host of exciting health benefits. Hericium erinaceus, commonly known as Lion’s Mane, is native to Europe, Asia and North America and normally grows on hardwood trees, forming clumps of its distinct long spines. An edible delicacy in some Eastern cuisines, it’s high in protein with a lobster-like taste – although it’s much more commonly known, at least in the Western world, for its medicinal properties.

There’s evidence to suggest that two of its main compounds – hericenones, from the fruiting body, and diterpenoid erinacines, from the mycelium – are responsible for stimulating Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) production, as well as the production and maintenance of the myelin (sheaths) around nerves. “This makes it invaluable for a number of ailments that are often difficult to treat otherwise,” explains Watford-based Medical Herbalist Pieter Meiring.

One of the most exciting findings is its effect on brain function; in controlled studies, Lion’s Mane supplementation has shown beneficial effects in patients with mild dementia. In one study, for example, six out of seven patients showed improvement in functional capacity (understanding, communication, memory) while all seven showed improved functional independence scores (eating, dressing, walking etc).

“I have certainly seen the benefits that it can have for numerous ailments,” says Pieter. “One of my patients who had serious brain fog and difficulty remembering common words, after suffering from viral encephalitis, had particularly good results with Lion’s Mane. I’ve also had successes with patients who have had memory problems after general anaesthetic, and menopausal women who were experiencing sleep and anxiety issues and found relief from taking Lion’s Mane.”

This potent fungus has been shown to be of great interest in aiding neurodegenerative conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as for spinal injuries and wound healing. It can suppress the inflammatory processes that cause the degeneration of cells and may even can help promote the formation of new cells. It’s also shown to be advantageous for good gut health, which, moreover, aids anxiety and depression, since strong links between gut health and emotional conditions have been found. Its ability to regenerate brain cells and improve the function of the hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with emotional responses) can further aid mental health issues.

More generally, Lion’s Mane’s powerful antioxidant properties can help improve overall immunity and ward off infection. “Lion’s Mane is a natural food that has been widely consumed by a large population without any obvious negative side effects and is mostly safe to take as a supplement,” says Pieter. “As a prophylactic, I would recommend taking 1-2g daily.” Where there’s a specific concern; however, he cautions not to self-medicate and to seek medical advice. “In my professional experience Lion’s Mane can be a powerful medicine. And, although there are many animal and some human studies to back this up, I’d welcome even more in-depth research into its benefits and dosage for specific conditions.”

NOTE: People with a sensitivity or allergy to fungi, and anyone with asthma or allergic conditions, should consult their healthcare practitioner before taking this. It may also have potential hallucinogenic properties, and people with susceptibility should likewise seek medical advice. Since Lion’s Mane is becoming increasingly popular, yet does not fall within the strict quality guidelines of conventional medicine, it is imperative that a good quality product is bought from a reputable vendor with strict quality control practices to avoid possible adulteration. Pieter Meiring recommends MycoNutri’s Organic Lion’s Mane

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