With the constant rise of trends, more and more people are joining the bandwagon of health awareness. Scientific discoveries are being made each day, which add to the never-ending list of substances and compounds which offer various benefits to our well-being. Nature is an abundant source of plants and herbs with multiple uses and astonishing medicinal properties. Among these is a lion’s mane, a large white mushroom with many health benefits.
Lion’s mane is a type of mushroom that belongs in a tooth fungus group. As its name implies, this odd-looking mushroom seems to mimic the appearance of a lion’s mane. Erica Julson, a registered dietician, asserts that this fungus has many neurologically beneficial properties. Accordingly, its extracts are often used as an ingredient in many over-the-counter health supplements.
A study available in the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that the usage of this edible mushroom can be traced back to the long history of traditional Chinese medicine and cuisine. Lion’s mane has also been used in Japan for centuries. In fact, it is highly regarded by Buddhist monks as a spiritual source of nourishment. Another study affirms that a lion’s mane is an ideal medicinal mushroom that has become a well-established candidate in the promotion of activities involving the brain and nerves.
According to research, a lion’s mane consists of more than 30 bioactive substances. Experts assert that it is dense with nutrients such as iron, zinc, potassium, and selenium. Consumption of a lion’s mane is also linked to preventing diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Research shows that it is beneficial for improving mental health, reducing inflammation, preventing digestive problems, limiting oxidative damage, and boosting immunity. Let’s discuss each of these said benefits in full detail.
Lowers Risks of Cancer
When damage occurs to the human DNA, it tends to cause unnatural cell division and replication, which in turn, leads to cancer. Research published by PubMed Central has found that lion’s mane may be linked to preventing the spread of some types of cancer. This particular research involved mixing the extracts of the mushroom with cancer cells in a test tube. Astonishingly, the cancer cells are rendered unable to divide—causing them to die faster. This method has been done to certain cancer types such as colon, gastric, liver, and leukemia.
Findings from a South Korean study also suggest that the phytochemicals present in the lion’s mane can reduce the number of leukemia cells. Regarding gastric cancer, the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules published research that proves the lion’s mane extract to be effective in causing cell death and interfering with the cell cycle.
Another study available in the same database reports that a lion’s mane may be better than conventional cancer treatment at preventing the growth of tumors in animal subjects. The fact that the lion’s mane is a natural medicine also makes it safer than traditional drugs.
Improves Cognitive Function
Lion’s mane is clinically proven to enhance mental functioning. It has adaptogenic substances that help combat the effects of stress, heighten energy and balance hormone levels. Adaptogens also encourage the production of nerve growth function, a neuropeptide that is vital for the growth and survival of neurons.
The scientific name of the lion’s mane is derived from hericenones and erinacines–compounds that promote the growth of nerve cells. Many of the brain’s functions decline with age, and studies show that the said two compounds may help prevent degenerative brain diseases that cause memory loss by boosting brain function. Therefore, the lion’s mane shows promise in the treatment of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.
Some researches published by the National Institutes of Health describe inflammation as a significant contributor in the spread and development of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Therefore, the reduction of inflammation is highly important in preventing diseases.
A Japanese study conducted in 2015 has proved that the lion’s mane mushroom has potent anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, lion’s mane extract is found to be effective in reducing inflammation in fatty tissues—the type of inflammation that plays a big role in causing health complications that lead to diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
Limits Oxidative Damage
Every day, individuals are being exposed to harmful toxins from the environment. Lion’s mane extract acts as an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and limits the oxidative damage that it causes to the body. In fact, in 14 types of mushrooms analyzed in a study conducted in 2012, the lion’s mane ranks fourth in the category of the highest amount of antioxidant properties.
By combatting free radicals, a lion’s mane extract helps in the prevention of liver damage, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and osteoporosis. The antioxidants in its molecules are also effective in fighting signs of skin aging.
Prevents Digestive Problems
The ability of a lion’s mane extract to prevent digestive issues is mainly grounded on its anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies show that this mushroom may reduce the size of gastric ulcers. In particular, the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms published research which affirms that the polysaccharides in the hericenones compound of lion’s mane can fortify the intestines and digestive tract against gastric ulcers.
Lion’s mane also promotes healthy digestion by intensifying antibacterial activity. Accordingly, extract from this mushroom can help alleviate symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and gastritis.
The immune system is responsible for safeguarding the body against pathogens that cause diseases. When the immune system is not strong enough, the risks of contracting diseases and developing infections are increased.
Research conducted on animal subjects has found that lion’s mane can be effective in enhancing immunity by assisting the intestinal immune system in preventing bacteria and viruses from penetrating the gut. The increase of good bacteria in the digestive tract also contributes to the expulsion of disease-causing biological pathogens.
Lion’s mane shows promise in the treatment and prevention of many diseases. It also promotes optimum health by enhancing mental function, aiding in digestion, and improving immunity. To get its wonderful benefits, a lion’s mane can be added as an ingredient in dishes or taken in supplement form. Although consuming a lion’s mane as food is completely safe, supplementation warrants precaution. If you are planning on taking supplements, it’s recommended that you speak with a doctor first.