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Lion’s Mane – For your health and taste buds

Lion’s Mane – Hericium erinaceus is a fascinating mushroom that goes 320px-Igelstachelbart_Hericium_erinaceusby a lot of common names including monkey’s head, sheep’s head and bearded tooth.  In Japan it is called yamabushitake, loosely translated as “those who sleep in the mountains”, named after the Yamabushi monks who live high in the Omine mountain range.  Lion’s mane can be found on dead/dying oak, beech, maple and other deciduous trees and are usually found in the wild during the latter part of the summer and early fall.  It is an unusual looking mushroom shaped like a pompom with long, pure white cascading tendrils that carry its spores and turns brown as it ages.

Lion’s mane has been a staple in Chinese medicine for centuries and was thought to “give nerves of steel and the memory of a lion” to those who ingested it.  For years Buddhist monks have consumed this mushroom in the form of a tea to heighten their focus during meditation and enhance their brain power.  Recent studies have demonstrated that lion’s mane has the capacity to improve cognitive ability and strengthen memory and concentration explaining the increased awareness experienced by these monks.  Lion’s mane is considered a super food due to its many health benefits including its neuroregenerative properties.

When neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s occur, the brain is incapable of producing its own internal source of nerve growth factors (NGF), a protein that is essential for the maintenance and growth of nerve cells.  Whereas NGFs are also produced elsewhere in the body, the semi-permeable sheath that surrounds the brain (blood-brain barrier) prevents them from entering this area.  Research has shown that two compounds unique to lion’s mane, hericenones and erinacines are small enough to pass through the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the brain to produce its own NGF, thereby boosting production of new nerve cells.  Erinacines compound have been called “the most powerful NGF inducers of all natural compounds” and has proven effective in improving muscle-motor response pathways in Parkinson’s patients and repair neurological trauma in stroke victims.

In addition to improving cognitive ability and memory, lion’s mane has been used by herbalists in conjunction with medicinal herbs to treat Lyme’s disease, specifically the Borrelia bacteria that causes neurocognitive deficit in the brain.  It appears that because compounds in lion’s mane can pass through the blood brain barrier, it releases the bacteria into the blood stream where it can be treated more effectively.  Separately, studies have shown that Lion’s mane can elevate one’s mood and alleviate anxiety, helpful when treating individuals suffering from depression.  It has also been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to maintain good colon health and improve a host of digestive disorders including stomach ailments, gastritis, duodenal ulcers, and esophageal cancer.

Gastronomically, Lion’s mane has a subtle seafood-like flavor, reminiscent of lobster and crab, which is intensified when slowly cooked in butter.  It is great sautéed on its own in olive oil with garlic and shallots or poached in a butter and white wine reduction sauce.  It complements fish dishes wonderfully and is a great substitute for meat in pasta.  To avoid getting a bitter taste, it is important to cook this mushroom slowly allowing the edges to turn a crispy brown then letting the liquids evaporate before adding in any flavorful moisture back.

Lion’s Mane/King Crab Spread: (courtesy Fungi.com and edited)

Ingredients:

3 King Crab legs
7 medium cloves garlic
Juice of ½ lime
¼ medium red onion
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Celestial Seasonings Creole Spice
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
2 heaping Tbsp sour cream
2 heaping Tbsp cream cheese
¼ medium tomato
½ – ¾ lb Lion’s Mane mushrooms

Steam crab legs then extract the crab meat from the shells and set aside.  Slice the Lion’s mane into discs and sauté in butter in an iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the remaining ingredients in a food processor and quick-chop for approximately 30 seconds.  Add in mushrooms and crab and process for another minute.

Note from fungi.com: If you want to really send this recipe over the top, consider adding some fresh parmesan or goat cheese to it as well.

Source: superfoods-for-superhealth.com, foursigmafoods.com, Mycelium Running Paul Stamets, Beneficialbotanicals.com, fungi.com

Terrafunga does not offer medical advice.  Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.