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Lion’s Mane: Hericium erinaceus

Lion's mane2

This fascinating mushroom goes by 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 is shaped like a pom pom with long, pure white cascading tendrils that carry its spores and turns brown as it ages.

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 on its own or as a substitute for meat in pastas and sauces and makes a wonderful accompaniment to fish.  To avoid getting a bitter taste, it is important to cook this mushroom slowly allowing the edges to turn a crispy brown and the liquids to evaporate.

Lion’s mane has been a staple in Chinese medicine for centuries and 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.  These Buddhists were on to something seeing that recent studies have demonstrated that lion’s mane has the capacity to improve cognitive ability and strengthen memory and concentration.  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 nerve growth factors (NGF), a protein that is essential for the maintenance and growth of nerve cells.  Additionally, the semi-permeable sheath that surrounds the brain (known as the blood-brain barrier) prevents delivery of NGF produced elsewhere in the body to enter the brain, resulting in its slow deterioration.  Research has shown that two compounds unique to lion’s mane, hericenones and erinacines, can pass through the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the brain to produce its own NGF, thereby boosting production of new nerve cells.  Further research is required but the promise for patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases is exciting.

In addition to improving cognitive ability and memory, lion’s mane has antioxidant effects, can boost the immune system, improve digestive tract disorders, and help with mental illnesses such as depression, bulimia and anorexia.

Source: http://www.superfoods-for-superhealth.com/lions-mane.html, http://www.foursigmafoods.com/lions-mane-nutrients-for-your-nerves, Paul Stamets Mycelium Running

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