If you’ve got your finger on the pulse of health and wellness, you may know a thing or two about lion’s mane, the edible, medicinal mushroom that’s been rising in popularity in the wellness space thanks to its multitude of benefits; benefits that largely include your brain and nervous system. And if you don’t have your finger on the pulse of health and wellness, or just happened to miss this fungal (ew, should have used a better word) development in the space, well, buckle up, because you’re about to learn more.
First things first, for those who aren’t quite as familiar with lion’s mane, the mushroom (which, fun fact, also goes by “bearded tooth fungus”) has been used medicinally for hundreds of years, most historically in traditional Chinese medicine as a general health booster. But as its medicinal properties have risen in popularity in other regions where the mushroom is prevalent – particularly, North America, Europe, and Asia – the now-deemed superfood has become a go-to ingredient for a number of health benefits, including in the brain, heart, and gut. But when it comes to the most commonly tapped-into benefits of the mushroom, we’re most likely looking at the nervous system.
Basically, lion’s mane can be thought of as one of nature’s most natural brain foods, and has most commonly been touted for its ability to aid in memory building, memory retention, and focus. For example, studies have shown that lion’s mane may have the potential to reduce beta-amyloid plaques, which are proteins that form in the membrane around nerve cells and can get in the way of neurotransmission. Lion’s mane also has the (pretty rare) ability to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis. As a protein that plays a pretty important part in the health and regeneration of neurons in your nervous system, NGF is critical to growth and maintenance of certain target neurons. And thanks to two compounds present in lion’s mane – hericenones and erinacines – the medicinal mushroom is able to rev up the processes in your body that contribute to the formation of new, healthy neurons in your brain.
In addition to aiding in the health of your brain when it comes to general memory and focus, lion’s mane also presents a pretty effective solution for nerve damage that may occur after an injury. One 2012 study, for example, found that lion’s mane helped accelerate the process of nerve regeneration in adult rats following peripheral nerve injury.
While some research on the topic certainly leaves room for more necessary exploration into how the same benefits would compare in humans – it remains to be confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt whether post-injury nerve regeneration looks the same in humans as it does in rats – there is definitely enough evidence out there to suggest that lion’s mane is quite the brain booster when incorporated into your daily routine. If nothing else, you’ll likely find that a little dose of the medicinal mushroom has you feeling particularly focused and on top of your game during the day, and isn’t a little extra bout of concentration always welcomed? (Yes. Yes it is.)
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