The Mushroom That Regrows Brain Cells

Regrowing brain cells sounds like something straight out of a science fiction novel, not the stuff of scientific research involving mushrooms. After all, when we think of mushrooms we’re far more likely to think of a creamy soup or a side dish of sautéed mushrooms than healing medicines. Yet increasing amounts of research are showcasing the medicinal properties of these fungi.

When it comes to brain health, lion’s mane mushrooms are popping up with increasing frequency in recent medical journals. A large and beautiful-looking white mushroom that derives its name from the long ridges that resemble a lion’s mane, this fungus is showing great promise as a potential treatment for brain and nerve diseases, as well as a memory and mood enhancer.

Known scientifically as Hericium erinaceus, new research in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms shows that lion’s mane mushrooms promote the regeneration of nerve cells after they’ve been injured, something even recently believed as medically impossible. Further research determined that a liquid extract of the mushroom also helps to grow new brain and nerve cells, known as neurons.

This research is just the beginning of the excitement surrounding lion’s mane’s ability to heal the brain. At least a dozen other studies have shown the mushroom’s brain-healing properties. In one study animals with amyloid plaques comparable to those found in Alzheimer’s disease were fed a normal diet with added lion’s mane while control animals simply had their normal diet without the fungal addition. Not only did the animals taking lion’s mane regain cognitive capacity and were much more capable of navigating mazes, they also had a reduction in beta amyloid plaques—a biomarker that suggests a reversal of Alzheimer’s disease.

While lion’s mane mushrooms are growing in popularity, it can still be difficult to obtain the fresh mushrooms which are edible and taste like either lobster or crab, depending on who you ask. They are available in some grocery or health food stores.

The fresh mushroom can be prepared by sauteeing in olive oil, with a pinch of salt and some freshly-chopped garlic. Its bitter raw taste disappears once the mushrooms are cooked.

Lion’s mane extract is also available as an alcohol-extract, known as a tincture, which can be taken internally. The typical dose is 30 drops 3 times daily, but you should follow package directions or those of a qualified herbalist for best results, particularly when using lion’s mane as a treatment for brain diseases.

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