A Unique Attribute of Lion’s Mane
A Unique Attribute of Lion’s Mane
In this newsletter I am going to examine an unusual aspect of the medicinal mushroom, Lion’s Mane, one that is an essential component of a new product NutriStart will be bringing to market in the near future.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
As with all “medicinal” mushrooms, Lion’s Mane (Hericuium erinaceus) serves as both a food and a medicine, having more therapeutic properties than the majority of foods. While, in the West, we do not normally consume most of the medicinal mushrooms (except Shiitake), in China Lion’s Mane is commonly used as a food, as well as being regularly used in traditional Chinese medicine. Like the majority of medicinal mushrooms, Lion’s Mane is rich in beta-glucan polysaccharides, “which are responsible for anti-cancer, immuno-modulating, hypolipidemic, antioxidant and neuro-protective activities of this mushroom”. (Source)
Of course, this mushroom also contains a wide range of unpronounceable metabolites, secondary to polysaccharides, which have been examined in detail in many scientific studies from all over the world. Studies designed to discover the nutritional and health-promoting properties of this mushroom, and its potential applications in medicine.
And what properties it has: “The reported health-promoting properties of the mushroom fruit bodies, mycelia, and bioactive pure compounds include antibiotic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, anti-fatigue, antihypertensive, antihyperlipidemic (cholesterol lowering), anti-senescence, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, and neuroprotective properties and improvement of anxiety, cognitive function, and depression.” (Senescence is a process by which a cell ages and permanently stops dividing but does not die.)
This amazing range of health properties are believed to be a result of the antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and immunostimulating properties of Lion’s Mane, all of which have the potential “to help prevent or treat human chronic, cognitive, and neurological diseases”. (Source)
Most of us who have a basic familiarity with Lion’s Mane understand its use as a cognitive and memory enhancer, along with its potential to have neuroprotective effects. And, over the last decade much research has been done to confirm “its potential utility in the treatment of motor dysfunction, Alzheimer disease, and other forms of dementia”. (Source)
Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, etc) are a result of deterioration of the nervous system, and out of some 2000 different mushrooms, only a few have proven beneficial for such conditions. Of those, Lion’s Mane is the best, well-established in the medical literature for its ability to support neuronal health, and “for its regenerative capability in peripheral nerves”.
Take a moment to realize just how amazing this is: Lion’s Mane can regenerate nerves.
In one study, Lion’s Mane “triggered neurite outgrowth at 20.47%, 22.47%, and 21.70% in brain, spinal cord, and retinal cells”. (Source)
(“Neurite outgrowth is a process wherein developing neurons produce new projections as they grow in response to guidance cues. Neurons (also called nerve cells) are the fundamental units of the brain and nervous system, the cells responsible for receiving sensory input from the external world, for sending motor commands to our muscles, and for transforming and relaying the electrical signals at every step in between.”) (Source)
Aside from being used to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, Lion’s Mane is also used to treat all manner of cognitive impairment, therefore one research group sought to find out how it would fare as an antidepressant.
“Although antidepressant effects of H. erinaceus have not been validated and compared to the conventional antidepressants, based on the neurotrophic and neurogenic pathophysiology of depression, H. erinaceus may be a potential alternative medicine for the treatment of depression.” (Source)
Now we come to the “unusual” property of Lion’s Mane, alluded to in the introduction. Since some clinical studies have found this mushroom to be protective against colorectal cancer and ulcerative colitis (Source), which are related to gut microbiota, researchers decided to investigate the benefits of Lion’s Mane on the gut microbiome.
Thirteen healthy adults were recruited to consume Lion’s Mane powder for seven days straight.
“Results showed that daily H. erinaceus supplementation increased the alpha diversity within the gut microbiota community, upregulated the relative abundance of some short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) producing bacteria and downregulated some pathobionts (pathogenic bacteria).”
In other words, they discovered that only seven days of ingesting Lion’s Mane altered the gut microbiota in a favorable way that could lead to “beneficial health effects”. (Source)
As long as we are on the subject of the gut, I will throw in this bit about the pathogenic gut bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, the source of many digestive disturbances, and a bacteria that is potentially life-threatening. Symptoms of H. pylori contamination can include: an ache or burning pain in your abdomen; abdominal pain that’s worse when your stomach is empty; nausea; loss of appetite; frequent burping; bloating; and unintentional weight loss.
In severe conditions H. pylori can damage the protective lining of the stomach or small intestine, allowing for the formation of ulcers. As well, H. pylori infection is considered a strong risk factor for stomach cancers. Given the use of Lion’s Mane in traditional Asian medicine for treating digestive diseases, scientists decided to see how it would fare against this dangerous bacteria.
In a laboratory setting (using cells in test tubes, and mice), an alcohol extract of Lion’s Mane was tested for growth inhibition against six different strains of H. pylori. The extract was effective at inhibiting the growth of all six strains. And, even at a dose too low to reduce the growth of H. pylori, the Lion’s Mane extract still prevented this bacteria from being able to attach to the stomach wall, thus providing a preventative value. (Source)
“The gut-brain axis (GBA) consists of bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions.” (Source)
Now commonly referred to as the second brain, the gut microbiome has been clearly established as critically involved in modulating neurochemical pathways. However, while “the underpinnings of microbiota-gut-brain crosstalk remain to be determined”, it appears that “short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), the main metabolites produced in the colon by bacterial fermentation of dietary fibers and resistant starch, are speculated to play a key role in this neuro-immuno-endocrine regulation”.
As we saw above, SCFAs are increased by ingesting Lion’s Mane, and thus this miraculous mushroom may well be involved in “the development of future treatments for central nervous system (CNS) disorders”. (Source)
This newsletter, and a few to follow, cover ingredients we will be incorporating into our revised Provide Balance Smoothie Mix. This new version of Provide is designed to support the gut-brain axis, and thus will include Lion’s Mane.