Hericium erinaceus

Hericium erinaceus


Hericium erinaceus, lion’s mane, has an array of names. It’s known as Bearded Tooth Fungus, Mountain Priest Mushroom, Pom Pom, and Bearded Hedgehog. In Japan it is called Yamabushitake which translates as "Those who live in the mountains.” In China it’s called Hou Tou Gu, i.e. “Monkey's Head.” Its many monikers indicate the broad usage of this fungi throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. The species name “Erinaceus” and Latin genus name “Hericium” both translate as “hedgehog.” In German, “igel” translates as hedgehog and “stachelbart” as bristling beard or goatee, giving it the German moniker, “Igel-Stachelbart,” i.e. hedgehog goatee.

Studies have shown that lion’s mane can help improve mood, reduce anxiety, and reduce mild depression.

Natural History

(Ecology, Where and How it Grows)

Fungi in the genus hericium are found distributed throughout the northern hemisphere. Hericium erinaceus, is most commonly found in eastern North America growing in its deciduous forests along its coastal plains. They typically grow on the hardwood trees found there, such as oak, maple, beech, sycamore, and walnut. Lion’s Mane usually lives as saprophytes, growing out of downed logs and old snags, but they can be spotted less frequently on trees that have been wounded or are dying. 

Lion’s Mane grow as fleshy, rounded, sessile protuberances covered in growths that are colloquially known as “teeth” or “spines.” These spines function in the same way the thin-bladed gills or tiny-holed pores do in other mushrooms; called hymenia, they bear the basidia, where spores are produced and released. This fungi fruits in late summer or early fall, when temperatures fall into the 50s and 60s. 

At Verdant Leaf we grow our lion’s mane on sawdust collected from a local lumber mill, Epilogue llc, close to our farm in Hillsboro, Oregon. Epilogue focuses on stewarding urban trees, harvesting hardwoods in the greater Portland area from residential and commercial properties, and saving their lumber to be used when in other areas it would have gone to waste. The sawdust from the wood they reclaim is then in turn reclaimed by us and used in our growing process. We then add the spent substrate from our fruiting blocks to our compost, which is then used to regenerate the soil on our farm.

ETHNOMYCOLOGY

(The Cultural and Sociological Impact of this Species)

Lion’s Mane has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine where it was added to teas. For centuries Lion’s Mane has been harvested and consumed for its ability to improve cognitive function among a whole host of other health benefits.


More specifically, the Yamabushi Buddhist monks use it for focus during meditation, that is where it gets its japanese name from.

Quick Facts

  • Studies have shown that lion’s mane can help improve mood, reduce anxiety, and reduce mild depression.[6]
  • Lion’s Mane contains two compounds, hericenones and erinacines, which can stimulate the growth of brain cells. Mycelium has more ernacines, while the fruit body has more hericenones. 
  • Is high in antioxidants which may help with ulcers. [8]
  • Is high in anti-inflammatory compounds.[5]
  • Is shown to boost immunity by increasing immune system activity in the intestines.[9]
  • With their delicate umami taste, Lion’s Mane mushrooms can replace meat as well as crab or lobster.
  • Yamabushi Buddhist monks use it for focus during meditation.

Natural History

Current research is showing lion’s mane health benefits include a reduction of depressive symptoms. Its antidepressant effects have been attributed, at least in part, to the presence of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), pathway PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β. There is also evidence that a lack of BDNF is linked to the pathophysiology of mood disorders. 

Scientists in the field have correlated stress as a component which “negatively regulates the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may contribute to the impairment of the dendritic plasticity”...(the plasticity of dendrites)... and hippocampal neurogenesis… (the growth of new tissue in the hippocampus)... and be responsible for neuron damage and [the] onset of depression.” 

The presence of BDNF is shown to exert antidepressant effects “because it can modulate synaptic efficacy by changing transmitter release and sensitivity. In other words, a lack of BDNF is an indicator of a lack of plasticity in the dendrites and a lack of regeneration in the hippocampus. [2]

WHAT ARE DENDTRITES?

Neurons are responsible for the rapid exchange of information in the brain. They have a soma or cell body akin to other cells but also have specialized “thin branches” called dendrites and axons. Neurons communicate information to other cells via axons, whereas communication i.e. “chemical input” from neuron to neuron takes place through the dendrites. [4]

THE ROLE OF THE HIPPOCAMPUS

The hippocampus is located deep within the brain’s temporal lobe which sits just above the brainstem, in front of the cerebellum. Its major role involves the functions of learning and memory. It is noted as being “vulnerable” and “plastic” in structure and easily “damaged by a variety of stimuli.” Studies have demonstrated that the hippocampus is an affected area in numerous “neurological and psychiatric disorders.” [1]

ANXIETY & DEPRESSION

In Kyoto, Japan, thirty females were randomly assigned in a double-blind, placebo-controlled four week trial. Participants were administered either hericium erinaceus (lion’s mane) cookies or placebo cookies for four consecutive weeks. The clinical effects of lion’a mane were measured using the Kupperman Menopausal Index (KMI), the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and the Indefinite Complaints Index (ICI). The study concluded that “H. erinaceus intake has the possibility to reduce depression and anxiety.” The study also concluded that hericium erinaceus agents other than solely its NGF-enhancing hericenones and erinacines, already known to have “some effects on brain functions and autonomic nervous system” were responsible for the reduction in depression and anxiety in the study’s participants. Therefore, more research is needed to ascertain which bioactive substances are responsible for its abilities to lessen anxiety and depression. [6]

DEMENTIA

In 2020 a double-blind, 49-week pilot study of two randomized parallel groups of males and females was conducted to assess the beneficial effects of lion’s mane mycelium. Patients with mild Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) were given three H. erinaceus mycelium capsules per day, containing 5 mg/g erinacine A active ingredient or an identical placebo.

The results showed significant benefit in the reduction of cognitive decline. Those who received the H. erinaceus mycelium capsules scored higher on the CASI [Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument], MMSE [Mini-Mental State Examination], and IADL [Instrumental Activities of Daily Living] scores, and achieved a better contrast sensitivity in patients with mild [Alzheimer’s Disease] AD when compared to the placebo group, suggesting … [it] may be important in achieving neurocognitive benefits.” [3]

NERVOUS SYSTEM INJURIES

Lion’s mane has also been shown to promote a “more rapid return of sensory function” to damaged nerves. A 2015 study demonstrated a “neuroregenerative role of polysaccharide from H. erinaceus” in the “peripheral nervous system” of rats with traumatic nerve injury and “promote[d]” a “more rapid return of sensory function.” Both, “the breakdown and restoration of BNB is an important reaction in nerve regeneration. Notably, hericium erinaceus was shown to first pass through the blood-nerve barrier (BRB) and once the nerve had been regenerated, it facilitated restoration of “impermeable endoneurial microvessels.” [10]

To surmise, lion’s mane appears to be beneficial for nerve regeneration due to its ability to stimulate nerve growth factor in vitro. As there have been few studies to date on hericium erinaceus’s neuroregenerative properties in human subjects, further research is needed to better understand its role in nervous system regeneration.

ULCERATIVE COLITIS & GUT HEALTH 

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a medical condition that affects 600,000 to 900,000 Americans. [7 It is an “idiopathic, chronic inflammatory disorder of the colonic mucosa” [the inner lining of the colon and rectum]. Individuals with UC have a higher chance of developing colorectal cancer than members of the general population.

In 2018, a team of researchers isolated a purified unique polysaccharide from hericium erinaceus and found it “effective in relieving the symptoms of acetic acid” in UC-induced rats. rRNA sequencing “indicated that the intestinal flora structure remarkably changed.” Further results showed the purified lion’s mane polysaccharide “modulated the gut microbiota community and increased short chain fatty acids (SCFAs).” The purified hericium erinaceus isolate also “showed antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and enhancing immune activities.” [9]

Lion’s Mane contains two compounds, hericenones and erinacines, which can stimulate the growth of brain cells. Mycelium has more ernacines, while the fruit body has more hericenones.

LION’S MANE NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION 

(Protein, vitamins, mineral content, etcetera)

  • Protein 31.7g/100g
  • Fat 4 g/100g
  • Ash 9.8g/100g
  • Carbohydrates 17.6 g/100g
  • Energy 233 Kcal/100g
  • Fiber 30g/100g
  • Sodium 1.2 mg/100g
  • Phosphorus 1.22 g/100g
  • Iron 20.3 mg/100g
  • Calcium 1.3 mg/100g
  • Potassium 4.46 mg/100g 
  • Magnesium 123 mg/100 g
  • Thiamin 5.33 mg/100g
  • Riboflavin 3.91 mg/100g
  • Calciferol 240 IU
  • Niacin 18.3 mg/100g
  • Ergosterol 381 mg/100g

DIETARY CONSIDERATIONS

Lion’s Mane is nutritious food which can be cooked in numerous ways. Its pleasant, delicate umami taste makes it an excellent meat substitute. Its flavor profile has seafood-like undertones which make it a good vegan choice to replace crab or lobster. 

Lion’s Mane is often consumed in supplement form for both humans and pets alike. View Verdant Leaf’s Lion’s Mane mushroom products for the whole family.

MEDICINAL COMPOUNDS

(Beta-Glucans, Phenols, etcetera)

When evaluating Lion’s Mane Supplements, we want to make sure that consumers are aware that the mycelium and the fruit bodies contain more of some compounds than others. Hericenones are found in higher concentrations within the fruit body. Erinacines are found in higher amounts within the mycelium; both have beneficial effects when consumed. 

  • Hericenones are a class of benzaldehyde that can promote neural growth factor (NGF)
  • Hericenones and erinacines have been shown to stimulate NGF synthesis in cultured astrocytes. [6]
  • Erinacines are groups of cyathin diterpenoids that may show biological activities as stimulators of NGF synthesis and could be useful as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, Acute Spinal Cord Injury, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy and seizures. Erinacines could also be a useful treatment for peripheral neuropathy (numbness, pain, and weakness caused in the hands and feet due to nerve damage). It can have a variety of causes, including diabetes and chemotherapy.
  • There have been several double-blind placebo-controlled studies showing that cognitive function improved in people who supplement with lion’s mane fruit bodies. One of which uses a suboptimal sampling number of 30 men between the age of 50 and 80. They used the Revised Hasegawa Dementia Scale (HDS-R) in order to measure cognitive function. [9] The other used 11 men and 20 women in their 50s as their sample group, still too small but at least had both sexes represented. It showed that people who had supplemented for 12 weeks did better on the Mini Mental State Examination, an exam that is reliable for detecting if someone is in mild to moderate stages of dementia. [8] In our opinion studies with more subjects (100-300) and which represents both male and female participants is vital to better assess hericium erinaceus’s role in improving cognitive function. 
  • Beta glucans in mushrooms have immunoregulatory properties, and lion’s mane is chock full of them.
  • Erinacine A in a study on mice hinted at the fact that it may be a useful compound in the treatment of depression, but more studies must be done before it can be strongly claimed. [2]
  • In a double-blind placebo controlled study of 30 women aged 41.3+-5.6 years the test subjects scored significantly on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (CES-D) and Indefinite Complaints Index (ICI). This suggests that there is a possibility that lion’s mane may reduce depression and anxiety. [6]
  • A pilot study to assess the beneficial effects taking lion’s mane mycelium on cognitive function in 41 subjects (17 male, and 24 female, adults older than age 50) with mild Alzheimer's Disease (AD) for a year was carried out and showed significant benefit in the reduction of cognitive decline during that time.[3]

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING:

  1. 1
    Anand KS, Dhikav V. “Hippocampus in health and disease: An overview.” Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology. 2012. Online. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3548359 
  2. 2
    Chiu, Chun-Hung, Charng-Cherng Chyau, Chin-Chu Chen, Li-Ya Lee. "Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelium Produces Antidepressant-Like Effects through Modulating BDNF/PI3K/Akt/GSK-3ß Signaling in Mice." International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2018.
  3. 3
    Li, I-Chen, Han-Hsin Chang, Chuan-Han Lin, Wan-Ping Chen et al. “Prevention of Early Alzheimer’s Disease by Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Pilot Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2020. Online. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2020.00155/full
  4. 4
    Lovinger, DM. “Communication networks in the brain: neurons, receptors, neurotransmitters, and alcohol.” Alcohol Res Health. 2008. Online. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3860493
  5. 5
    Mori, Koichiro, Kenji Ouchi, Noriyasu Hirasawa. “The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Lion's Mane Culinary-Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) in a Coculture System of 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and RAW264 Macrophages.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 2015. Online. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26559695 
  6. 6
    Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, Hayashi C, Sato D, Kitagawa K, Ohnuki K. “Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake.” Biomed Res. 2010. Online. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20834180
  7. 7
    “Ulcerative Colitis Facts.” NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2020. Online. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/ulcerative-colitis/definition-facts
  8. 8
    Repetto MG, Llesuy SF. “Antioxidant properties of natural compounds used in popular medicine for gastric ulcers.” Braz J Med Biol Res. 2002. Online. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12011936
  9. 9
    Wang, Dandan, et al. "A polysaccharide from cultured mycelium of Hericium erinaceus relieves ulcerative colitis by counteracting oxidative stress and improving mitochondrial function." International Journal of Biological Macromolecules. 2018. Online. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30543884
  10. 10
    Wong, Kah-Hui, et al. “Restoration of sensory dysfunction following peripheral nerve injury by the polysaccharide from culinary and medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus through its neuroregenerative action.” Food Science and Technology. 2015.