When you think of mushrooms, does the word “fuzzy” come to mind? Doubtful! But that’s exactly what our Lion’s mane mushrooms look like! These fascinating mushrooms are known as toothed mushrooms due to their unique appearance. They’re not the typical “toadstool,” but that’s not the only unique thing about these mushrooms. They’re also thought to have many medicinal benefits and have been used for many health purposes for several thousand years.
Some Lion’s Mane Mushroom Basics
Hericium erinaceus, commonly known as Lion's Mane, is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. Its unique appearance has earned Lion’s Mane many nicknames: the pom pom mushroom, the monkey’s head mushroom, the bearded hedgehog mushroom, and others.
Most mushroom lovers are initially drawn to Lion’s mane due to its unusual appearance, but they stay fans after tasting its savory and slightly sweet flavor. This mushroom species has a very unique, meaty texture, and it can be served in a variety of dishes. It can be eaten raw, cooked, or in capsule form if you’d like to harness potential health benefits.
Commonly Cited Health Benefits
Lion’s mane is great to eat fresh, but many health-conscious mushroom lovers throughout history have also noticed that using it as a supplement helps them feel their best. Traditional Chinese medicine recognized the powers of this mushroom to increase brain power and longevity over 2,000 years ago! Now, many Americans take dried capsules for the purported health benefits.
Lion’s Mane contains neurotrophic factors called hericenones and erinacines which can induce nerve growth factors essential for optimal brain function. This may mean that patients with cognitive impairments, including memory disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia, can use Lion’s Mane mushrooms to regrow some of the nerve fibers in the brain and therefore increase their cognitive function. If these effects can be studied and proven, it means every one of us could benefit cognitively from adding Lion’s mane mushrooms to our diet.
Anecdotally, Lion’s Mane mushrooms have been said to have many additional health benefits:
- Increasing cognition and memory
- Resolving an “unbalanced” mental state
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
- Protecting the digestive system
- Managing diabetes
- Reducing inflammation
- Increasing overall health throughout the lifespan.
Many of these effects have been observed in controlled studies, but more research must be done on the effects of Lion’s Mane to support these causal claims. However, plenty of people are already experiencing results from adding these mushrooms to their existing supplements.
Starting Out with Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
If you’d like to start incorporating Lion’s mane into your diet, your best bet is to purchase it through a local grower. While it can technically be found wild in Minnesota, this mushroom is generally found seasonally – if you can even find it at all. R&R Cultivation grows organic Lion’s mane mushrooms year-round for farmer’s markets and grocery stores in the Twin Cities.