No worries about getting your foraging gloves on, as you know, I’ve got your back on mushroom 101, from fall recipes for some good eats to another healthy superstar, the Reishi mushroom. It’s time to explore another one of my favorite fungi. You know what that means—more talk about the many benefits of mushrooms!
Mushrooms are so fascinating to me since I had some downtime and watched a documentary on how they live and thrive. They aren’t quite a plant or an animal, either, but they are very much alive! I’ve discovered that the lion’s mane mushroom, in particular, lives up to its reputation as a fantastic friend of making little ones and busy mamas and papas feel pretty chipper and amazing in their daily lives.
Mushrooms and fungi are all about communication, and lion’s mane mushroom is no exception. These little—or sometimes very big—mushrooms have been paramount in helping people in Eastern medicine practices boost their memory and nervous system for thousands of years. Pretty cool that we can access the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms to see what the fuss is all about here at Real Food RN!
So, cozy up, grab your favorite mug, and let’s learn about the many uses of this brain-boosting, mood-managing mushroom together to add to our healthy mama arsenal of tools.
Traditional Eastern Medicine Roots
Lion’s mane mushrooms, known botanically and scientifically as Hericium erinaceus, are touted to give you “nerves of steel and the memory of a lion” if you add them to your health regimen. Lion’s mane mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote healthy digestion and liver function.
While Westerners may call it lion’s mane, Chinese practitioners call it the monkey head mushroom. In contrast, Japanese herbalists and acupuncturists call it yamabushitake, or mountain priest mushroom, after a sect of Yamabushi Buddhist monks. For these monks, lion’s mane mushroom was used to help them stay focused during intense and long meditation sessions.
While you may not be meditating under a waterfall in Japan, God knows that keeping a cool head is super important with little kiddos running around and needing quality time. Heck, most crunchy mamas I know have the patience of a monk when it’s bedtime on Halloween after all those sweets!
Cognitive and Brain-Boosting Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
With the seasonal shift in full swing, even the most health-conscious mamas can feel the seasonal blues on the crisp autumn air. Lion’s mane mushroom has been shown to ease symptoms of that seasonal sorrow because of its anti-inflammatory properties on the brain. It has been recently theorized that one of the contributors to depression may be chronic inflammation in the body in conjunction with the underproduction of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. While we can get some of those supplemented with Western medicine and vitamins, we can also approach the inflammation aspect through the beneficial side effects of lion’s mane mushroom.
One of the primary compounds in lion’s mane mushrooms is amycenone. This compound has been shown to reduce inflammation scientifically, helping people who consume it to experience anti-depressant properties. Researchers discovered that taking lion’s mane mushrooms for two to four weeks reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, restlessness, and malaise in its participants.
Even a single dose of the compound amycenone in a study with mice showed a significant reduction in inflammation symptoms. Talk about a superfood superstar!
While this inner sense of peace can be a massive boon for parents and high schoolers studying for the SATs or ACTs, another notable use for lion’s mane mushroom can be for grandma and grandpa. This fantastic fungus can also help with cognitive decline in the aging process!
Buying Lion’s Mane Mushroom Gives the Grandparents a Brain Boost
This little mushroom has another use we can’t forget—helping our kids’ grandparents with the early stages of cognitive decline. Lion’s mane mushroom helps prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. One of the factors of cognitive decline can be amyloid plaque that can build up in the brain as we age.
Lion’s mane mushroom breaks that plaque up and helps the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, even reversing and halting these declines when regularly supplemented into their diet.
How to Use Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Grab and Go with Supplements
So, for most of us, the easiest and most accessible option will be reaching for a supplement. Typically, these supplements are dried and powdered, then put into a capsule. As you may have read before, lots of these supplements can be combined for maximum bio-efficiency—meaning that when you pair certain foods together, you get the maximum benefit. I personally take this supplement daily because it not only contains lion’s mane, but it has numerous medicinal mushrooms and green coffee extract to boost BDNF (also very essential for brain health). You can get 15% off HERE.
Sort of like how turmeric and black pepper work together to help with inflammation!
There’s a lot of variety out there with supplements regarding quality and price, especially since this mushroom is a trendy nootropic in the wellness community.
Types of supplements you may want to go for include:
- Combo vitamins
Cooking with Lion’s Mane
Another popular option I go for when buying lion’s mane mushroom is you can request it at your local health foods grocer for cooking! Cooking with lion’s mane mushrooms or incorporating them into my diet. I’ve used these powerhouses in stir fry or other Eastern-inspired dishes to make our whole household feel sharp as a tack before a big day.
As you know, our family is a huge fan of eating together, so buying a batch of dried lion’s mane mushrooms online is another solid choice for us. These are easy to add to soups and sauces, giving our dinners an umami, or rich and earthy, taste. Not only do these mushrooms taste great sautéed with garlic, but the garlic also amplifies the benefits of the mushroom as a complimentary pairing. (Turmeric and black pepper move over! Garlic and lion’s mane is here to stay!)
Try cooking with lion’s mane mushrooms in these ways:
- Stir Fry
- Warm fall salads
The Lion’s Mane Attraction – Better Brain Function
The best thing about the lion’s mane mushroom is the boost to cognition for you and your family! Whether you’re looking for help with your parents as they age or a better boost of energy and mental resilience at work, incorporating the beneficial side effects of lion’s mane mushroom into your diet is well worth ordering online or asking your grocer about locally.
If you know a professional fungi enthusiast or botanist, take a fun trip to forage for these mushrooms and see if you can find them in your natural environment! Remember, always have a trained expert when foraging for your safety if you do want to adventure out!
For the rest of us, we can rest easy knowing these are available online, at an Eastern medicine practitioner, or at your local health foods grocer.