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Lion's Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) and Nerve Regeneration

By Dr. Markho Rafael

With a unique flavor alternately described as lobster or shrimp, the gourmet mushroom Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus) with its out-of-this-world showy display of cascading 'teeth' also possesses singular medicinal properties - stimulating myelin and nerve regeneration (150, 151) - which upon further study may prove beneficial in a whole series of neurological conditions. Paul Stamets suggests the possible usefulness of Hericium erinaceus extract in conditions such as Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy, M.S. and dementia. (134)

Hericium erinaceus (Lion's Mane) is known to grow in Europe, North America, Japan and China. It can be found on many broad leaf trees, from oaks, maples and sycamores to beeches and walnuts.

The specific medicinal compounds under scientific scrutiny are called erinacines, which are relatively small organic molecules that can pass through the blood brain barrier. Of course, passing through the blood brain barrier is essential in order to effect healing on nerve tissue or myelin sheaths. (152, 153, 154)

There are currently two Japanese patents on different extracts of Hericium erinaceus. One was filed in the 1990's for an extract named "Nerve Growth Stimulant Factor." (150, 151) The other, filed in 2004, is for a water extraction process, yielding a product that is likewise used for nerve and myelin healing. (155)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Hericium erinaceus has historically been prescribed not only for neurological conditions but also for ailments of the digestive tract, in particular for cancers of the digestive organs, such stomach cancer and liver cancer.

Modern science has provided some support for this traditional use of Hericium erinaceus extract. One study conducted in 1985 reported positive results for treating atrophic gastritis. Another, published in 1995, presented findings that Hericium erinaceus helped extend the average life expectancy for patients with hepatoma. (156)

Note: The statements on this page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult a licensed medical practitioner before using any herb (or mushroom) for medicinal purposes.

Credits: Thank you, Paul Stamets, for research references.

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