Neurological Activity of Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
ABSTRACT | Hericium erinaceus, most commonly known as lion’s mane, is an edible fungus, witha long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The mushroom is abundant in bioactive compounds including β-glucan polysaccharides; hericenones and erinacine terpenoids; isoindolinones; sterols; and myconutrients, which potentially have neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties and promotion of nerve growth factor gene expression and neurone (axon or dendrite) outgrowth, H. erinaceus mycelium shows great promise for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The fungus was well tolerated in two clinical studies, with few adverse events reported.
Keywords: Lion’s mane; Neuroregeneration; Neurodegeneration; Neuroprotection; Neurotropins; Neurotrophic; Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; Multiple Sclerosis; Nerve growth factor
Kevin Spelman, PhD, MCPPa, Elizabeth Sutherland, NDb Aravind Bagade, MDc
©2017, Kevin Spelman, PhD, MCPP | Journal Compilation ©2017, AARM | DOI 10.14200/jrm.2017.6.0108
Ancient, traditional, and modern cultures around the world have known about the nutritive and medicinal properties of mushrooms for centuries. As early as 450 BCE, the Greek physician Hippocrates identified mushrooms as potent anti-inflammatory agents, useful for cauterizing wounds. In the East, reverence for fungi is evident in the Chinese description of ling zhi (Ganoderma lucidum), as the “spirit plant,” believed to provide longevity and spiritual potency. Modern medicine has been slower to catch on to the immense potential of fungi. Despite Fleming’s 1929 discovery of penicillin,1 and the subsequent implementation of the fungi-chemical as a blockbuster pharmaceutical in the 1940s, 2 it is only in the last few decades that medical science has looked beyond the antimicrobial and cholesterol lowering properties of fungi for other potential applications. Clinicians now have greater access to mycelium extracts, which are used clinically for their cytotoxic, antineoplastic, cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulating activities. 3–5 Functional studies and chemical assays also support their potential to act as analgesic, antibacterial, antioxidant, and neuroprotective agents. A number of mushrooms, including Sarcodon scabrous, Ganoderma lucidum, Grifola frondosa, and Hericium erinaceus are reported to have activities related to nerve and brain health.6 Hericium erinaceus, a member of the Herinaceae family, is a culinary and medicinal mushroom. Both the mycelium and fruiting bodies of H. erinaceus have been shown to have therapeutic potential for brain and
nerve health. 7 The unique neurological activities of this fungus are the subject of this review.
TRADITIONAL USE OF LION’S MANE (H. ERINACEUS)
Hericium erinaceus (lion’s mane, yamabushitake, or bearded tooth carpophore) grows on old or dead broadleaf trees, and is used as both food and medicine in parts of Asia. The fruiting body is called h.u t.u gū (“monkey head mushroom”) in Chinese8 and yamabushitake (“mountain monk mushroom”) in Japanese. In Chinese and Japanese medical systems, it has traditionally been used to fortify the spleen, nourish the gut, and also as an anticancer drug.9 Lion’s mane is said to be nutritive to the five internal organs (liver, lung, spleen, heart, and kidney), and promotes good digestion, general vigor, and strength. It is also recommended for gastric and duodenal ulcers, as well as chronic gastritis (in prepared tablet form).10 The mushroom is also known for its effects on the central nervous system, and is used for insomnia, vacuity (weakness), and hypodynamia, which are characteristic symptoms of Qi deficiency in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).