Edible and medicinal commercial mushrooms are grown on straw, wood chips, or sawdust. Many have been used by humans for thousands of years. There are 2000 species which are considered edible. Of these 270 are considered to be potent medicines. Culinary mushrooms are high in protein, fiber, carbohydrate, and minerals, while low in calories, fats, and cholesterol.
Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative diseases are frequent accompaniments of aging, and result in loss of cognitive function. Cells of the brain die, leaving amyloid deposits. Drugs are used which delay mental deterioration, but do not repair the damage. Newer treatments should include small molecules to cross the blood-brain barrier, and induce production of nerve growth factor (NGF). …NGF is “a family of proteins responsible for maintenance, survival, and regeneration of neurons during adult life”.
Nearly all culinary mushrooms stimulate the immune system. The following mushrooms have nerve and brain-stimulatory effects: Sarcodon scabrosus (sarcodon), Ganoderma lucidum (reishi), Grifola frondosa (maitake), and Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushroom).
Lion’s mane mushroom extract promotes the survival of nerve cells and increases levels of NGF in astrocyte cells of the nervous system. A study was done in which mice were fed this mushroom for 14 days at 300 mg/kg after a middle cerebral artery occlusion. Lion’s mane treated animals had reduced area of brain injury from the first day of treatment. Lion’s mane mushrooms have been shown to improve cognitive functions in elderly people.
The best way to consume mushrooms is fresh*! Lion’s mane grows in temperate climates and in tropics such as Malaysia. Mushrooms are oven-dried to increase their shelf life. Nerve growth rates are important in cognitive function, but processing of mushrooms in this way reduces the ability to grow nerves faster.
There are no reports of toxicity to Lion’s mane mushroom. A daily use of a water extract of Lion’s mane with fresh fruiting bodies** may improve recovery from peripheral nerve injury in the early stages of recovery. More clinical studies are needed. Other mushrooms may have the same benefit, but have not yet been studied.
Traditional mushroom varieties are being studied in Malaysia to determine the efficacy of ancient treatments with mushrooms.
CONCLUSION: Mushrooms have been found to be beneficial to the human nervous system, and improve cognitive function and healing of peripheral nerve damage. H. erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushrooms) have been most studied in this regard at this time. Regular consumption of these mushrooms is said to be preventive of neurologic disease.
NOTES: *Mushrooms are best are best eaten fresh, but should be cooked to break down the tough chitin to release the nutrients.
**Fruiting bodies of mushrooms are the parts which appear above the surface of the soil or the medium on which it is growing.
Rainbow Grocery sells the following products: Wide variety of mushrooms, with Lion’s mane mushrooms, seasonally.