Unlike their carnivorous namesake, wild lion’s mane mushrooms are almost never found in packs. They prefer to grow in solitude and are a rare treat in the wild.
The best specimens can be seen from a distance. They float against the wood of dying beech trees like giant white pearls; luminescent and standing in stark contrast to the bark that's darkened by moisture and decay. Upon closer inspection, the pearl isn’t smooth but is made of a cascade of icicle-like teeth. Each tooth is a means of spore dispersal and a hope that future generations of the benevolent decomposer will prosper.
Humans are lucky that Lion’s Mane is far easier to cultivate than it is to find growing in the wild. At North Spore it’s become a staple of our market stands yet remains a niche fungi overall, all but untouched by the same chefs that gobble up morels and chanterelles with fervor. Lion's Mane seems to be one of the few mushrooms that has captured the intrigue of the health informed public while remaining relatively obscure on restaurant menus.
It is the medicinal value of this mushroom that has superseded its culinary attributes, though Lion's Mane has culinary applications that should be celebrated too!
Mushrooms of the genus Hericium have a long history of use in East Asia as both food and medicine where they were thought to protect the spleen and gut and balance Qi. These days it is their purported neuron-protective attributes that are getting people in the medical and wellness community thoroughly excited. Though the research is ongoing, erinacenes, some of the biological compounds found in Lion’s Mane, are demonstrating neuron regenerative properties and may soon become valuable tools in the battle against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. At the North Spore facility, we've had veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars visit us seeking bulk Lion’s Mane mushrooms for themselves or their friends who are dealing with traumatic brain issues and PTSD. They swear by its efficacy in dealing with both psychological and physical trauma.
The news of this mushroom’s medicinal prowess is spreading.
With each flush of Lion’s Mane in our grow rooms its cultivated abundance belies its solitary nature in the wild. Lion's Mane's story is evolving into that of any plant, animal, or fungi species that humans desire for food or medicine. Its space in the zeitgeist is still being written.
3 Benefits of Taking Lion's Mane as Supplement or Functional Food:
1) Potential to Help with Cognitive Impairment
There are numerous studies that demonstrate there are two compounds found in Lion's Mane with great potential for helping your brain stay healthy. Those compounds are erinacenes and hericenones.
It has been shown in studies with mice that Lion's Mane helps promote nerve growth factor secretion and demonstrates potential in Alzheimer's and dementia relief.
One study in Japan administered 3 grams of powdered lion’s mane mushroom daily to older adults with mild cognitive issues. The study lasted for four months and the results showed significant improvement in mental functioning for the duration of the trial. Unfortunately the improvement diminished when the study's participants stopped taking the supplement.
To our knowledge there haven't been any large trials of Lion's Mane with human Alzheimer's patients... yet.
If you are looking for a Lion's Made product made with whole fruiting bodies and integrity look no further! North Spore makes a Lion's Mane Tincture for daily use.
2) Help the Nervous System Recover from Trauma
From the sensory cells in your fingertips to your spinal cord and brain, the nervous system is the control board of the human body. It works in unison to transmit signals and respond to one's environment.
Injury to this system, like some of North Spore's veteran friends have suffered, can be completely debilitating and life changing.
One study has demonstrated significant healing after a nerve crushing incident. Injured rats were given Lion's Mane extract made from fruiting bodies and showed marked improvement in their speed of recovery. The study indicated that there is a potential use for Lion's Mane in the early stages of nerve or spinal injuries, though human trials are needed to confirm these hypotheses.
3) Diabetes Prevention and Symptom Treatment
Studies have shown mushrooms in general (i.e. Reishi and Shiitake mushrooms), and Lion's Mane in particular, may help regulate blood sugar levels.
Hericium species do this by effectively blocking the enzyme alpha-glucosidase which breaks down carbs into simpler sugars in the small intestine. Though this study showed Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) to be the most effective species for this purpose, Lion's Mane also demonstrated efficacy.
Cooking with Lion's Mane:
Though the continued development and research of Lion’s Mane’s medicinal properties is fascinating, the mushroom also has untapped culinary potential. In regards to flavor, Lion’s Mane looks far more esoteric than it tastes. While the affect of a well-formed fruit body will stop you in your tracks, the flavor is best described as mild and earthy, and like Oyster Mushrooms, fairly utilitarian. Where Lion’s Mane shines is in its texture. Lion’s Mane is reminiscent of fresh crab meat when the soft pom-poms are shred apart by hand, and it’s spongy nature easily soaks up flavorful marinades. Pressed in a tortilla press they release their moisture and are prepped for the frying pan where, with plentiful butter and heat, they crisp into pancake sized discs, like mushroom latkes. They also yield a near gelatinous material when cooked and reduced, making them an underutilized tool in vegetarian sauces.
Want to grow your own Lion's Mane right in your kitchen? North Spore's Lion's Mane Grow Your Own kits can produce multiple flushes of these amazing medicinal / culinary mushrooms and start producing in only two weeks! They are a way to work Hericium species into your diet.