Can Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Improve Cognitive Functioning?

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Can the tasty lion’s mane mushroom really improve our memory and cognitive functioning? Research is showing that yes, it can. The lion’s mane mushroom is a very unique food because it contains two chemicals that can actually stimulate the growth of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Nerve Growth Factor is a protein that maintains brain health and homeostasis in the body. When NGF binds to certain cellular receptors, it sets off a string of events that can lead to increased memory and enhanced brain function. In fact, NGF can even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by limiting the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain.

NGF is available as a supplement, yet when taken orally it cannot penetrate the blood-brain barrier. According to a study published in the Journal of Mycology lion’s mane mushrooms contain two chemicals that do pass through the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the production of NGF where it is most important–inside the brain. Lion’s mane is currently being researched for it’s neuroregenerative properties and is thought to be a promising medicinal food for counteracting the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders. And they taste good too!

Ma, Bing-Ji, Jin-Wen Shen, Hai-You Yu, Yuan Ruan, Ting-Ting Yu, and Xu Zhao. “Hericenones and erinacines: stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF) biosynthesis in Hericium erinaceus.” Journal of Mycology 1.2 (2010): 92-98.