Used as a therapeutic food for thousands of years in China and Japan, Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is unique among medicinal mushrooms for its ability to boost Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and nerve cell myelination, thereby supporting healthy long-term brain function.
Like other medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, Lion’s Mane contains a wide range of beneficial compounds, including beta-glucans that help your immune system respond appropriately to its environment. But its reputation as cognitive enhancer comes from its hericenones and erinacines, triterpenes that are potent natural inducers of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) synthesis. NGF is a protein that triggers the regeneration of axons and dendrites, connections between nerve cells that enable them to transmit impulses to each other and are critical for healthy neurological function. Researchers believe that functional deficiency of NGF is related to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. While NGF itself cannot pass through the blood brain barrier when injected into the body, the hericenones and erinacines in Lion's Mane have low molecular weight and have been shown to pass the barrier and directly stimulate the production of NGF in the central nervous system.
Lion’s Mane also enhances neuronal communication and synaptic plasticity by supporting nerve cell remyelination, the maintenance of the protective fatty sheath around axons. In multiple sclerosis, the body’s immune cells attack myelin in the brain, leaving nerve fibers unprotected and eventually unable to pass messages, leading to neuronal decay. The more axons that exist and the better their health, the more rapidly and efficiently electrical impulses can be transmitted throughout the brain, resulting in improved cognitive function and memory as neurons develop a lasting ability to communicate better with each other.
In a study on adults with mild cognitive decline, Lion’s Mane resulted in significant improvements on the cognitive function scale relative to the control group. The researchers concluded that “continuous intake was necessary to maintain the effect” and that Lion’s Mane “can be regarded as a useful food for the prevention of dementia without any adverse effects”. Several other studies have found Lion’s Mane can partially reverse brain degeneration, help neurons recover from injury, and protect against cognitive decline caused by amyloid plaques.
Hericenones are found in the fruiting body of the mushroom while erinacines are found in the mycelium, the threadlike root network. While research is continuing, recent studies suggest that erinacines are more active in stimulating the synthesis of NGF than hericenones. The organic US grown full spectrum Lion’s Mane used in Amrita Anti-Aging Brain Food is comprised of both the fruiting bodies and the roots of the mushroom, as well as a complex matrix of bioactive compounds including Vitamin D2, prebiotic dietary fibers, peptides, selenium compounds and an array of antioxidants such as ergothioneine, glutathione and superoxidate dismutase.