Lion's Mane Mushroom Found to Boost Nerve Growth, Memory, Researchers Say

Researchers at The University of Queensland have discovered in pre-clinical trials that lion's mane mushroom, or Hericium erinaceus, may have a significant impact on the growth of brain cells and improving memory.

Extracts from these so-called ‘lion’s mane’ mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine in Asian countries for centuries, but we wanted to scientifically determine their potential effect on brain cells,” said lead researcher Professor Frederic Meunier from the Queensland Brain Institute in a statement

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“Laboratory tests measured the neurotrophic effects of compounds isolated from Hericium erinaceus on cultured brain cells, and surprisingly we found that the active compounds promote neuron projections, extending and connecting to other neurons.”

For the study, which was published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, the team used super-resolution microscopy to discover the mushroom extract and its active components greatly increase the size of growth cones, which Meunier said “are particularly important for brain cells to sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain.”

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Ramon Martinez-Marmol, PhD, co-author of the study, explained the aim was to identify bioactive compounds from natural sources that could reach the brain and regulate the growth of neurons, resulting in improved memory formation. The discovery could potentially lead to treatments and protection against neurodegenerative cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease.

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Dae Hee Lee, PhD, from CNGBio Co, which supported and collaborated on the research project, said that the properties of lion's mane mushrooms have been used for centuries to treat ailments and maintain health in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

While the findings suggest that consuming lion's mane mushrooms could have potential benefits for brain health, more research is needed to determine how they could be incorporated into people's diets and to determine the appropriate dosage.

 “This important research is unravelling the molecular mechanism of lion’s mane mushroom compounds and their effects on brain function, particularly memory,” said Lee.