Lion's Mane Mushrooms & Alzheimer's Disease

Hericium erinaceus is fungus that grows lions mane mushrooms, named for it's lions mane-like appearance. In Asia, it has been used for nutritional and medicinal purposes for many years. It can be eaten raw, cooked or dried and steeped in tea. This unique fungus is working its way into Western medicine today. Researchers have discovered that the mycelium may help people who have Alzheimer's disease.

lions mane mushroom growing on birch

Hericium Erinaceus Mycelium & Alzheimer's Treatment

In a 2018 study researchers noted its positive brain health benefits. For 30 days, they gave mice the fungus and noticed the following effects:
  • Reducing glial cell activation
  • Increasing insulin-degrading enzyme growth
  • Promoting hippocampal neurogenesis[1]

This study was especially interesting since it revealed three powerful benefits after just 30 days of the mice consuming the mushroom. Diminished glial cell activation slows cognitive decline. Hippocampal neurogenesis is a natural action in the brain that improves learning ability, mood and cognition. When the insulin-degrading enzyme is stimulated, it helps break down beta amyloid protein. As Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered in 1906 after he dissected the brain of one of his patients, the plaques and tangles created by the beta amyloid protein contribute to cognitive decline.

A 2016 study showed that when the mushroom was enriched with erinacine A, it reduced plaque growth and raised the insulin-degrading enzyme levels in the bodies of lab mice after 30 days[2]. Another 2016 study showed that the beneficial fungus had neuroprotective properties on the damaged brain cells of mice[3]. A study that was conducted the same year also showed that erinacine A enrichment of the fungus had neuroprotective properties in mice[4]. Additionally, a study found found that lion's mane consumption helped short-term memory in mice by preventing visual memory impairment[5]. Visual learning is important in battling dementia and preserving cognitive abilities.

In 2009 study of 30 men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, where 15 people were given an extract of Hericium erinaceus. The others received a placebo, and researchers monitored everyone for 16 weeks. The placebo group scored lower on cognitive tests. About four weeks after the group that received the active substance stopped taking it, their cognitive test scores decreased[6]. Indicating consistency was needed to maintain good results.

    Scientists are still learning about the benefits of hericium erinaceus in fighting dementia and brain-degenerative diseases, lion's mane fungus may become a part of Alzheimer's treatment in the future.

    Reference List

    1. Tzeng TT, Chen CC, Chen CC, Tsay HJ, Lee LY, Chen WP, Shen CC, Shiao YJ. The Cyanthin Diterpenoid and Sesterterpene Constituents of Hericium erinaceus Mycelium Ameliorate Alzheimer's Disease-Related Pathologies in APP/PS1 Transgenic Mice. International journal of molecular sciences 2018;19(2):E598. PMID 29463001
    2. Tsai-Teng T, Chin-Chu C, Li-Ya L, Wan-Ping C, Chung-Kuang L, Chien-Chang S, Chi-Ying HF, Chien-Chih C, Shiao YJ. Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer's disease-related pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice. Journal of biomedical science 2016;23(1):49. PMID 27350344
    3. Zhang J, An S, Hu W, Teng M, Wang X, Qu Y, Liu Y, Yuan Y, Wang D. The Neuroprotective Properties of Hericium erinaceus in Glutamate-Damaged Differentiated PC12 Cells and an Alzheimer's Disease Mouse Model. International journal of molecular sciences 2016;17(11):E1810. PMID 27809277
    4. Cheng JH, Tsai CL, Lien YY, Lee MS, Sheu SC. High molecular weight of polysaccharides from Hericium erinaceus against amyloid beta-induced neurotoxicity. BMC complementary and alternative medicine 2016;16:170. PMID 27266872
    5. Brandalise F, Cesaroni V, Gregori A, Repetti M, Romano C, Orrù G, Botta L, Girometta C, Guglielminetti ML, Savino E, Rossi P. Dietary Supplementation of Hericium erinaceus Increases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM 2017;2017:3864340. PMID 28115973
    6. Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR 2009;23(3):367-72. PMID 18844328