Lion's Mane Benefits & Information
Yamabushitake, shishigashira, Houtou, Monkey’s Mushroom, Monkey’s Head, Bear’s Head, Hog’s Head Fungus, White Beard, Old Man’s Beard, Bearded Hedgehog, Hedgehog Mushroom, Pom Pom, Pom Pom Blanc.
Northern Hemisphere – Europe, East Asia and North America
The whole mushroom
The Lion’s Mane mushroom grows on decaying Oak, Walnut and Beech trees throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It has long been a food staple in Japanese and Chinese culture and is incorporated in several well-known recipes and traditional medicines. According to Traditional Chinese Medcine the Hericium erinaceus mushroom is called ‘Hou-tou-gu’ and used to treat problems concerning the gastrointestinal tract. As well as being thought to be good for the stomach, the Buddhist Shaolin Monks use this mushroom in meditation practices. It is thought that by ingesting the Lion’s Mane it supports the monk’s concentration and enables them to better cultivate the mystical life force Qi. Although the latter part of this benefit is something that cannot be proved, scientists now think that Lion’s Mane could indeed improve neurological function. Through the centuries the Japanese and Chinese have become fond of the Lion’s Mane Mushroom attributing this fungus to having a rubbery texture, a little like squid, with a seafood taste when eaten. This mushroom was also used by some tribes of North American Indians although with the decline of their culture the knowledge was lost. Apparently Native Americans used the Lion’s Mane as a styptic applying the powdered mushroom to wounds to halt the flow of blood. These varied uses all indicate the how adaptive and special this mushroom is. Until recently the Lion’s Mane, among other mushrooms, have been of great interest to western medicine of how they can be used to help with a number of debilitating illnesses.
According to the work of Dr. Takashi Mizuno the presence of relatively high amounts of polysaccharides in Lion’s Mane fungi means that it is of particular significance for boosting the immune system. Polysaccharides are carbohydrate molecules that are formed by long chains of monosaccharide and hold a unique composition in fungi. Some fungi have a heavier percentage of polysaccharides than others and Lion’s Mane resides in this group. Scientists think these mushrooms could have great affect for those undergoing treatments where by the body degenerates under the extreme pressure of heavy pharmaceuticals.
Most commonly this mushroom is consumed as a food. In China and Japan it is also taken for its medical properties.
This alien looking fungi has taken on the character of the mystical and esoteric in Japan where it has been given a name after one of the most fasnitating Buddhist sects in Asia. The Lion’s Mane is called ‘Yamabushitake’, after the Yamabushi Buddhist monks. The name means ‘those who sleep in the mountains’ and very much reflects the solitary nature and unique look of this mushroom as well as describing the practices of the monks. The Yamabushi are essentially wandering ascetics from the Shugendō spiritual Buddhist tradition who live in the mountainous forests of Japan. Another comparison comes from an ornamental garment worn by the Yamabushi called a ‘suzukake’. This piece of clothing, composed of long strands of fur that resembles the look of the Lion’s Mane. Although the Lion’s Maine has been known to the Chinese and Japanese for many centuries as a food, it hasn’t been until recently that the fungi started to be eaten in Europe and America. Its introduction to California as a readily available gourmet food came after mycologist Malcolm Clarke was told of a fruiting Lion’s Mane mushroom in Glen Ellen by a fellow mycologist. It was found on a Bay tree that had fallen across a creek. Malcom Clarke observed the fungi for three days noting how much light it received and all the environmental conditions that enabled the mushroom to grow in that area. After the three days Malcom harvested the Lion’s Mane and took it back to his lab where he made a culture from it. Using his notes, he replicated the environment the mushroom grew in and started to grow his own. He then took a sample of what he’d grown to a renowned gourmet restaurant where the chef exclaimed, ‘Ah, Pom Pom Blanc’. Malcom Clarke then trademarked the name and started growing the mushroom commercially for restaurants.
Polysaccharides; fatty acids (Y-A-2); hericenons A and B, hericenons C, D, E, F, G, H. Diterpenes called erinacines.