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The Science Behind Lion’s Mane Mushroom

June 15, 2023

With a regal name like lion’s mane, this species of edible mushroom has been creating quite a buzz. Whether or not you’ve heard of it, when it comes to adaptogenic, functional mushrooms, lion’s mane tops the list as one of the most popular and well-studied. 

But what exactly do “adaptogenic” and “functional” mean in the context of edible fungi? Are the touted benefits associated with lion’s mane mushrooms completely woo-woo, or based on actual science? Here’s what to know about the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms, both nutritional and beyond.

 3 Benefits of Eating Mushrooms—and Recipes to Get You Started

What exactly is lion’s mane mushroom ?

Also known as the hedgehog mushroom, or by its scientific name Hericium erinaceus, the lion’s mane mushroom has a rich history. As a centuries-old cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine, it was used to improve overall health and longevity, lovingly referred to as the “monkey head” mushroom. Meanwhile, in Japan, this mushroom was alternatively named “mountain monk” mushroom, the powder of which Buddhist monks used to enhance focus during meditation. There’s also evidence dating back to as early as 450 B.C. to ancient Greece, where lion’s mane was utilized for its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. This mushroom has traditionally been harvested through wild foraging, but cultivation of lion’s mane started in China in 1988, and ever since its popularity has steadily grown.

These mushrooms, like all other mushroom varieties, belong in the fungi kingdom and help to repurpose the nutrients of decaying plant matter as decomposers. Mushrooms are made of their fruiting body and mycelium. Similar to plants whose stems grow above ground and roots below, mushrooms’ fruiting bodies are what you’ll find above the surface of the growing medium and mycelium is below. What we typically eat are the fruiting bodies of mushrooms, though there are equally as many health benefits in the mycelium. Read more:

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