Everyone knows that different types of edible mushrooms can be a tasty, versatile, and nutritious ingredient in a huge range of dishes, but this isn’t the only thing they’re good for. A new study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry has revealed that one particular mushroom may also be excellent at boosting nerve growth and enhancing memory.
The mushroom in question is the Hericium erinaceus, otherwise known as the “lion’s mane” mushroom. Whilst alternative medicine communities have long believed that this particular fungus has a range of health benefits, this claim has now been scientifically verified by researchers from The University of Queensland.
“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,” explained lead researcher Professor Frederic Meunier.
Pre-clinical testing demonstrated that the lion’s mane mushroom had a significant impact on influencing the improvement of memory.
“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,” said Professor Meunier.
“Using super-resolution microscopy, we found the mushroom extract and its active components largely increase the size of growth cones, which are particularly important for brain cells to sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain.”
This discovery could have huge implications for future research into cognitive development processes and disorders. In particular, study co-author Dr. Ramon Martinez-Marmol said the new discovery could be applied to treat or protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative cognitive disorders.
“Our idea was to identify bioactive compounds from natural sources that could reach the brain and regulate the growth of neurons, resulting in improved memory formation,” said Dr. Martinez-Marmol, and this is exactly what the team eventually achieved.
The study has also resulted in an increased interest among scientific communities for researching other “alternative medicines” used in the Eastern world.
Project collaborator Dr. Dae Hee Lee noted that the properties of lion’s mane mushrooms had been used to treat ailments and maintain health in traditional Chinese medicine since ancient times. “This important research is unraveling the molecular mechanism of lion’s mane mushroom compounds and their effects on brain function, particularly memory.”
By Calum Vaughan, Earth.com Staff Writer
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