Mushrooms are definitely having a moment. It seems like everyone in the business world and beyond is talking about entheogens and expanding consciousness with judicious use thereof. This week’s story also happens to be about a magical mushroom changing our brains—but, calm down, Ken Kesey—it’s way more delicious than plant medicines can be!
The mushroom in question is the round and fluffy lion’s mane, a staple of farmer’s market stalls, with a delicate texture and a meaty flavour akin to fresh seafood. Long used in extract form in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the shroom has now been studied by a team from Queensland University. Their study has confirmed the TCM use of lion’s mane as a brain booster—showing that organic compounds found in the humble Hericium erinaceus can actually literally help regrow damaged or injured brain cells.
“The Queensland researchers isolated the compounds from the mushrooms they believed were behind its purported brain health-assisting properties. The researchers then placed the isolated compounds into a Petri dish with sets of cultured brain cells to see what would happen. And to their surprise, something incredible occurred.
‘Surprisingly we found that the active compounds promote neuron projections,’ said [study lead author Frederic] Meunier, ‘extending and connecting to other neurons.’
To get a closer look at what was actually happening, the researchers placed the treated brain cells under a super-resolution microscope. And according to Meunier, ‘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 could be a game changer for folks experiencing Alzheimer’s, or the fallout from a brain injury. Imagine incorporating a dash of mushroom extract into your diet to help support and restore cognition! The researchers also make the excellent point that science shouldn’t discount traditional remedies, and rather take their use as a signal that there’s an empirical basis for how they work. I love how a Lion’s Mane is a triple threat—cute, delicious, and a lifesaver. A psychedelic would just be overkill!