In an intriguing new study, scientists have found that certain compounds within lion’s mane mushrooms can enhance memory and nerve growth.
Their study, recently published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, discovered that one compound in particular, called hericene A, promotes nerve cell growth, increases the production of brain-boosting molecules called neurotrophins, and improves memory performance in mice.
The findings confirm previous research and gives more scientific backing to the use of lion’s mane mushroom as a cognitive enhancer.
Nature's smart drug
A revered component of traditional Asian health practices, lion’s mane has long been associated with a plethora of health benefits, particularly its purported impact on brain health and memory.
But it's only in recent years that compounds exhibiting the ability to stimulate nerve cell growth have been found in the fruiting body of lion's mane mushroom - most notably hericene A.
These compounds play a pivotal role in augmenting the production of neurotrophins – molecules that foster brain health – and significantly enhance memory function in mice.
This groundbreaking revelation opens doors to an exciting realm of cognitive enhancement possibilities.
"Fashioned by millions of years of evolution"
Intrigued by previous research on Hericium erinaceus (lion's mane mushroom) that first identified hericene A’s brain-boosting power, scientists wanted to learn more about how the compound exerts its effects.
To do this, researchers focused their attention on processes pertaining to nerve growth and memory enhancement.
"Natural products have been fashioned by millions of years of evolution, which have left us with a humongous multilayered puzzle to try to figure out: which molecule for which application?" elucidated Frédéric A. Meunier, the study author from The University of Queensland.
The study's methodology employed a number of cell culture experiments, molecular analyses, and animal studies, in order to weave a comprehensive portrait of the mushroom's impact on nerve growth and memory fortification.
In the lab, specific compounds were extracted from the mushroom, including one called N-de phenylethyl isohericerin (NDPIH) and its hydrophobic derivative, hericene A.
These two compounds were shown to substantially increase axon growth and neurite branching within hippocampal neuron cultures.
Notably, the extracts from the lion's mane mushroom exhibited a neurotrophic activity akin to the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) – a vital protein for nurturing nerve cell growth and vitality.
This phenomenon wasn't confined to laboratory settings either, but also in live animals (mice, in this case).
"I was very surprised by how much neurons in culture loved these extracts," Meunier remarked to PsyPost.
"Neurons are very tricky to culture and more often than not decide to die unless given copious amounts of serum and neurotrophins such as BDNF.
“The lion’s mane mushroom extracts promote the generation of very long neurites and many branches even in the absence of serum and BDNF which was surprising in itself."
Crucially, the study confirmed that hericene A promotes the expansion of growth cones – which are specialised structures at the tips of neuronal branches that facilitate the formation of connections between neurons.
"These growth cones are search engines capable of finding target neurons and establishing connections between them," explained Meunier.
This crucial insight suggests that these compounds have the potential to catalyse the creation of new neural connections, a process at the core of memory formation.
To bridge the gap between laboratory observations and tangible memory improvements, the researchers experimented with some male mice, divided into groups and subjected to behavioural assessments.
The results painted a vivid picture: the administration of lion's mane mushroom extracts, especially the potent hericene A, resulted in clear and significant memory enhancement in both the Y-maze test, a test of spatial working memory, and a novel object recognition task.
Hericene A supplements
Based on research like this, when developing our lion's mane capsules, we use a dual extracting method with both water and alcohol. This process is important because hericenones are only soluble in ethanol.
With each capsule containing a high concentration of 4.8mg of hericenones, our lion’s mane capsules are one of the strongest standardised hericenone-rich extracts on the market.
This means that you can be confident that you are getting a high-quality product with a consistent concentration of active ingredients in every capsule.
While this study highlights the potential of lion’s mane, the researchers underscored the importance of approaching these findings with a tempered enthusiasm as the studies conducted with mice may not translate directly to humans.
However, Meunier remains buoyant, "Our study identified highly active chemical compounds from the lion’s mane mushroom that have an effect on the growth of brain cells and enhanced memory in mice...
“Ultimately, our hope is that this will help determine the best products and allow interested companies to optimise their products for health benefits."
As our knowledge of fungi grows, the lion's mane mushroom stands as a symbol of the potential of nature to enhance our brain health.
These studies may offer a glimpse into the future of natural cognitive enhancement and memory improvement.
Buy the strongest standardised hericenone-rich extracts on the market here.Sign up to our newsletter below for more Mushies magic 🍄🍄🍄