Lion's Mane- a Memorable Medicinal
When people ask us what the medicinal benefits of Lion's Mane (aka Monkey Head, Pom Pom, Hericium erinaceus) are, we typically respond, "It helps improve memory function and promotes nerve regeneration." While true, there is more to be said about this charming character.
The Chinese more commonly use this mushroom to aid in digestion and alleviate gastric ulcers. It is also filled with beneficial polysaccharides and polypeptides. These big words simply translate into "medicine" that can boost the immune system and help with the fight against certain cancers including some stomach, esophagus, and skin varieties. Who knew that such an adorable fungus could secretly be a superhero.
I have consumed mushrooms in many forms. The most common is straight consumption of both cooked and raw mushrooms (remember bacteria and parasites often take joy rides on mushroom fruiting bodies, so eat raw mushrooms at your own risk). Working at a mushroom farm certainly gives me ample opportunity to eat a wide variety of these tasty treasures and Lion's Mane is no different. Although I long for the rich buttery flavor of the wild Hericium, I have more access the sawdust block variety, which is also flavorful and enjoyable IF picked early. Be sure to cook Lion's Mane on a low simmer or add it to a hearty soup or stew. This full bodied mushroom won't leave you hungry.
I have also had my fair share of mushroom teas, but I find they are either to flavorless or too mushroomy. If I decide to sit down to a cup of my favorite mushrooms in a drink form I like to mix them with a few of my favorite herbal buddies. Any of the various mints, chamomile, or rooibos. A squeeze of lemon or a drop of wild orange essential oil never hurts. To each their own when it comes to jazzing up fungus water! I do try to keep it healthy and natural, we are after all trying to use it as a medicine. Honey is my sweetener of choice. Make sure mushroom teas are made using a relaxing simmer, as opposed to a violent boil, which can cause damage to the valuable medicinal components.
My favorite way to consume medicinal mushrooms is in a concentrated tincture form. I prefer this because it doesn't take much effort to add it to my everyday food or beverages, and I don't usually notice it as an ingredient. Tincturing is a straightforward process. Basically mushrooms are suspended in alcohol where they sit for several weeks. Once that process is complete the alcohol is drained and the mushrooms are reused for a 6-8 minute low simmer in water. After straining out the mushrooms the water and alcohol are combined to create an almighty elixir.
We would love to see the Lion's Mane continue to rise in popularity, so if you haven't tried it out yet please consider! The health benefits alone sure have me convinced. Hold up your tiny glasses of juiced Lion's Mane and let's cheer to health!