Mushrooms have been found to contain beneficial characteristics and provide positive results in medicine. For centuries, mushrooms have been used as a naturally derived source for medicine formation. In traditional Chinese medicine, mushrooms were used to treat ailments and maintain health, and in European medicine dating back 450 BCE, they were used as an anti-inflammatory and used to cauterize wounds. Now, mushrooms, specifically lions mane, have been found to stimulate the growth of brain cells. 

According to a study conducted by researchers from Australia and South Korea, the team found an active component within the fungi that boosts nerve growth and enhances memory. In the preclinical trials, the mushrooms were used to improve brain cell growth and memory. In previous studies, the compounds within the mushroom were found to help regulate blood sugar, reduce high blood pressure, treat depression, and promote brain injury recovery. Who knew a form of fungus could hold such medicinal magnitude? 

“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. Pre-clinical testing found the lion’s mane mushroom had a significant impact on the growth of brain cells and improving memory,” stated the study’s co-author Frederic Meuiner from the Queensland Brain Institution in a published statement

The team closely studied how the compounds within the mushrooms affected the brain cells. They found that the compounds stimulated the brain neurons to extend and connect with another, forming and creating new pathways in the neural network. This promotion called neuroplasticity, can ultimately mend the “broken” pathways that occur during a brain injury, or mental illness. Through further studies and tests, future applications of this compound can eventually protect against neurodegenerative cognitive disorders (NCD), such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

To break it down a little further – the active compounds found, largely increase the size of growth cones, which are important components for brain cells to sense a comfortable and stimulating environment. With that comfortability, comes new neuron connections, advancing the healing and prevention process. 

“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,” stated co-author Ramon Martinez-Marmol from the University of Queensland.