Lion’s Mane – Nutrients for Your Nerves
How well do you know your nervous system?
Here are some freshly-baked facts for you. Sorry if there’s too much scientific jargon at first. I’ll do my best to cut it down later on.
- Your brain is the center of your nervous system. Estimates suggest that the number of neurons (nerve cells) in the brain range from 80 to 120 billion
- The spinal cord is tubular bundle of nervous tissue that extends downward from your brain; together, the brain and spinal cord form what is known as the central nervous system (CNS).
- The peripheral nervous system (PNS) consists of the nerves, ganglia and sensory system outside the central nervous system.
- One square inch of your skin contains about four yards of nerve fibers, 600 pain sensors, 1300 nerve cells, 900 nerve endings, 36 heat sensors and 75 pressure sensors.
- 43 pairs of nerves connect your CNS to every other part of your body. Your body contains almost 45 miles (!) of nerves, running from CNS to PNS.
- Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is part of the PNS, and functions below the level of consciousness. Even if you want to, you can’t consciously affect, for instance, your digestive system in the same way you can consciously raise your hand.
I would argue that the nervous system is a completely vital part of the human body. A person with a totally paralyzed musculoskeletal system can still be a highly functional individual. Although not completely paralyzed, Stephen William Hawking is still an amazing example of this idea. But what if your whole nervous system were paralyzed? Well, then you would be dead. It is that simple.
Photo credit: mark sebastian / Flickr
Nerve Growth Factor – The Quintessence of Healthy Nerves
Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) is a small protein that is crucial to the growth, maintenance and survival of certain types of neurons. Without NGF, these neurons would undergo apoptosis (cell death). NFG, therefore, plays an essential role of keeping your whole nervous system alive and strong. Not only does NGF keep neurons alive, but it is also shown to stimulate the production of new neurons in your central nervous system, as well as in peripheral nervous system.
There is a problem, though, called the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is a semi-permeable membrane that works as a filtering mechanism, carrying blood to the central nervous system. The NGF protein happens to be too large to travel across this membrane, though. This leaves the brain without a steady external supply of NGF.
Image credit: Descartes Reflex Theory / Wikipedia
If production of NGF within your brain remains adequate, everything is fine. If NGF production decreases, though, you are in trouble. No new NGF can make its way to your brain. The result is that some of the brain’s neurons begin slowly deteriorating, and production of new neurons slows down considerably, or stops altogether.
This may be the underlying reason for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and possibly many other brain and nervous-system-related diseases. It is also one of the most significant medical discoveries of the past 60 years. So significant, in fact, that earned its discoverers, Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen, the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (even though they made their discovery almost 40 years earlier).
NGF is believed to have the potential to combat various nervous-system -based diseases. It reduces neuro-degeneration, and has also been shown to foster nerve regeneration.
The medical journal Neurology reports that NGF significantly improves the pain symptoms of HIV-infected patients suffering from sensory neuropathy. NGF is also thought to play a role in such psychiatric disorders as depression, schizophrenia, autism, Rett syndrome, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa.
Lion’s mane mushroom – nerve food for life
Lion’s mane mushroom has been shown to be exceptionally active in stimulating the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). The mushroom contains substances that stimulate NGF production and pass easily through the blood-brain barrier. One of these substances, called hericenones, actually stimulates the brain to produce more NGF. The other, even more powerful substance is called erinacines. Erincacines is small enough to pass through the critical blood-brain barrier, and can therefore work within the brain to foster NGF production, which in turn boosts the production of new neurons.
“Lion’s Mane mushroom mycelium is nature’s nutrient for your neurons.”
– Paul Stamets, world-renowned mycologist
The brain isn’t the only part of your body that benefits from lion’s mane. Its healthful properties extend to the entire nervous system. This is because the erinacines actually promote NFG production throughout the body. This means that it may not just protect your brain from degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, but also guard your whole nervous system against degeneration. Some of the latest researches have even shown that lion’s mane mushroom may actually increase cognitive abilities!
It seems clear that the lion’s mane mushroom contains myriad of substances that help assist the body to truly thrive. Science will eventually learn exactly how the mushroom does this, but that’s not likely to happen for several years, at least. Until then, those who consume mushrooms regularly will still know their benefits, within.
Photo credit: randomduck / Flickr
Let’s be aware of Mother Nature’s great gifts, and consume them consciously, gratefully, and responsibly.
Let’s do mushrooms!
Cover photo: ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser