Hericium erinaceus is a medicinal mushroom native to China, Japan and other Asian countries. It has been used as a food and folk medicine for centuries. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs . Other names include Yamabushitake (the Japanese name), Lion’s mane , Hedgehog mushroom , Satyr’s beard .

In recent years, numerous studies have been made on this species because of its various bioactive compounds such as diterpenes, triterpenoid glycosides, sterols and more. These components may contribute to promoting health but also show pharmacological activities that could be developed into pharmaceutical drugs in the future or even now.

Hericium erinaceus is used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for its tonic effects, to promote skin metabolism and as an anti-inflammatory. It has also been used to treat gastric ulcers, hypertension, hypotension and even cancer . In Japan it has been traditionally used to enhance the immune system . Modern studies have shown other potential benefits from using this mushroom such as antioxidant effects , neuroprotective , antidepressant and nootropic properties .

Hericium erinaceus is a species of mushroom that can be eaten directly or processed into a supplement because it contains compounds with biological activities. The chemical composition of the species may vary depending on the strain and the geographic distribution.

It is one of the medicinal mushrooms with more studies conducted on its biological effects. The bioactive components are linked to the presence of compounds such as polysaccharides, terpenoids and sterols among others that explain its pharmacological activities. It is considered a medicinal mushroom with great potential for applications in health but also to develop pharmaceutical drugs.

Hericium erinaceus has been traditionally used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) due to its tonic properties, to promote skin metabolism and anti-inflammatory. It has also been used to treat gastric ulcers, hypertension, hypotension and cancer . In Japan it has been traditionally used to enhance the immune system . Studies have shown its antioxidant and neuroprotective properties , antidepressant and nootropic effects .

Hericium erinaceus is a fungus used as food and folk medicine for centuries. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs . Hericium erinaceus may have bioactive compounds that contribute to promoting health but also show pharmacological activities that could be developed into pharmaceutical drugs in the future or even now.

The chemical composition of the species may vary depending on strains or geographic distribution.

   Hericium erinaceus is a well-known edible and medicinal mushroom in traditional Chinese medicine. It has been shown to ameliorate amyloid β (Aβ)-induced cellular injury and cognitive decline in murine models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). To explore the molecular mechanisms, we investigated the effects of H. erinaceus on different Aβ species-provoked toxicity.

The results revealed that both organic and aqueous extracts of H. erinaceus attenuated Aβ(25-35) cytotoxicity with similar effect on inhibiting Aβ(25-35)-induced apoptosis/necrosis by reducing intracellular oxidative stress and suppressing release of cytochrome c from mitochondria to cytosol.

In addition, they protected neurons against Aβ(25-35)-induced downregulation of Bcl-2 and upregulation of Bax protein levels, increased caspase 3 activity and increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. They also reversed the decreased mitochondrial membrane potential and blocked Aβ(25-35)-triggered translocation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) from cytoplasm to nucleus.

To determine whether these protective effects were mediated by inhibition of NF-κB pathway, we analyzed the effect of H. erinaceus on the activation status of NF-κB in cells treated with Aβ(25-35). Data showed that it significantly blocked the decrease in cytoplasmic IκBα and prevented Aβ(25-35)-induced nuclear translocation of NF-κB in SH-SY5Y cells.

To further investigate whether H. erinaceus reduces oxidative stress by inhibiting NF-κB pathway, we measured intracellular ROS level in Aβ(25-35) stimulated cells pretreated with H. erinaceus extract. Our results showed reduced cellular ROS generation in cells treated with both organic and aqueous extracts of H. erinaceus compared to untreated Aβ(25-35) stimulated cells under similar experimental conditions. Finally, we found that inhibition of NF-κB activation is related to reduced cellular ROS generation and it may contribute to the anti-oxidative properties of H. erinaceus.

Hericium erinaceus (also called Lion’s Mane) is a medicinal mushroom that has been used for thousands of years, especially in traditional Chinese medicine where it is known as yángròu gū (Simplified Chinese:  洋草古; Traditional Chinese: 洋草古).

In Japan and Korea it is known as the Yamabushitake (Japanese: 山武馬糠; Korean: 야무부치). The fungus is cultivated commercially on logs to make it more easily harvested. It also grows directly on fallen tree trunks and stumps.

Hericium erinaceus is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms used in Oriental medicine.  Traditionally, it has been recommended for many conditions including gastrointestinal disturbances, bronchitis, hepatopathy (liver disease), hypertension, insomnia , fatigue and cutaneous diseases.

Studies  have found that Hericium erinaceus can increase nerve growth factor gene expression . It also produces anti-inflammatory compounds . It has neuroprotective properties in mice with Alzheimer’s disease  and improves learning ability in rats  by increasing serotonin production in certain parts of the brain.

Hericium erinaceus stimulates both T helper cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes to stimulate immunity . Animal studies suggest that it can improve cognitive dysfunction caused by aging or chronic stress . It also protects the liver from damage and has an anti-tumor effect on sarcoma cells.

Hericium erinaceus is used to stimulate appetite, protect the stomach, lower cholesterol , treat hypertension, prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), treat bronchitis, inhibit tumors and reduce bleeding after delivery .  It’s also used topically to treat ulcers and wounds .

Studies have shown that Hericium erinaceus inhibits acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. AChE inhibitors are drugs that slow the breakdown of acetylcholine(ACh which increases its level in nerve synapses and enhances nerve transmission.  This action leads to prolonged cholinergic effects such as muscle contraction, vasodilation (relaxation of blood vessels), increased gastro-intestinal activity, glandular secretion and bronchial relaxation.

Hericium erinaceus has also been shown to have antimicrobial properties against Staphylococcus aureus , Bacillus subtilis , Candida albicans  and Shigella dysenteriae . A study done on mice with induced sepsis/septic shock showed that Hericium erinaceus significantly improved survival rates .

Hericium erinaceus contains potent antioxidants including ergothioneine, hericenone C1, erinacerin, hericenin A and B, erinacine, acetyl erinaceus acid glucoside (AAG) , terrein, neoderivatized lipids and triterpenes.  It is effective against free radicals that cause aging .  The fruit body of Hericium erinaceus has neuroprotective properties in mice  and is also able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

This mushroom improves insulin sensitivity  and prevents damage to pancreatic beta cells . It may help treat diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels . It is used as a folk medicine for various liver diseases including hepatitis. Studies show it can protect the liver from damage caused by alcohol, iron overload, carbon tetrachloride and mushroom poisoning .  It also inhibits hepatic fibrosis (scarring of the liver) caused by bile duct obstruction or hepatitis B virus through anti-inflammatory effects.

Hericium erinaceus contains large amounts of glycosides , polysaccharides, triterpenes, coumarins , terrein, hericerins A and B which are effective at activating immune cells to fight bacterial infection.  It prevents ulcers from forming in the stomach lining .

Studies have shown that it can be used as an antioxidant , an anticancer agent , for treating liver damage, lowering cholesterol , chemotherapy side effects and protecting against radiation injury. It was found to have anti-tumor activity in mice .

Hericium erinaceus may help promote the growth of nerve cells and has neuroprotective effects.  It can prevent apoptosis (cell death) of neurons by regulating calcium flow, reducing free radicals and inhibiting enzymes involved in neural cell death. It also reduces glutamate levels that build up during brain injuries which protects the brain from damage caused by seizures or excessive electrical activity.

A study done on mice with induced Alzheimer’s disease showed that this mushroom significantly improved cognitive function . The fruit body (mushroom body ) contains large amounts of hericerins A and B , terrein, terric acid , neoderivatized lip including ergosterol peroxide that are active against free radicals.

Hericium erinaceus is effective at stimulating nerve growth factor (NGF) production by astroglial cells which increases the number of neurons and their length in the hippocampus . This provides protection for them from glutamate toxicity. It stimulates NGF synthesis to promote neuron differentiation (maturation).  It also causes apoptosis (cell death) of neuroblastoma cells while leaving normal neuronal cells unharmed . A study done on rats with stroke showed that this mushroom reduced blood levels of TNF-alpha , a marker used to diagnose cerebral infarction , and reduced lipid peroxidation( oxidation )  in brain tissue indicating it may be useful as a treatment for stroke.

Studies have shown that the fruit body is effective at inhibiting melanin production in B16-F10 mouse melanoma cells  and with inducing apoptosis (cell death) of leukemia cells .

Hericium erinaceus extracts and hericenones can inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme responsible for breaking down acetylcholine, which increases levels of acetycholine. This increases memory and learning , making this mushroom useful for Alzheimer’s disease patients . A study done on mice showed that it improved cognitive function like short-term memory and motor coordination. It also increased nerve growth factor (NGF) concentrations in the hypothalamus , brain stem and hippocampus which contributed to its neurogenic effects.

Hericium erinaceus contains large amounts of and is a very rich source of polysaccharides including hercin and heterodisaccharide krestin ( PSK ). PSK has been used as an adjuvant in cancer treatment. It enhances the immune system by activating T cells and natural killer (NK) cells . It also inhibits tumor growth by inhibiting angiogenesis (blood vessel formation), metastasis (spread of tumors) and tumor recurrence .

Studies show that this mushroom can be used to manage weight, prevent obesity , lower triglyceride levels, reduce body fat, inhibit adipogenesis(formation of new fat cells), increase lipid catabolism and reduce food intake through its effects on AMPK and leptin .

Hericium erinaceus contains ergosterol, organic acid and essential oil which give it antifungal properties.

Studies show that it is effective at inhibiting cancer cell growth including breast , prostate, lung and colon cancers , liver carcinomas (tumors)  and leukemia cells . It also has chemopreventive effects meaning that it prevents cancer from forming while promoting apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. It may play a role in managing chemotherapy side effects.

Hericium erinaceus extracts and terpenoids inhibit TNF-alpha induced NF-kB activation and COX-2 expression in macrophages indicating its anti-inflammatory properties which makes it useful for treating inflammatory bowel disease  and arthritis .

This mushroom can inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, preventing the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone in prostate cancer cells. This makes Hericium erinaceus useful for treating benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate tumors  as well as breast cancer by inhibiting estrogen synthesis and receptor expression .

Studies show that this mushroom inhibits HIV replication , which means it may be useful in managing HIV infections.

Hericium erinaceus extracts inhibit HMG CoA (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A) reductase which is an enzyme involved in cholesterol synthesis. This makes it a candidate for herbal medicine used to manage hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and atherosclerosis .

Hericium erinaceus can be used in cases of cardiovascular diseases by lowering cholesterol levels, reducing hypertension , preventing the oxidation of lipids, inhibiting platelet aggregation , protecting endothelial cells from damage caused by oxidized-LDLs (low density lipoproteins) and increasing HDL(high density lipoprotein) or “good” cholesterol. It also prevents cardiac injury by promoting angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), which increases blood flow to the heart muscle .

Studies show that this mushroom has antidepressant effects through its monoamine neurotransmitter modulating properties. It inhibits MAO-A enzyme activity without associated side effects seen with pharmaceutical drugs. It also protects the brain from oxidative damage.

Hericium erinaceus prevents alzheimer’s disease progression, reduces insulin levels and increases nerve growth factor (NGF) in the hippocampus which may lead to its use as an alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease . It was seen that mice receiving H. erinaceus showed increased NGF levels at 40mg/kg while those receiving 100-120mg/kg had significantly higher cognitive function than untreated mice.

H. erinaceus can inhibit HIV replication through inhibition of viral integrase (IN), decreasing HIV transcription , blocking gp120-CD4 interaction and inhibiting nuclear import or transport of pre-integration complexes into host cells . Also, it has antiangiogenic properties that inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which reduces VEGF induced blood vessel formation .

Studies show that this mushroom can be used as an alternative to antidepressant drugs for major depressive disorder , anxiety and neurodegenerative disorders because it has related effects on the brain. It is also antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and can protect neurons from damage .

Studies show that this mushroom contains beta glucan compounds, mannitol, sphingolipids, steroids and adenosine compounds . It also has neurotrophic factors such as nerve growth factor (NGF), brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). H. erinaceus extracts have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

The most studied compounds in this mushroom are hericenones and erinacines which have been found to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis . Hericium erinaceus extracts inhibit the reactive oxygen species (ROS) production by RAW 264.7 cells  and they increase glutathione peroxidase activity , both of which indicate that they have antioxidant effects. Also, these extracts induce hemeoxygenase-1 (HO-1) gene expression  and Nrf2 nuclear accumulation acting as antioxidants. In addition, H. erinaceus mycelial culture broth extract is a potent inducer of HO enzyme activity .

H. erinaceus extracts decrease the production of ROS (reactive oxygen species) by inhibiting NADPH oxidase, which suggests their antioxidant effects.

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