August is always a special month for me. It’s a warm and sunny month, that is jam packed full of excitement as people try squeezing out every ounce that summer has to offer. In Western NY, the people here value this month even more so, because for 4-6 months out of the year we are trudging through knee deep lake-effect snow. For all Buffalonians alike, one truth is always bearing down on us; winter is coming. Needless to say, August is also an extraordinary month because on the 22nd it is my Birthday! As a fellow Leo, I thought it would be fitting to feature Hericium erinaceus, also known as the Lion’s mane fungus for this weeks edition of Fungi Friday.
This captivating tooth fungus is usually found on living and dead oak trees, but can also use beech trees as its substrate. An observational study conducted in Slovakia found that although this species was located on both dead and live trees at equal densities, it seemed to have a stronger preference for standing stumps, rather than fallen ones. Lion’s mane fungus was once thought to be an indicator species for forest health. This same scientific paper found that H. erinaceus occurred more frequently in human managed ecosystems than in natural old-growth forests. Now we know that this species doesn’t necessarily indicate intact old-growth forests.
The popularity of this fungus in North America has skyrocketed with new medicinal properties recently uncovered. Lion’s mane fungus has an extensive mélange of bioactive compounds including erinacines, hericerins, steroids, alkaloids, and lactones. Pharmacological studies that have isolated more than 35 polysaccharides found that the fungus naturally produces has revealed that this species has the potential to treat, prevent, and/or alleviate major diseases. These diseases include diabetes, cancer, gastric ulcers, hyperlipidemia, hepatic injury, and neurodegenerative diseases. Eastern culture is way ahead of us in the utilization of naturally synthesized compounds and can be realized through the actions of the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA). The CFDA has passed patents of a considerable amount of medicines and health care products, all of which contain Lion’s mane fungus as the main ingredient.
Every year around my birthday, I set goals to better myself. Usually, I aim to become healthier in mind and body. I’m generally a healthy dude, but as with just about everything, there’s always room for improvement. After learning about its properties, I’m going to work this medicinal mushroom into my weekly diet. I can’t wait until this fungus starts fruiting so I can collect and eat it fresh! The Lion’s mane not only represents us Leos in its robust eye-catching nature, but also this time period around self-reflection and improvement. Here’s to turning 26!