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How Lion's Mane Could Help With MS

How Lion's Mane Could Help With MS

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord and can lead to various symptoms, including movement, balance, and vision problems. It's a lifelong condition, and due to the nature of the disease, it can sometimes cause severe disability.

What Causes MS?

MS primarily happens when our immune system mistakes our brain and nerves as "enemies." Researchers are still on the fence about why this happens, but they agree it's a combination of genes and environmental factors.

MS Symptoms

The primary symptoms associated with MS include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Problems with mobility (i.e., walking, climbing, getting up, etc.)
  • Blurred vision
  • Incontinence
  • Numbness or tingling sensations all over the body
  • Balancing problems (frequent falls)
  • Cognitive problems, especially brain fog

It is estimated that around 190 cases per 100,000 people in England have MS, with women being 2.5x more susceptible than men.

There's currently no cure for MS, but several treatments are available to manage symptoms. These include steroids, symptom-specific treatments, and therapy. Research also suggests mushrooms like Lion's Mane may have the potential to become a natural option for MS treatment.

 

What Is Lion’s Mane?

Lion's Mane is a species of edible mushroom native to Asia, Europe, and North America. The name comes from its appearance, which can be described as large, white, and fuzzy. 

Lion's Mane can support brain function as a supplement, categorising it as a nootropic. This is due to the mushroom's ability to boost Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). These two proteins are what the brain uses to produce new brain cells while also strengthening existing ones. 

 

How Can Lion’s Mane Help With MS?

Myelin sheaths are a protective layer of fat and protein that protect our nerves from electrical impulses. 

MS is a demyelinating disease, which means it attacks the myelin sheaths or the cells that sustain it in our central nervous system. When our myelin sheaths are damaged, nerve impulses slow down or even stop, leading to neurological problems, some of which are common symptoms of MS, including loss of balance and muscle weakness.

Lion’s Mane promotes nerve growth and remyelination, the process where new myelin sheaths are produced. Research suggests remyelination helps manage symptoms associated with MS.

In one research study, rats with severe nerve injury were given lion's mane extract and compared to a control group. The rats treated with lion's mane extract showed improvements, particularly in nerve cell regeneration, and better immune system activity compared to control. [1]

The mushroom owes its remyelination properties to two active compounds: hericenones and erinacines. 

Hericenones and erinacines 

Lion’s mane isolate hericenones and erinacines. These two are responsible for stimulating NGF synthesis and BDNF release. 

Both compounds are potent for brain health because they readily cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), or the semipermeable “wall” that serves as a layer of protection against toxins. The BBB only allows vital nutrients, and hericenones and erinacines are included.

The two active substances are also suggested to be behind why lion’s mane can help protect against common neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, depression, brain ageing, and Parkinson’s disease. [2]

 

What Are Other Benefits of Lion’s Mane?

Other than potentially managing symptoms of MS, lion's mane has been cited to help lower heart disease, reduce overall inflammation, and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. [3-5]

 

Choosing The Right Lion’s Mane

Hericenones & Erinaceus are components unique to Lion's mane mushroom, and responsible for its cognitive health benefits. In particular, hericenones are found in the fruiting body, whereas Erinaceus is found in the mushroom's mycelium. A dual extract is thus required to benefit from both.

 

How to Use Lion's Mane?

The recommended dose is 5g or 10 capsules daily (each capsule containing 500mg). The dose can be split in two or taken all at once.

 

Side Effects and Safety

Lion's mane should not be used by Asthmatic individuals. 

If you have a mushroom allergy, you should not use mushroom extracts. Caution is advised if using mushrooms along with blood thinning medication.

In conclusion, MS is a potentially debilitating disorder caused by damaged nerves, with symptoms including loss of balance, poor visual health, brain fog, and chronic fatigue. There are no known cures for the disease yet, but there have been breakthroughs in symptom management. Researchers have also looked at natural alternatives like lion’s mane to help with MS symptoms.

Lion’s mane contains hericenones and erinacines, both of which have been shown to repair damaged myelin sheaths caused by MS. This is why it’s important to choose lion’s mane supplements that isolate these two compounds to reap their benefits not just for MS, but also for other health benefits including cardiovascular health and immunity. 

Research about lion’s mane’s potential as MS treatment is still in its infancy, but current studies have been very promising.

References:

1. Wong KH, Naidu M, David RP, Bakar R, Sabaratnam V. Neuroregenerative potential of lion's mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (higher Basidiomycetes), in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury (review). Int J Med Mushrooms. 2012;14(5):427-46. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushr.v14.i5.10. PMID: 23510212.

2. Li IC, Lee LY, Tzeng TT, Chen WP, Chen YP, Shiao YJ, Chen CC. Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. 2018 May 21;2018:5802634. doi: 10.1155/2018/5802634. PMID: 29951133; PMCID: PMC5987239.

3. Hiwatashi K, Kosaka Y, Suzuki N, Hata K, Mukaiyama T, Sakamoto K, Shirakawa H, Komai M. Yamabushitake mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) improved lipid metabolism in mice fed a high-fat diet. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2010;74(7):1447-51. doi: 10.1271/bbb.100130. Epub 2010 Jul 7. PMID: 20622452.

4. Abdullah N, Ismail SM, Aminudin N, Shuib AS, Lau BF. Evaluation of Selected Culinary-Medicinal Mushrooms for Antioxidant and ACE Inhibitory Activities. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:464238. doi: 10.1155/2012/464238. Epub 2011 Jun 18. PMID: 21716693; PMCID: PMC3118607.

5. Rebar AL, Stanton R, Geard D, Short C, Duncan MJ, Vandelanotte C. A meta-meta-analysis of the effect of physical activity on depression and anxiety in non-clinical adult populations. Health Psychol Rev. 2015;9(3):366-78. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2015.1022901. Epub 2015 Jul 3. PMID: 25739893.

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