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Fungi have long been known for their healthful benefits, and while some members of the fungi kingdom have caused ill effects on those unfortunate enough to have consumed the wrong kind of white caps, others discovered their positive potential early on. Around 450 BC, the well-known Greek physician, Hippocrates, found that certain species of mushroom could help cauterize wounds, and as far back as 2000 BC, lion's mane in particular was used to increase brain power. (1) But how have these promising uses and claims stood up to modern science?

If lion's mane mushroom was claimed to have cognitive benefits, then we would expect to see some positive effects on our nervous systems. Indeed, a 2012 study conducted in Malaysia found that components of lion's mane can induce nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis in nerve cells. (2) NGF is critical for preserving and growing neurons. Lion's mane has also been shown to stimulate "neurite outgrowth," which is part of the process that produces new brain and nerve cells. (3) In mouse studies, researchers have discovered that supplementing with lion's mane protects against the impacts of Parkinson's and Alzhiemer's disease.

A different, double-blind, placebo-controlled human study tested lion's mane's ability to improve cognitive function in aging test subjects that had mild cognitive impairment. Researchers found that taking a dry powder form of the mushroom over a 16 week period significantly improved the subject's scores on a cognitive function scale compared to the placebo group. Once supplementation ended, test subjects scores decreased, suggesting that lion's mane is effective in improving symptoms of impaired cognitive function.

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