1) In a grow room at Fungi Perfecti, employee Justin Tulloss tends to a crop of Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus). This species tastes like lobster when cooked, but what excites scientists, including Stamets, is the mushroom’s medical potential. In 1991, Japanese researchers discovered that Lion’s Mane contains two novel classes of nerve growth factor — molecules called hericenones and erinacines — that stimulate the differentiation and re-myelination of neurons. Since then, several laboratory trials have confirmed that these chemicals affect nerve regeneration.
What’s more, mice with amyloid plaques like those seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients performed better on maze tests — and showed higher levels of curiosity about unfamiliar objects — when fed Lion’s Mane. In one small study in Japan, human patients with mild cognitive impairments showed significant improvement when given the mushrooms in powdered form. None of this proves conclusively that Lion’s Mane can improve mental function, but Stamets is working with university researchers to explore possible therapeutic uses for these and many other mushroom species.