Lion’s Mane – East Asia’s Secret Superfood
No matter where you go on this planet, you can always find natural superfoods. This is true in every continent, every biome, every culture, on the ground and under water. Yet some locales are richer in superfoods than others, and some cultures are more aware of them than their global neighbors.
The Chinese and Japanese are light-years ahead of modern Western society when it comes to superfood knowledge. In fact, they are so well attuned and accustomed to the presence and value of superfoods, they don’t even have a special term for them. Things we would hail as marvelous superfoods are simply “food,” in their languages.
One superfood we in the West are just beginning to learn about is lion’s mane mushroom. The Chinese and Japanese, though, have used and valued it since ancient times.
The Latin name for this interesting fungus is Hericium erinaceus. In Chinese, it is 猴頭菇 (hóu tóu gū), meaning “monkey head mushroom” – descriptive of its appearance. The Japanese call lion’s mane 山伏茸 (yamabushitake), which means “mountain hidden mushroom.”
In Asia, lion’s mane mushroom is consumed not only as medicine, but also as food. You can find it – fresh or dried – in almost any grocery store in China, Taiwan, or Japan.
In fact, the mushroom’s firm texture makes it a popular meat replacement in Chinese vegetarian dishes.
You might say that lion’s mane mushrooms are pretty much the same for the Chinese as truffles are for Italians: You don’t eat them every day, but you can find them anywhere. There is a one profound difference between those two mushrooms, though. Truffles are an expensive luxury item; lion’ mane mushrooms are more affordable, and consumed for their healthful properties, not just their delicate flavor.
Like most of the medicinal mushrooms eaten in any of the world’s high cultures, lion’s mane mushroom is non-toxic and has no side-effects. You can consume all the cooked lion’s mane mushrooms want. They are delicious, non-fattening, beneficial to your health, and help reduce meat consumption, if that is important to you. In fact, the mushroom’s firm texture makes it a popular meat replacement in Chinese vegetarian dishes.
As a dietary supplement, you can’t go wrong with lion’s mane mushroom. There is no risk of overdosing, and the health benefits are profound. Lion’s mane mushroom has been under close scrutiny for more than 50 years, and some discoveries about its health benefits have even been the subject of a Nobel prize.
More about Lion’s mane mushroom’s health benefits in part 2.
Cover image: Skyseeker / Flickr