Anti-Dementia and Beyond:   Amyloban & Hericenones Applications Expanded

Ken Babal, C.N.

For centuries, mushrooms have been used throughout Asia to promote vibrant health, build resistance to disease and preserve youth. Today, mushroom extracts are used medicinally and are popular as nutritional supplements.

Mushrooms differ from plants in that they contain no chlorophyll, and so cannot manufacture food energy from the sun. Instead of calories from solar energy, they are said to provide lunar energy, which is believed to nourish the brain with intuition and imagination.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceum) is one of the edible mushrooms widely distributed in Japan and China. Its name comes from its beautiful white icicle-like spines. Science supports its traditional use as a digestive and nervous system tonic. In particular, Japanese studies demonstrate that Lion’s Mane is able to regenerate neurons by stimulating production of Nerve Growth Factor.1

Nerve Growth Factor

Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) belongs to a family of proteins that play a part in maintenance, survival and regeneration of neurons during adult life. As we age, NGF declines, resulting in less efficient brain functioning. In mice, its absence leads to a condition resembling Alzheimer’s disease. Japanese researchers have discovered Lion’s Mane contains a class of compounds that stimulate production of NGF, causing neurons to regrow.2 These compounds, called hericenones, are the first active substances found in natural products to induce NGF synthesis. Hericenones and other bioactive substances in Lion’s Mane are believed to have great potential for repairing neurological damage, improving intelligence and reflexes and, even more significant, preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.


An additional fat-soluble fraction isolated from Lion’s Mane, called amyloban, was found to protect against neuronal cell death caused by toxic beta amyloid peptide.3 Beta amyloid peptide is the main component of plaque that develops in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients, causing destruction of neurons as it progresses. It is believed that amyloid deposition also increases the risk of cerebral hemorrhagic stroke by causing blood vessels to become brittle and eventually break. Because amyloban and hericenones are fat-soluble, they are not contained in products extracted with hot water only. Concentration of active compounds requires a two-step process utilizing both ethanol (alcohol) and hot water.

Anti-Dementia Studies

A study at a Chinese Pharmaceutical University compared AmycenoneTM, a Lion’s Mane extract standardized to contain hericenones (0.5%) and amyloban (6%), with donepezil, a common Alzheimer’s drug (Aricept).4 In the experiment, an Alzheimer’s disease model was created in rats so that the two compounds could be compared. Results showed that rats treated with the mushroom extract performed a water maze test equal or better to the Alzheimer’s drug, depending on dosage of the extract. Also, rats who received Lion’s Mane extract produced significantly more NGF.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study, demonstrated that Lion’s Mane is effective in patients diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.5 A group of thirty Japanese men and women ages 50 to 80 were randomized into two 15-person groups, one of which was given Lion’s Mane and the other a placebo. The subjects in the Lion’s Mane group took four 250 milligram tablets containing dry powder three times per day for sixteen weeks. At weeks 8, 12, and 16 of the trial, the Lion’s Mane group showed significantly increased scores on a cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group.

The assessment was made using the revised Hasegawa Dementia Scale, the preferred test in Asian countries for subjective verification before and after treatment. It is considered more accurate for assessing cognitive impairment than a Western version, which screens for Alzheimer’s disease in elderly psychiatric patients. At the end of the trial, 10 subjects in the Lion’s Mane group were notably improved with one unchanged compared to one in the placebo group improved and thirteen cases unchanged. It is important to note that scores of the Lion’s Mane group increased with the duration of intake. However, four weeks after terminating the supplement the scores decreased significantly, indicating that cognitive benefits are maintained only with continuous administration of Lion’s Mane.

Individual case studies provided by doctors, patients and families are also very encouraging. For example, an 81-year-old female diagnosed with dementia suffered from anxiety, insecurity and aggression for eight years. Prescribed medications had to be discontinued as the patient had not responded well to them. It was only after starting on a Lion’s Mane extract that her husband observed significant improvements after about two months. He noticed that she was able to cook more often and easily name vegetables. She was also able to sleep more peacefully. During a medical examination, she achieved a perfect score on a word-finding test, whereas she used to make more than ten mistakes.

Another case was that of a forty-one-year-old business man. Despite his relatively young age, he began experiencing hand tremors and noticed that he was forgetting appointments and conversations with employees. As symptoms became worse he decided to get a medical evaluation and was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. As fate would have it, he had a chance meeting with an old college friend who worked for a large pharmaceutical company. During their discussion, the friend informed him about Alzheimer’s medications and Lion’s Mane extract. After careful consideration, the business man made a decision to try the natural mushroom extract. After three to four months, the hand tremors disappeared and his concentration and retention gradually improved. After six months, he was able to recall complete agendas, not only for the week but also from the week before.

Sleep Apnea and Snoring

A small study was conducted to evaluate a Lion’s Mane extract in patients suffering from sleep apnea syndrome, a condition in which breathing becomes very shallow and may even stop. The condition affects more than 12 million Americans, and episodes can happen hundreds of times during a night. The study was conducted by Kazutoyo Inanaga, M.D., Professor Emeritus, Kurume University and director of the Chikusuikai Institute for Neuroinformation, Fukuoka, Japan.

In the study, nine patients took six tablets of a Lion’s Mane extract per day in divided doses for two months. In addition to sleep apnea syndrome, seven subjects suffered from high blood pressure, one from bipolar disorder, and another from dysthymia, a mild but chronic form of depression. During the observation period, no changes were made to the prescriptions of subjects, who were taking various other medications. Shallow breathing, oxygen utilization and snoring were all monitored with mobile sleep devices before, during and at the end of the study.

After one month, researchers observed significant improvements overall and a slight decrease in the average snoring index. At two months, snoring and oxygen utilization improved further, and shallow breathing in three patients progressed to normal. One diagnosed with severe shallow breathing improved to moderate.

Sound sleep is essential to good health. Its primary function is to refresh the brain. If a Lion’s Mane extract can improve sleep apnea it could translate to better overall health for patients. In all, documented benefits of Lion’s Mane include regeneration of brain cells, improved memory, clarity and muscle coordination, stimulation of NGF, immune system enhancement, and support for treating dementia and sleep apnea. Hopefully, research will continue to shed light on multiple mechanisms at work.


1. Kawagishi, H, et al “The Inducer of the Synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor from Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceum)” Explore! Vol. 11, No. 4, 2002.

2. Kawagishi, H and Zhuang, C. “Compounds for dementia from Hericium erinaceum.” Drugs of the Future, 2008, 33(2): 149-155.

3. Nagai, K. et al “Dilinoleoyl-phosphatidylethanolamine from Hericium erinaceum protects against ER stress-induced Neuro2a cell death via protein kinase C pathway.” J Nutr Biochem, 17 (2006) 525-530.

4. Kawagishi, H et al “Anti-dementia effects of a low polarity fraction extracted from Hericium erinaceum.” Abstracts of the 5th International Medicinal Mushroom Conference, p. 18-19, September 5th – 8th, 2009, Nantong, China.

5. Mori, K et al “Improving Effects of the Mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceum) on Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Double-blind Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial.” Phytother Res, 23, 367-372 (2009).