Your mind on mushrooms – a good thing

Memory fires flickering? Fear not! Mushrooms may be one of the best natural lines of defense for a healthy brain and clear mind. Despite joking about losing our minds, phones, or forgetting why we went into the other room, diminishing mental clarity need not be synonymous with getting long in the tooth.

So what can mentally declining elders do when brain power flickers and grows dim? We can blow on the coals of mental health with medicinal mushrooms, the latest trend to hit the health market.

The Journal of Restorative Medicine shares, "Ancient, traditional, and modern cultures

around the world have known about the nutritive and medicinal properties of mushrooms for centuries. As early as 450 BCE, Hippocrates identified mushrooms as potent anti-inflammatory agents."

The Department of Psychological Medicine and Department of Biochemistry at the School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore has found that seniors who consume more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly may have 50 percent reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment. Particularly lion's mane, oyster, shiitake, cordyceps, reishi and white button mushrooms.

Visiting a local farmer's market mushroom purveyor's stand recently, an excited man was overheard preaching to anyone who'd listen, how lion's mane mushrooms, H. erinaceus, improved his brain-power. Another gal in line eagerly added that her father diagnosed with

Alzheimer's was experiencing improvement from regular consumption of lion's mane. Of this, as a senior writer, I can attest my regular consumption has my kept my mind sharper.

Say hello to lion's mane, H. erinaceus. The highly unusual mushroom dates back to the Chinese Han dynasty, 200 years BC, when the mushroom was considered to have extraordinary medicinal properties relating to longevity and spiritual potency.

Journal of Restorative Medicine adds, "In Chinese and Japanese medical systems, it's traditionally been used to fortify the spleen, nourish the gut, and also as an anti-cancer drug. Lion's mane is said to be nutritive to the five internal organs (liver, lung, spleen, heart and kidney) and promotes good digestion, general vigor and strength.

Grown on hardwood or sawdust, lion's mane mushroom and its powders and extracts have been shown to reduce symptoms of memory loss in mice, as well as prevent neuronal damage caused by amyloid-beta plaques, which accumulate in the brain during Alzheimer's disease. The conclusion of the U.S. Library of Medicine (NIH): "The studies done by many researchers as well as ongoing studies show selected mushrooms do have neurotrophic properties that can be beneficial to humans. Regular consumption may promote nerve and brain health. This is particularly useful during injury (as in accidents) or as we age. This far, only H. erinaceus has been extensively studied."

We can't always get fresh mushrooms year-round, so many users say the most efficient, consistent delivery system is to buy them in bulk already dehydrated and use a food processor to reduce them a long-lasting powder.

By revisiting old knowledge, reconnecting with earth's apothecary by adding mushrooms to or dietary woodpile, we can quite possibly rekindle the flickering fire of mental clarity as we age.

With their incredible cascading, icicle-like shape, lions' mane is a delectable treat, with a sweet, meaty crab-like flavor. Lion's mane mushrooms can be enjoyed raw, cooked, dried or steeped as a tea. Extracts are often used in over-the-counter health supplements and tinctures that can be added to daily smoothies.

Consistency is key. Once we stop ingesting the brain-boosting fungus, benefits fade and coals grow cool.

Sautéed fresh mushrooms

Extra virgin olive oil or local grass-fed butter

4 cloves chopped fresh garlic

1 pound mushrooms, coarsely chopped

Chopped parsley or favorite green herb to taste

In a cast iron skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil or butter

Add garlic and stir with wooden spoon

Just when the garlic begins to slightly brown, add the mushrooms

Saute mushrooms over medium fire, stirring frequently for about 5 to 8 minutes

Toss in fresh herbs, stir, and eat.

Serving suggestions: over quinoa, pasta, soup, in a sandwich. Or use as a side dish or toss into a salad.