Scientists are continually looking for new ways to combat age-related mental decline. It turns out that a substance made in our own brains holds a key to that search. This substance is Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).
NGF has been under our noses since 1956, when it was first discovered by scientists at Washington University in St. Louis. Its importance for nerve and brain health wasn’t clear at first. However, thirty years later the two researchers who first found NGF won a Nobel Prize for their discovery.
Fast forward to the present and NGF has taken center stage for its role in brain health. At this time we now know that the more NGF we make, the healthier our brains are in the face of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Unfortunately, taking NGF directly, by mouth or by injection, doesn’t get to where we need it in our brains. That’s because the substance itself is a small protein that doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. In other words, the brain won’t let it in.
Modern Treatment with Nerve Growth Factor
The most recent cutting-edge research for developing treatments with NGF entails gene therapy and cell transplantation. This type of research is a slow process that will take many more years before it can be approved for a human treatment protocol.
And that’s only if it works the way modern medicine expects it to.
Even if such therapies do eventually work out, they will be yet another high-priced technical marvel that health insurance companies won’t want to pay for.
High-tech strategies in molecular biology are not the only way to elevate Nerve Growth Factor in our brains, though. Indeed, this is where a centuries-old traditional Chinese medicine can do the trick instead.
Brain Health from the Lion’s Mane Mushroom
The Lion’s Mane Mushroom, scientifically known as Hericium erinaceus, has been used for more than a thousand years as a medicinal that stimulates the mind, restores mental clarity, enhances concentration, and boosts memory.
That sounds exactly like what modern scientists are saying about NGF. As with many traditional Chinese medicines, ancient knowledge has laid the groundwork for modern research on human health.
Specifically, modern science has discovered that certain ingredients in the Lion’s Mane Mushroom actually boost the biosynthesis of NGF. The bonus is that these ingredients also cross the blood-brain barrier.
This means that consuming the critical NGF-boosting substances in the Lion’s Mane Mushroom actually puts them right where they do the most good—i.e., in the brain itself—and in doing so helps the brain make more Nerve Growth Factor.
By the way, you may have heard about the role of amyloid plaque in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It is a scary substance that your own brain can make.
One of the most recent studies on Lion’s Mane Mushroom addressed that issue directly. This study showed that extracts of the mushroom can reduce the formation of amyloid plaque.
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