Lion’s mane mushrooms go by many names, including yamabushitake and the Latin name Hericium erinaceus. They are prized in various Asian countries, where people use them for medicinal and culinary purposes. You can consume lion’s mane mushrooms raw, cooked, or in powdered extract form.
This article outlines everything you need to know about lion’s mane mushrooms, including potential health benefits, how to use them, dosage, and possible side effects.
What Are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
Lion’s mane mushrooms are a large mushroom species with a hairy, shaggy appearance, making them look like the lion’s mane from which they get their name. Native to Asia, lion’s mane mushrooms are popular in China, Japan, Korea, and India.
These mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. They have several potential health benefits and are becoming a popular supplement option. Many also find them enjoyable to eat, thanks to their seafood-like flavor. There are multiple ways to consume lion’s mane mushrooms, some of which we will cover in this article.
Potential Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
With the recent explosion in the popularity of mushroom supplements, companies are making various claims about the health effects of lion’s mane and other fungi species.
However, it’s important to distinguish between research-based evidence and unwarranted claims. Below we highlight several potential health benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms based on published research studies.
Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidative, & Immune Boosting Properties
A 2015 report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry highlights the “exceptional nutritional and health-promoting aspects” of lion’s mane mushrooms. Based on an overview that surveyed prior publications on the health benefits of H. erinaceus, the report suggests that lion’s mane has the following properties:
- Anticarcinogenic (prevents the growth and/or development of cancerous cells)
- Antidiabetic (prevents erratic/unstable blood glucose levels)
- Antihypertensive (hypertension is high blood pressure)
- Antihyperlipidemic (helps to lower LDL cholesterol)
- Anti-senescence (anti-aging)
- Cardioprotective (relating to the protection of the heart)
- Hepatoprotective (relating to the protection of the liver)
- Nephroprotective (relating to the protection of the kidneys)
- Neuroprotective (relating to the protection of neurons)
The publication also suggests that lion’s mane can improve anxiety, brain function (cognition), and symptoms of depression. Furthermore, it states that all of these benefits (including those listed above) are based on the mushroom’s “anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and immunostimulating properties.”
Potential Therapeutic Action on Immunoregulatory Diseases & Cancer
Based on a 2014 academic review published in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, lion’s mane has “potential drug efficacy” for Alzheimer’s disease, immunoregulatory diseases, and certain types of cancer. It also boasts therapeutic action on “various diseases of multiple physiological systems, including the nervous system, digestive system, circulatory system, and immune system.”
A separate 2013 publication in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine points out that lion’s mane is a “well-established candidate for brain and nerve health.”
Potential Anti-Aging Benefits
Based on data collected from studies on mice, a 2021 report in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences highlights that:
“Oral supplementations” of lion’s mane extract resulted in partial recovery of “age-related decline of locomotor performances” (locomotor performance refers to basic movements such as walking, running, etc.).
The study also highlighted the antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of the supplements. It observed their role in improving age-related decline in the cerebellum, a region of the brain associated with coordination and basic movement. Researchers concluded by suggesting lion’s mane extract is a “promising adjuvant therapy [that could be] associated with conventional geriatric treatments.”
Benefits for Depression
A separate 2020 publication in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences notes the “antidepressant-like activities” of lion’s mane.
It suggests that the fungus can “significantly ameliorate depressive disorder” via modulation of monoamines (i.e., neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine), as well as “neurogenic/neurotrophic and anti-inflammatory pathways.”
Researchers concluded the study by suggesting the potential for H. erinaceus to function as an “alternative medicine for the treatment of depression.”
Lowers Heart Disease Risk
There is evidence that lion’s mane could influence high triglycerides, obesity, and excessive oxidized cholesterol levels. These are all significant risk factors for heart disease.
A study on rats found that lion’s mane noticeably reduced triglyceride levels and weight gain after 28 days of use.
A different study on rodents revealed that lion’s mane helped reduce triglyceride levels and boost fat metabolism.
However, the available research to date comes from animal studies. Therefore, we require human studies to shed light on this potential benefit of lion’s mane mushrooms.
Potential Protection Against Dementia
According to a study published in The International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms in 2013, lion’s mane contains erinacines and hericenones. These compounds potentially stimulate the growth of brain cells.
Nerve growth factor (NGF) is crucial for maintaining the basal forebrain cholinergic system. The researchers wrote that the aforementioned compounds in lion’s mane could induce NGF synthesis in nerve cells.
Some compounds in lion’s mane could help to stimulate brain cell growth, fighting against dementia.
Meanwhile, a study published in Biomedical Research (Japan) in 2011 tested the effects of lion’s mane on amyloid peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Amyloid plaques are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
In the study, the researchers fed amyloid-beta peptides to mice before giving them lion’s mane. The mushroom helped prevent spatial short-term and visual recognition memory impairments
Also, a study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2009 involved giving lion’s mane to individuals aged 50-80 who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. At the end of the 16-week trial, users of lion’s mane showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared to placebo users.
Could Protect the Digestive Tract from Ulcers
It is possible to suffer from ulcers anywhere on the digestive tract, including small and large intestines and the stomach. Damage to the mucous layer of the stomach due to long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and excessive growth of a bacteria called H. pylori are two key factors in the formation of stomach ulcers.
Yet, there is evidence that lion’s mane could hinder the growth of these bacteria, thus reducing the risk of damage to the stomach lining.
A study published in PLoS One in 2016 found that lion’s mane extract helped reduce the symptoms of ulcerative colitis significantly after three weeks of use. However, further research found that the fungi didn’t have the same effect on patients with Crohn’s disease.
Potentially Reduces the Impact of Diabetes Symptoms
Patients with diabetes are unable to keep their blood sugar under control. Consequently, they experience high blood sugar levels regularly, thus increasing the risk of vision loss and kidney disease.
There is a suggestion that lion’s mane could reduce the side effects of diabetes and enhance a patient’s control over their blood sugar levels. There is evidence that the mushroom could block the activity of an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase, known for breaking down carbohydrates in the small intestine. A blockage of this enzyme prevents the body from digesting and absorbing carbs effectively. The result is low blood sugar levels.
Various studies have found that lion’s mane reduces blood sugar levels in rodents with diabetes and without.
However, it is essential to point out that most available research on lion’s mane mushrooms has taken place on laboratory animals in a controlled setting. Human-based evidence via clinical trials is still lacking. Thus, more research will need to be carried out before health professionals can issue clear guidance on the overall therapeutic benefits of lion’s mane and other fungal species.
What Types of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplement Are Available?
Lion’s Mane Capsules
There are various ways to consume lion’s mane extract, though capsules are probably the most common and are the preferred option for many. Capsules that contain dried lion’s mane extract are affordable, simple to use, and convenient for daily consumption since they are tasteless and include pre-measured doses.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Tea
Lion’s mane tea is just what it sounds like – a brewed tea containing extract from H. erinaceus. All you need to do is use a tea strainer to steep the mushrooms in hot water to extract the beneficial compounds, then drink it like a regular cup of tea.
If you’re opting for a pre-packaged lion’s mane tea, try and find a brand that offers 100% natural ingredients, as this will help to take full advantage of the active compounds that are present. Most sachets come with instructions regarding water temperature and brewing time.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Powder
Another common way to consume lion’s mane supplements is in powder form. Powders are very simple to use and involve mixing pre-measured amounts of extract into smoothies, coffee, tea, or even hot water. Admittedly, this method tastes unpleasant, but the effects are often potent and fast-acting.
What Is the Best Way to Consume a Lion’s Mane Supplement?
Although it is one of the most exciting dietary supplements, not everyone knows how to use it. In reality, there is no single “best way” to consume lion’s mane as it depends on your preferences.
If you’re pressed for time and value convenience, consider capsules. Many brands also sell lion’s mane in powder form. This is a worthwhile form of consumption if you want a little versatility, don’t mind the mushroom’s taste, and intend to save some money.
Capsules are many people’s preferred way to consume lion’s mane – they are convenient and straightforward.
You can use powder to make lion’s mane tea or add it to various foods or beverages to make it taste a little more palatable.
In traditional Chinese medicine, lion’s mane mushrooms are enjoyed raw, dried, cooked, or soaked in water.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Dosage
At present, there is no recommended daily dose of lion’s mane. However, in the Phytotherapy Research study, the researchers gave half of the volunteers 3,000mg of the mushroom in capsule form (4 x 250mg capsules three times a day) for 16 weeks. The other half received a placebo.
Take lion’s mane capsules according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you use a powdered form of the fungi, it is best to first begin with a small dose to see how it affects you. From there, increase the dose gradually until you’re happy with the effects.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Side Effects
There is little clinical evidence concerning side effects. In the Phytotherapy Research study, lab tests showed no adverse effect of lion’s mane.
However, certain individuals may suffer skin rashes or allergies. A 2003 case report wrote about a man admitted to hospital with acute respiratory failure. He had diffuse infiltration in both lungs. The man had begun consuming lion’s mane four months before the incident. Therefore, steer clear of this supplement if you have allergies to fungi.
In a 2016 study on rats, researchers wrote that oral administration of lion’s mane was safe up to 1000mg/kg. They also concluded that the fungi were relatively non-toxic.
Final Thoughts on Lion’s Mane Mushroom
There are several reasons why one would want to take lion’s mane mushrooms. Lion’s mane is an incredibly versatile mushroom species that users can cook and eat independently or use as a supplement. Research involving the health benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms is also promising, as studies point out a variety of potential uses and applications.
Additionally, most users have found positive reactions – and very few side effects – when consuming lion’s mane mushrooms. If you want to try this component of traditional Chinese medicine, check out the list of brands we’ve compiled below.
- USDA certified organic products
- 2,000mg mushroom blend offered
- Non-GMO, kosher, and gluten-free
- Crafted from whole food mushroom
- Build your own bundle feature
- Organic and non-GMO
- Lab-tested for safety and quality
- Uses duel extraction
- Mushroom blends designed for specific functions
- Doctor formulated, and lab tested
- Organic, vegan, and non-GMO formulations
- Offers tinctures, capsules, and topicals
- Optimized mushroom formulations
- Soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan
- Made with organic extracts
- Ingredients sourced worldwide
- Smart mushroom blends made with 6 varieties
- Organic and full-spectrum
- Allergen-free and vegan
- Made from mycelium and fruiting bodies
- Worldwide store and shipping options
- Pure mushroom extract powders available
- Affordable rates
- No additives, flavorings, or fillers