7 Potential Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
From theoretically protecting against heart disease and diabetes to improving brain and immune health, lion’s mane mushrooms may have wellness perks to offer, though more research is needed.
If you want to jump on the mushrooms-as-medicine trend, you may consider talking with your doctor or an integrative registered dietician about lion’s mane. This large, white, shaggy fungus has been part of medicinal culture in East Asia for centuries, used historically as both food and medicine for a variety of health concerns.
The fruiting bodies and mycelium contain many active ingredients. Namely, polysaccharides, erinacines, hericerins, steroids, alkaloids, and lactones, according to Lindsay Delk, RDN, based in Houston who specializes in the connection between food and mental health. These ingredients may explain the many possible health and wellness benefits of lion’s mane, which range from heart health to immune support.
However, it’s important to note: Although there is increased interest in lion's mane for a variety of health conditions, unfortunately there is only very limited research in humans. Here are studies, mostly performed in the lab, that may pique your interest and show some theoretical benefits of the shroom. More studies in humans are needed to substantiate these possible human-health benefits, so keep this in mind.
Theoretical Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom, According to Lab Research
Lion’s mane mushrooms contain hericenones and erinacines, two compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells in lab studies, per past research. In theory, this may have beneficial effects on people with brain conditions.
A more recent , found that taking three 350 mg capsules of lion’s mane daily for 49 weeks may have helped lead to significant improvements in brain health in people with mild Alzheimer’s disease.
A test-tube also revealed that lion’s mane inhibited the growth of H. pylori.
While these results may appear promising, human research is needed to substantiate this benefit.
Lion’s mane may also protect the intestines from inflammation and inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, Richard says.
According to Delk, lion’s mane decreases inflammation, which may help relieve depression and anxiety.
She names one , in which overweight and obese patients with mood disorders were given lion’s mane supplements for eight weeks. Not only did these patients experience decreased depression and anxiety symptoms, but they also reported improvements in sleep quality. Blood samples also showed increases in pro-brain-derived neurotrophic factor (proBDNF), a protein that plays an important role in mood and brain health.
In a past study, women with nonspecific health complaints and diseases were given four cookies containing 0.5 grams of powdered lion’s mane daily for four weeks. Those who received lion’s mane cookies reported feeling less irritation and anxiety by the end of the study compared with women who received placebo cookies.
One limitation to this study is that it included only 30 women. Larger studies are needed to show how these findings might help with anxiety, and to see how lion’s mane compares or combines with mainstream therapies for anxiety, like meditation and talk therapy.
A found that lion’s mane mushroom boosted activity in the intestinal immune system in mice. The intestinal immune system works to protect the body from harmful substances that make their way to the gut via the mouth or nose.
As the authors of a explained, these effects may be partly due to beneficial changes in gut bacteria that activate the immune system.
However, most of the research has been done in animals thus far; human studies will hopefully show how lion’s mane might help the immune system.
Another test-tube , demonstrated that peptides found in lion’s mane may help treat lung cancer. Researchers found that these peptides have the ability to capture free radicals (harmful substances linked with cancer) and trigger the death of cancerous lung cells.
But while these findings are promising, the anti-cancer effects of lion’s mane have only been studied in test tubes and animals. Human studies are needed.
Lion’s mane may improve blood sugar control and symptoms like nerve pain, making it a potentially helpful tool for diabetes management.
What’s more, a revealed that feeding diabetic rats 40 mg of lion’s mane per kilogram of body weight significantly increased their pain threshold after six week of treatment. This suggests that lion’s mane may offer pain relief for diabetic neuropathy, a type of diabetic nerve damage that can cause pain and numbness in the legs and feet.
However, people with diabetes who are taking medication to control their blood sugar levels should approach lion’s mane with caution. Lion’s mane may interact with diabetes treatments, Richard says, causing blood sugar levels to drop too low.
In addition, most of the research in diabetes has been done in animals and test tubes so far — more studies in humans may show if lion’s mane can help with diabetes.
Research suggests that lion’s mane may lower your risk of heart disease, mainly through its effects on cholesterol.
Despite these findings, Michelle Routhenstein, RDN, a preventive cardiology dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist at Entirely Nourished in New York City, doesn’t recommend using lion’s mane to prevent or treat heart disease. “It’s not supported by human studies and the safety and side effects haven’t been studied either,” she explains.
There are safer, more effective ways to prevent heart disease through your diet, under the care of your primary physician, Routhenstein adds.