Lion’s mane mushrooms are white, shaggy fungi that resemble a lion’s mane and have a “seafood-like” flavor. They’re used as food and medicine in several Asian countries, including India, China, Korea and Japan. In Asian dishes, they’re typically pickled or stir-fried. However, you can also use them raw in your salads. Or, buy dried lion’s mane mushrooms and steep them to make tea. Lion’s mane mushrooms are also made into extracts, powders and capsules for easy use as a dietary supplement or natural medicine.
Lion’s mane mushroom has been studied and used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine, where it’s known as “houtou.” Scientific studies on animals and humans have revealed it has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunostimulant effects that translate to a wide range of benefits throughout your body’s systems.
The bioactive compounds in lion’s mane mushrooms benefit your gut, brain, heart, digestive tract, nervous system and immune system. They also stabilize your blood sugar, fight cancer and alleviate mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Whether you have a specific health goal or want the overall protective health benefits of a medicinal mushroom, here are 9 health benefits you can enjoy when you take lion’s mane mushroom:
1. Alleviates Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are mood disorders that are more common that you may think. Studies show that chronic inflammation is a major contributing factor to both of these conditions. In a study on mice, lion’s mane mushroom extract was shown to lower inflammation and have antidepressant and anxiety-reducing effects. The researchers concluded from this study that lion’s mane mushroom has promising potential to alleviate inflammation-related depression and anxiety .
In another animal study involving lion’s mane mushroom extract, researchers got closer to understanding the role this mushroom could play in the brain. They found that the extract promoted the regeneration of brain cells and improved function in the hippocampus, which is the part of your brain that processes memories and emotional reactions . This research suggests that lowering inflammation isn’t the only way lion’s mane mushroom helps with alleviating mood disorders. It could potentially help ward off mood disorders and improve existing problems by making your brain more resilient to stressors and having a healing effect on the brain.
Only one small human trial has been conducted to examine the mental health benefits of lion’s mane mushroom, but sure enough, it’s confirmed the results found in animal studies. In this study, researchers looked at the effect of lion’s mane mushroom extract on menopausal women experiencing mood swings and other typical symptoms of menopause. They found that after a month, daily supplementation with lion’s mane mushroom extract lowered self-reported symptoms of irritation and anxiety .
2. Protects Your Brain As You Age
The brain-boosting benefits of lion’s mane mushroom not only help with mental health disorders, but also with your cognitive performance. Lion’s mane mushroom contains natural compounds shown to increase the growth of brain cells, which can counter neurodegeneration as you get older .
Based on animal studies, researchers believe that lion’s mane mushroom has the potential to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting degeneration in the brain. Lion’s mane mushroom extract is shown to improve working memory function in mice with amyloid-beta plaque in their brain, which is associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease . Human studies haven’t been conducted on the effects it could have on patients with Alzheimer’s, but the well-known brain-boosting effects of lion’s mane mushroom would suggest it could help with both prevention and treatment of the disease.
3. Helps Prevent Gastric Ulcers
Gastric ulcers, also called stomach ulcers, can form in your stomach or intestines and cause severe pain. They’re caused by a bacteria known as H. pylori that damage the protective mucosal layer in your digestive tract. They can also be brought on as a side effect of ongoing use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. Lion’s mane mushroom extract is shown to inhibit ulceration by stopping the growth of H. pylori and protecting the mucous lining in your stomach and intestines .
This same protective action, as well as its anti-inflammatory properties, also makes lion’s mane mushroom helpful in treating ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease .
4. Reduces Heart Disease Risk and Improves Weight Loss Efforts
Research on animals suggests that supplementing with lion’s mane extract on a consistent basis has amazing effects that improve factors that influence your risk for heart disease and obesity. It improves the body’s metabolism of fat, which could greatly improve weight loss efforts. It also lowers triglyceride levels, which point to the amount of stored fat in your body .
In a 1-month study on rats given a high-fat diet, rats that supplemented with lion’s mane mushroom extract had 27 percent lower triglyceride levels compared to rats fed the same diet without supplementation. They also gained 42 percent less weight, suggesting that lion’s mane mushroom significantly improves the body’s metabolism of fat so that you burn more of the fuel you consume from food .
Another way lion’s mane mushroom may protect your heart is by preventing abnormal blood clotting and preventing the oxidation of cholesterol in your bloodstream. These effects have only been observed in test tube studies, but if human research confirms the results, then lion’s mane mushroom could have a significant impact when it comes to lowering your risk for heart attack and stroke .
5. May Speed Recovery from Nervous System Injuries
Lion’s mane mushroom is known to enhance brain health, but more evidence suggests its benefits also extend to the spinal cord and nerves. When the brain or spinal cord become injured in a way that causes nerve damage, the effects can be highly debilitating, including paralysis and losses in brain function.
Lion’s mane mushroom extract has been shown to increase the growth nerve cells and the repair of nervous system injuries. In fact, in animal research it’s been shown to reduce recovery time from nervous system injuries by up to 41 percent . One animal study found that lion’s mane mushroom extract reduced inflammation and brain injury by 44 percent when taken immediately after the stroke.
6. Improves Immune Function
Medicinal mushrooms are known for enhancing your immune system, and lion’s mane mushroom is no exception. Research suggests that lion’s mane mushroom boosts populations of beneficial bacteria in your gut, which help fight off bad bacteria. In a study on mice with salmonella bacteria, supplementing with lion’s mane mushroom extract was shown to protect them against the bacteria and increase their lifespan. They found that it worked not only by increasing good bacteria populations, but also by stimulating the synthesis of immune cells that kill off infections .
7. Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels
Lion’s mane mushroom could assist with managing diabetes by lowering high blood sugar and helping the body absorb carbohydrates. Studies show it effectively reduces blood sugar in both healthy and diabetic animals, even at low doses. It blocks an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase, which is known for raising blood sugar levels . Lion’s mane mushrooms may also counter complications of diabetes, including nerve pain in the hands and feet.
8. Has Anti-Cancer Effects
Lion’s mane mushroom has anti-cancer compounds shown in test tubes to kill human cancer cells at an amazing rate. They have the potential to fight against cancers of the liver, lungs, stomach and colon, but more research is needed to determine the effects it could have in cancer patients.
9. Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Lion’s mane mushroom is chock-full of antioxidant that fight free radicals, reducing oxidative stress. They also lower inflammation, which could help reduce acute pain and fight chronic inflammation. When chronic inflammation is left unchecked, it can play a role in the development of many common chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune diseases. The anti-inflammatory properties of lion’s mane mushroom could potentially even improve symptoms in people who have inflammatory conditions like autoimmune disorders.
In a study that looked at the antioxidant actions of 14 mushroom species, lion’s mane mushroom had the fourth highest antioxidant activity . Antioxidants reduce damage caused by free radicals, which are associated with premature aging in young people and faster aging in older people. Because the body’s own levels of antioxidants decline with age, supplementing with a potent source of antioxidants like lion’s mane mushroom could go a long way in preserving your body inside and out as you age.
The Bottom Line
Lion’s mane mushroom is considered very safe in recommended doses. Of course, there’s always a chance of allergic reaction, but otherwise, lion’s mane mushroom rarely causes side effects, even with long-term use. The brain-boosting effects of lion mane mushroom make it useful as a nootropic when you need better focus and memory. They can also help you manage blood sugar, improve weight loss efforts and prevent gastric ulcers. When choosing a lion’s mane mushroom supplement, look for one that has been third-party tested for purity, so that you can get the most of what this amazing fungus has to offer.
7. Effect of a Medicinal Agaricus blazei Murill-Based Mushroom Extract, AndoSan™, on Symptoms, Fatigue and Quality of Life in Patients with Ulcerative Colitis in a Randomized Single-Blinded Placebo Controlled Study