Lion's mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are white, globe-shaped fungi that have long, shaggy spines. People can eat them or take them in the form of supplements. Research suggests that they may offer a range of health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved cognitive and heart health.
People in Asia use these mushrooms for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Health food stores sell lion's mane extract in supplement form, and both the fungus and its extracts appear to be beneficial to health.
Here we discuss the potential benefits of lion's mane mushrooms and consider the possible risks and side effects of their use.
Lion's mane mushrooms may help with the following:
Inflammation and oxidation
A 2012 study evaluating the medicinal potential of 14 types of mushroom found that lion's mane had the fourth highest antioxidant activity, which researchers described as "moderate to high."
Lion's mane mushrooms may enhance the immune system, partly by reducing inflammation and preventing oxidation.
The results of another
Anxiety and depression
The findings of a
In a small Japanese study, women with a variety of health complaints, including menopausal symptoms and poor sleep quality, ate cookies containing lion's mane extracts or placebo cookies for 4 weeks. The participants who ate the extract reported lower levels of irritation and anxiety than those in the placebo group.
It is possible that lion's mane mushrooms might boost cognitive function, but the existing research is mainly on animals.
However, there is currently a lack of research on the effects of lion's mane mushrooms in humans with Alzheimer's disease.
Lion's mane extract may improve heart health, but the research to date has primarily used animal subjects.
The antioxidant properties of lion's mane mushrooms may play a role in cancer prevention or treatment.
These findings are promising, but it is not currently possible to confirm that the same effects will apply in people.
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One of the complications of diabetes is nerve damage resulting from prolonged periods of high blood sugar. A
Lion's mane may help digestive health by fighting inflammation, which could be beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The mushroom may also boost immune function and encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
In vitro studies
Extracts from lion's mane mushrooms may provide healing benefits for skin wounds.
However, more extensive research is necessary for the medical community to recommend lion's mane mushrooms for topical use on humans.
Nervous system recovery
Damage to the nervous system can have significant effects on health.
Most studies on lion's mane mushrooms have used animals, but it appears to be safe to eat the mushrooms in moderate quantities, as people do in many countries in Asia.
The safety and effectiveness of lion's mane supplements are less apparent because dietary supplements do not have the same regulations as food and drug products.
However, in the animal studies, even high doses
People wishing to incorporate lion's mane mushrooms into their diet should cook them until the outer layer is crispy as the taste can be bitter otherwise.
Supplements are available in stores and online in the following forms:
The dosages of these supplements vary, and people should follow the instructions on the label carefully. It is also advisable to discuss the use of any new supplement with a doctor.
People who experience adverse reactions to lion's mane mushrooms should stop using them and seek immediate medical attention.
Lion's mane mushrooms and their extracts show promise in animal and in vitro studies. However, there is not yet enough evidence to support their use for the treatment or prevention of any health condition in humans.
It should be safe for most people to enjoy lion's mane mushrooms for culinary purposes. However, people who wish to take lion's mane supplements should speak to a doctor first.