Mental Health A-Z The Health Benefits of Lion's Mane By Cathy Wong Updated on July 25, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Caitilin Kelly, MD Medically reviewed by Caitilin Kelly, MD Caitilin Kelly, MD, is a clinical physician at Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital and is board-certified in internal medicine. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print NomadicImagery / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Benefits Side Effects How to Take Lion's Mane Precautions and Interactions What to Look For Where to Find Lion's Mane Other Questions Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a type of medicinal mushroom. Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, lion's mane is widely available in fresh, dried, and supplement form. Scientific research shows that lion's mane contains a number of health-promoting substances, including antioxidants and beta-glucan. Health Benefits of Lion's Mane Proponents claim that lion's mane can help with a variety of health problems, including: Alzheimer's disease Anxiety Depression High cholesterol Inflammation Parkinson's disease Ulcers In addition, lion's mane is said to strengthen the immune system, stimulate digestion, and protect against cancer. So far, research on the specific health effects of lion's mane is fairly limited. However, findings from animal-based research, test-tube studies, and small clinical trials indicate that lion's mane may offer certain health benefits, including support for neuronal health. Here's a look at some key study findings. Brain Function Lion's mane may benefit older adults with mild cognitive impairment, according to a small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2009. For the study, researchers assigned 30 older adults with mild cognitive impairment to take either lion's mane extract or a placebo every day for 16 weeks. In cognitive tests given at weeks eight, 12, and 16 of the study, members of the lion's mane group showed significantly greater improvements compared to members of the placebo group. In a more recent study (published in Biomedical Research in 2011), scientists examined the effects of lion's mane on brain function in mice. Results revealed that lion's mane helped protect against memory problems caused by the buildup of amyloid beta (a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease). Studies have also shown a possible neuro-protective effect against ischemic stroke. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) cautions that while some small preliminary studies on the impact of natural supplements on cognitive function have shown modest effects, "direct evidence is lacking." Claims made to the contrary are not supported by evidence. 7 Best Herbs and Spices for Memory and Brain Health Depression and Anxiety Research to date suggests that Lion's mane may help alleviate depression and anxiety. For example, a 2020 review of the literature called Lion's mane "a potential alternative medicine for the treatment of depression." Likewise, a 2021 research review detailed several studies that showed significant anti-anxiety effects. Lion's mane appears to offer "neuroprotective functions, cytotoxicity, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and herbicidal activities," as well. Cancer Preliminary research suggests that lion's mane shows promise in protection against cancer. For example, in a 2011 study published in Food & Function, tests on human cells revealed that lion's mane may help knock out leukemia cells. In addition, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that lion's mane extract helped reduce the size of cancerous colon tumors in mice. The study's findings suggest that lion's mane may help fight off colon cancer, in part by increasing activity in certain cells involved in the immune response. Another study found that the extract might help reduce the spread of colon cancer cells to the lungs. However, it's too soon to tell whether lion's mane can help prevent or reduce cancer in humans. Diabetes Studies in animals support the use of lion's mane mushrooms in managing diabetes. The mushrooms may improve metabolic function by helping to regulate glucose and insulin levels. Possible Side Effects of Lion's Mane Little is known about the safety of long-term use and side effects of lion's mane supplements. However, there's some concern that lion's mane may aggravate symptoms in people with allergies and asthma. Therefore, it's important to consult your physician prior to using lion's mane or any other supplement, especially if you have a history of allergies, asthma, and/or any other medical condition. Studies on the potential benefits of lion's mane in humans have shown promise, but research so far has been limited mostly to animals. Always consult your healthcare provider before ingesting lion's mane or any other supplement. How to Take Lion's Mane Lion's mane hasn't been studied enough to establish standard dosages and preparation. General guidelines follow, but always heed your physician's specific advice regarding medicines and supplements. Dosage Lion's mane is commonly consumed in many Asian countries for medicinal and culinary purposes, but there are no consistent formulations or dosage recommendations. Follow the instructions on your package of lion's mane closely. Lion's Mane Precautions and Interactions Avoid using lion's mane mushroom products if you're pregnant. Not enough research has been done to determine if any dosage is safe during pregnancy. If you take diabetes medications, be aware that Lion's mane mushroom can lower your blood glucose levels too much. Keep a close eye on your readings. Likewise, taking lion's mane along with anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs can cause blood clotting difficulties that can result in bleeding or bruising. Some people are allergic to lion's mane. Seek medical help immediately if you notice throat swelling, breathing trouble, or other signs and symptoms after taking lion's mane. What to Look For When Buying Lion's Mane Watch out for products claiming proven health benefits in humans; the majority of research has been limited to animal studies. Some lion's mane supplements have been marketed with unsupported claims, such as the promotion of weight loss, brain health, and the prevention of heart disease. For example, in 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to Pure Nootropics, LLC, for making unsubstantiated claims about a variety of their products, including for their lion's mane powder. The company was marketing the supplement as "great for brain injury recovery" and to "reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression." Since then, the company has removed these specific claims from their marketing but continue to claim that the product "supports overall cognitive health." Where to Find Lion's Mane Many big-box and specialty online and brick-and-mortar stores sell fresh, dried, and/or powdered Lion's mane, as well as capsules, teas, and various forms of blends featuring the fungi. In nature, they tend to grow in logs, decaying wood, and tree wounds. Other Questions About Lion's Mane Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend lion's mane for any specific health condition. If you're considering the use of lion's mane for a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating a chronic condition with lion's mane and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. 16 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Jiang S, Wang Y, Zhang X. Comparative studies on extracts from by different polarity reagents to gain higher antioxidant activities. Exp Ther Med. 2016;12(1):513-517. doi:10.3892/etm.2016.3279 Sabaratnam V, Kah-hui W, Naidu M, Rosie David P. Neuronal health - Can culinary and medicinal mushrooms help?. J Tradit Complement Med. 2013;3(1):62-8. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.106549 Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009;23(3):367-72. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634 Mori K, Obara Y, Moriya T, Inatomi S, Nakahata N. Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Biomed Res. 2011;32(1):67-72. I-Chen Li, et al. Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Neurol. 2018; 2018. doi:10.1155/2018/5802634 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Dietary Supplements and Cognitive Function, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Updated June 15, 2017. Chong PS, Fung ML, Wong KH, Lim LW. Therapeutic potential of hericium erinaceus for depressive disorder. IJMS. 2019;21(1):163. doi:10.3390/ijms21010163 Hericium erinaceus - A rich source of diverse bioactive metabolites. FunBiotec. 2021;1(2):10-38. doi:10.5943/FunBiotec/1/2/2 Kim SP, Kang MY, Choi YH, Kim JH, Nam SH, Friedman M. Mechanism of Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake) mushroom-induced apoptosis of U937 human monocytic leukemia cells. Food Funct. 2011;2(6):348-56. doi:10.1039/c1fo10030k Kim SP, Kang MY, Kim JH, Nam SH, Friedman M. Composition and mechanism of antitumor effects of Hericium erinaceus mushroom extracts in tumor-bearing mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2011;59(18):9861-9. doi:10.1021/jf201944n Kim SP, Nam SH, Friedman M. Hericium erinaceus (Lion's Mane) mushroom extracts inhibit metastasis of cancer cells to the lung in CT-26 colon cancer-transplanted mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 May 22;61(20):4898-904. doi:10.1021/jf400916c. Lee SK, Ryu SH, Turk A, et al. Characterization of α-glucosidase inhibitory constituents of the fruiting body of lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus). Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2020;262:113197. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2020.113197 Liang B, Guo Z, Xie F, Zhao A. Antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activities of aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus in experimental diabetic rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013;13:253. doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2017.01.040 Sabaratnam V, Kah-hui W, Naidu M, Rosie David P. Neuronal health - Can culinary and medicinal mushrooms help?. J Tradit Complement Med. 2013;3(1):62-8. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.106549 Lion's Mane Mushroom - Uses, Side Effects, and More. WebMD. Updated June 28, 2021. Pure Nootropics. Lion's Mane Mushroom Powder and Capsules. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.