Lion’s Mane Mushroom: Uses, Benefits, & Side Effects

We’re in a hyper-connected, content driven, “be your brand” age, and never before have so many things been vying for our attention­. Phone calls, text messages, emails, DMs, social media posts, Netflix algorithms, Siri, Alexa–it’s no wonder our brains feel like they’re short-circuiting. We may have evolved out of the treetops but it’s still a jungle out there; thankfully, lion’s mane mushrooms are here to help us reclaim our title of king of this joint. Read on for some of the many scientifically validated health benefits of lion’s mane.

1. Strengthen Your Immune System

Like all functional mushrooms, lion’s mane contains beta-glucans which provide powerful immune support by protecting your gut. One study found that ingesting lion’s mane daily almost quadrupled the lifespan of mice who were injected with a lethal dose of salmonella bacteria.

2. Boost Your Brain Power & Banish Brain Fog

It was long believed that humans stop making new brain cells once they reach adulthood, but a new study shows that we’re capable of neurogenesis well into our 90s. Think of lion’s mane as a fertilizer, using two compounds: hericenones and erinacines, to stimulate brain cell growth. The mushroom has also been shown to reduce memory loss in mice and possibly slow symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

While many promising studies on lion’s mane have involved rodents, a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial performed on 50- to 80-year-old Japanese men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment found that those who ingested three grams of powdered lion’s mane mushroom a day for four months had significantly improved their mental functioning. Perhaps most telling, four weeks after they had stopped taking lion’s mane, their symptoms worsened.

3. Nature’s Xanax

Anxiety. It’s the modern day catchall to explain why we’re feeling kind of… off. But before popping a pill why not try a mushroom instead? The anti-inflammatory properties of lion’s mane have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice as well as improve the functioning of the hippocampus (the area of the brain which processes emotions and memories), so you can, you know--chill out.

4. Recovery Wonders

Lion’s mane has shown to be an effective tool for recovery from nervous system injuries. In a study done on rats, the mushroom reduced recovery time by 23-41%. In another study, rats that were given lion’s mane immediately following a stroke had a reduced size of brain injury by 44%. Shown to delay neuronal cell death in rats with with neurodegenerative diseases, such as ischemic stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

5. Leaky Gut Be Gone

In the never-ending battle against leaky gut syndrome, lion’s mane has been shown to protect the stomach lining, inhibit the growth of H. pylori (a bacteria that can lead to gastritis, ulcers and, in some cases, stomach cancer), reduce inflammation and prevent tissue damage in the gastrointestinal tract.

In another promising study done on rats, lion’s mane was shown to be more effective at protecting the stomach from alcohol-induced ulcers than traditional drugs.

5. Diabetes Care

Lowering blood sugar is the diabetic’s eternal struggle. Now, science is suggesting that lion’s mane might be an effective weapon in that fight. Several studies have shown that lion’s mane significantly lowers blood sugar in both diabetic and non-diabetic mice.

6. Healthy Heart

The calories we eat that aren’t immediately used by our body are converted into triglycerides that are stored in our blood until needed for fuel. But if we’re eating more calories than we’re burning, chances are our triglyceride levels, and in turn our risk for heart disease, are high. Lion’s mane can help. In rats that were fed a high fat diet, the mushroom was shown to reduce their levels of triglycerides by 27% and cause a 42% less weight gain.

7. King of the Jungle vs. Cancer

In a study done on mice with gastrointestinal cancers, lion’s mane was found to be more effective at slowing tumor growth than traditional cancer drugs. Even more exciting, when lion’s mane extract is mixed with cancer cells in a test tube, the cancer cells die at faster rates.