People have been using Lion’s Mane for centuries to boost their overall well-being, but the functional mushroom has gained popularity in recent years as a supplement in a variety of forms, including in adaptogenic mushroom gummy blends, single-dose powder packets and others.
If you’re considering adding this functional mushroom to your daily routine, it’s important to first weigh the benefits against the risks. Here we’ll take you through the most critical considerations, including the potential benefits and side effects, possible interactions with certain medicines, safety tips and more so you can make an informed decision.
What Is Lion’s Mane?
The Lion's Mane mushroom, or Hericium erinaceus, is a unique fungus that people have used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Its name comes from its appearance, which resembles a lion's mane, featuring long, shaggy, white tendrils.
This mushroom grows primarily in North America, Europe and Asia, and on trees such as oaks, beeches, maples, and elms. It’s challenging to find Lion’s Mane in the wild; however, commercial growers now cultivate the mushroom, making it more accessible for consumption, including in supplement form.
Potential Benefits of Lion’s Mane
Further research is still needed before society can understand the full potential of Lion's Mane, but its long history of traditional use and emerging scientific evidence make it a functional mushroom with promising health implications. Its potential benefits include:
- Boosted brain health: Research suggests Lion's Mane may enhance cognitive function, improve memory, and boost focus and concentration. The mushroom’s bioactive compounds might stimulate the growth and regeneration of your brain’s nerve cells, too.
- Increased immunity: Lion's Mane contains polysaccharides, complex carbohydrates that enhance immune function by stimulating the activity of immune cells. This can help strengthen your body's defense against infections, viruses and other pathogens.
- Reduced inflammation: The bioactive compounds in Lion's Mane, especially hericenones, can reduce inflammation in your body, potentially benefiting conditions such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
- Improved digestive function: Lion's Mane may help regulate your gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms in your digestive system that play a crucial role in digestion, nutrient absorption and overall gut health. In this way, Lion's Mane may alleviate digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Potential Side Effects of Lion’s Mane
It’s important to understand that functional mushrooms are different from psychedelic mushrooms, so you don’t have to worry about your daily Lion’s Mane tea producing hallucinogenic effects. That said, every body responds differently to Lion’s Mane, so be aware of any possible adverse reactions. Although most people tolerate Lion's Mane well, if you experience any of these signs, discontinue its use immediately and seek medical attention.
- Allergic reactions: While rare, allergic reactions to Lion's Mane supplements can occur, particularly in individuals with mushroom allergies. Symptoms may include a skin rash or hives; an itching or tingling sensation; swelling of the face, lips, or tongue; or difficulty breathing or wheezing.
- Gastrointestinal issues: Some individuals may experience stomach discomfort or pain; bloating or gas; diarrhea or loose stools; or nausea or indigestion with different types of functional mushrooms. These symptoms are generally mild and transient, resolving on their own as your body adjusts to the supplement. If they persist, however, reduce your dosage or stop taking Lion’s Mane completely.
- Changes in blood sugar levels: If you have diabetes, regularly monitor your blood sugar levels when using Lion's Mane supplements. Adjustments to your diabetes medication or insulin dosage may be necessary to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if Lion's Mane enhances the glucose-lowering effects.
- Changes in blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, keep track of your pressure readings when incorporating Lion's Mane into your routine. Consult with your healthcare provider to ensure your blood pressure remains within a safe range and to discuss any adjustments to your antihypertensive medication.
Interactions With Certain Medications
Lion's Mane supplements may interact with anticoagulants (blood thinners) and antiplatelet medications, which are common if you have cardiovascular conditions or are at risk of blood clots. Some examples include warfarin, aspirin, clopidogrel, and heparin. The potential blood-thinning effects of Lion's Mane could enhance the effects of these medications, potentially increasing the risk of bleeding.
The potential immune-boosting or anti-inflammatory properties of Lion's Mane may affect other medications as well, such as immunosuppressant medications or chemotherapy drugs. Your healthcare provider can assess the potential interactions and provide guidance on the safe use of Lion's Mane alongside your other medications.
Safety Tips for Taking Lion’s Mane
To experience the benefits of mushroom gummies or another form of Lion’s Mane supplement, it’s important to follow some general safety tips:
- Start with a low dosage. Begin with the lowest effective dosage and gradually increase it to assess your body’s response. This allows you to gauge your tolerance and minimize the risk of any potential side effects.
- Select a reputable brand. Quality matters. Choose a mushroom supplement brand that adheres to good manufacturing practices (GMP) and undergoes third-party testing to ensure the purity and potency of their products.
- Read and follow the instructions. Carefully read the product label and follow the recommended dosage instructions from the manufacturer. Avoid exceeding the recommended dosage unless your doctor okays it.
- Consult your healthcare provider. If you have any underlying health conditions, are taking medications, or have concerns about potential interactions, talk to your doctor before starting Lion's Mane supplementation.
Who Should Avoid Lion's Mane?
While Lion's Mane supplements offer many potential health benefits, certain groups of people may be better off avoiding its use altogether, such as:
- Those with mushroom allergies: Allergic reactions to Lion's Mane are rare, but cross-reactivity can occur if you’re allergic to other mushroom varieties. Also, if you experience allergic symptoms after consuming mushrooms, it’s best to steer clear of Lion's Mane supplements to prevent any potential allergic reactions.
- Pregnant and nursing women: Limited research is available on the safety of Lion's Mane supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s always important to prioritize the well-being of both the mother and the developing or nursing baby, so until further research surfaces, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
- Individuals before and after surgery: If you have an upcoming surgery or have recently undergone a surgical procedure, it is advisable to discontinue Lion's Mane supplementation. The potential blood-thinning effects of Lion's Mane could interfere with the clotting process and anesthesia during your surgery, increasing the risk of bleeding complications.
Why You Should Consult Your Doctor About Lion’s Mane
If you’re considering starting a Lion’s Mane supplement, your healthcare provider is the best person to provide personalized advice based on your specific health status, medications, and individual needs. They can assess potential risks and benefits, guide you on proper dosage, and address any concerns or interactions that may arise.
Additionally, your doctor can help track your progress, monitor any potential side effects, and make necessary adjustments to ensure your well-being. They are the best person to advise on how long you should continue taking Lion's Mane supplements and when to reevaluate their effectiveness. Remember, while the goal is to reap the mushroom’s unique benefits, this should never come at the cost of your safety and long-term health.