Health Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushrooms

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on April 01, 2024
6 min read

Lion’s mane mushrooms are big, white mushrooms that resemble a lion’s mane. Although they’re generally thought of as a single type of mushroom, there are three different species. Hericium erinaceus is the one that’s most widely available.

Lion’s mane mushrooms usually look like white pom-poms and are used as both food and medicine. They are extensively used in Asian countries such as Korea, Japan, India, and China. 

You can find lion’s mane mushrooms in grocery stores, restaurants, and supplement shops.

Lion’s mane mushrooms have a flavor that many describe as similar to seafood. They can be eaten raw, dried, or cooked. As a supplement, the mushroom comes in powders, liquids, and capsules.

Lion’s mane mushrooms are rich in vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. They are also a good source of essential minerals such as manganese, zinc, and potassium.

Research suggests that lion's mane may have several health benefits.

Lion's mane mushrooms have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. Lab and animal studies suggest this traditional medicine may help with many conditions. But there's limited research in humans, and no product made from the mushrooms has been approved for the treatment of any condition. 

The preliminary evidence suggests lion's mane mushrooms might help in these ways. 

Fighting inflammation and free radicals 

Many health conditions, including heart disease, arthritis, and cancer, involve chronic inflammation and the effects of unstable molecules in our bodies called free radicals. Lion’s mane mushrooms contain potentially potent antioxidants, which are substances that limit the damage of free radicals. They also contain anti-inflammatory substances that show promise in animal studies. 

Fighting dementia and other brain diseases

Some studies in animals and small, preliminary studies in people suggest lion's mane mushrooms might have a role in the prevention or treatment of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's disease. 

For example, in one study of 30 older adults with mild cognitive impairment, those who took tablets containing Hericium erinaceus powder for 4 months showed a temporary improvement on cognitive tests. The mushrooms have also been shown to slow Alzheimer's symptoms and brain changes linked to the disease in mice. 

In another small human study, younger adults who took capsules of lion's mane mushroom powder showed improved mental performance speed.

Lab studies show the mushrooms are a good source of hericenones and erinacines, two chemicals that accelerate the growth of brain cells.

Reducing anxiety and depression

Lion’s mane extracts could help treat some mental health conditions. To test this possibility, a study was carried out on Japanese women with many health conditions, including menopausal symptoms and poor sleep. Some were given cookies made with lion’s mane extracts while others were given placebo cookies for 4 weeks. 

The women who got the lion’s mane cookies reported lower levels of depressive symptoms and stress compared to the placebo group. 

Hericenones and erinacines, two kinds of chemicals in lion's mane mushrooms, may be responsible for any antidepressant effect, researchers believe. These chemicals affect the release of nerve growth factor (NGF), a substance that regulates the growth and survival of brain cells. Conventional antidepressant drugs may work by changing NGF levels.

But lion's mane mushroom treatments have not been tested head to head with such antidepressant drugs. 

Nerve regeneration

Lion’s mane mushrooms contain chemicals that  might promote the growth, survival, and function of both new and mature nerve cells in the brain and elsewhere. Animal studies suggest that these compounds, unlike some experimental treatments, are able to get from the bloodstream into the brain, crossing the so-called blood-brain barrier. 

For those reasons, there's growing interest in trying the mushrooms in a long list of conditions, including:

  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  •  Multiple sclerosis
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  •  Nerve injuries 

Managing diabetes

Lion's mane mushrooms have been shown to lower blood sugar and raise insulin levels in lab rats with diabetes. Researchers think antioxidants in the mushrooms may explain these possible effects.

Research in animals also suggests the mushrooms might help with diabetic nerve pain.

Fighting stomach ulcers

Mushrooms, including lion's mane mushrooms, are often used as stomach remedies in traditional medicine. In one rat study, extracts from lion's mane mushrooms protected the animals from ulcers, partly by thickening mucus in the stomach lining. The researchers found that rats getting the highest doses of the extracts got the most protection.

Lab and animal studies also suggest the mushrooms can slow the growth of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria linked with many stomach ulcers.

You can buy many supplements containing lion's mane mushrooms. While the supplement labels may claim all sorts of health benefits, dietary supplements in the United States don't undergo the review process the FDA uses to confirm the safety and effectiveness of drugs. Mushrooms of any sort haven't undergone the kind of rigorous studies that show whether they are safe, effective treatments for any specific condition. 

In at least one case, the FDA has warned the maker of a lion's mane supplement to stop claiming that it's "great for brain injury recovery" and can "reduce symptoms of anxiety & depression."

Lion's mane mushroom powder

Lion's mane supplements come in several forms, including powders made from grinding up either the mushroom head (called the fruiting body) or the root (called the mycelium). You can get loose powder and add it to food or beverages, or you can get it in capsules. You can also buy liquid extracts, generally made by boiling the fruiting body in water or alcohol.


Because lion's mane mushrooms haven't undergone extensive human studies, there's no standard dose. Different amounts have been used in different studies. For example, in one trial, older adults with mild cognitive impairment took 250 milligrams of mushroom powder three times a day, a total of less than 1 gram. In another trial, women with menopause symptoms took 2 grams a day. A study on mood and sleep in people with obesity used doses of 500 milligrams, three times a day, a total of 1.5 grams.

Products sold in stores and online can differ not only from those used in scientific studies, but from each other, in terms of ingredients and potency. Always read the label and use as directed. And check with your doctor about what's safe for you.

There’s not much research on whether it’s safe to eat or take supplements of lion’s mane for a prolonged period or about their side effects. 

Possible allergic reactions to lion's mane mushrooms have been reported. In one case, a man developed breathing problems. In another, a man developed an extensive rash that went away when he stopped eating the mushrooms. If you have a history of allergies, asthma, or any other medical condition, check with your doctor before using  lion’s mane mushrooms in your food or as a supplement.

Some mushroom supplement labels carry warnings that they shouldn't be used if you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning surgery.  Reported side effects from various types of mushrooms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, skin sensitivity, headache, gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort, and allergic reactions.

Lion's mane mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Modern science suggests the mushrooms may have health benefits, including fighting dementia, treating nerve damage, managing diabetes, and preventing ulcers. But research in humans is still too limited to say whether those benefits are real.




Is lion's mane mushroom a drug?

Lion's mane mushroom is not a drug. It's available as a food or a dietary supplement. Any health claims on dietary supplements have not been reviewed by the FDA.

Is lion's mane illegal?

Lion's mane mushrooms should not be confused with psilocybin "magic" mushrooms, which can can cause hallucinations and are considered illegal controlled substances in the United States. Lion's mane mushrooms and products made from them are generally legal -- but if you plan to harvest your own wild mushrooms, check your state laws on which species can be picked and where such harvesting is legal. In some countries, including the United Kingdom, it's illegal to harvest lion's mane mushroom because they are so rare.