Lion’s Mane: The Ultimate Guide to Health Benefits, Risks, and Side Effects

Written by: Christine VanDoren, nutritionist

Fact checked by: Ellen Landes, MS, RDN, CPT

Lion’s Mane: The Ultimate Guide to Health Benefits, Risks, and Side Effects

One potentially beneficial herb that can act with as much power as its name suggests is Lion's Mane. This mushroom holds powerful antioxidative properties that may optimize health and wellness. This herb has been used extensively in East Asian medicinal practices.

Lion’s Mane, also known as Hericium erinaceus, is full of phytonutrients, such as phenolic compounds, proteins, and terpenoids. These components are just a few of the constituents that have driven the use of Lion’s Mane in traditional East Asian medicine. 

For centuries, Lion’s mane has been valued in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, primarily for its antioxidant properties. These properties may contribute to cellular health, but the extent of its impact on overall bodily function requires further scientific investigation.

Lion’s Mane & Cognitive Health

If you wish to consume more brain food, don’t look any further than Lion’s Mane. Preliminary research suggests the properties of this plant may benefit cognition. A key aspect here is the polysaccharide content, which may support neuron health in the brain, although the extent of this effect is still being explored.

Research indicates that some constituents within Lion’s Mane might have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and potentially protect neurons, playing a role in their maintenance. Additionally, there is some evidence to suggest these constituents could modulate the secretion of nerve growth factors, which are important for nerve health and brain function. However, these findings are preliminary and require further investigation to confirm their effects and mechanisms.

These possible neuroprotective abilities may help to strengthen your cognitive function, as well as your focus and attention. Consistent consumption of this mushroom may enhance mental sharpness and recall, as well as your ability to process information.

Recall and memory are very critical aspects to protect, especially as we grow older. For these reasons, Lion’s Mane has been a popular functional food, as the compounds that it possesses may play a role in maintaining memory and cognition.

The compounds erinacine and hericenone, found in Lion’s Mane, have been studied for their potential to support brain cell growth. This suggests a possibility that they may aid the brain in maintaining its ability to make connections and process information efficiently. However, it's important to note that this area of research is still developing. While several studies, particularly in Japan, have indicated that Lion’s Mane supplementation might contribute to improved cognitive function, especially in individuals experiencing neuronal changes, these findings are preliminary and require further validation through extensive research.

Lion’s Mane & Emotional Well-being

Another potentially great attribute of Lion’s Mane is the ability to harness your emotional well-being. This effect is thought to be due to ethanol extracts of the mycelia and fruiting bodies contained within the mushroom. Preliminary research suggests this may contribute to a calm and bright mood and even help lull you into a comfortable sleep.

Looking further, Lion’s Mane exhibits properties that may help you experience and sustain good moods, as well as feel pleasure and positive emotions. Because of this, it’s possible that consuming some Lion’s Mane during the day may serve as a great mood booster to start your day or as a great pick-me-up as the day goes on, but more research is needed.

Lion’s Mane may support neurogenesis in the hippocampus, which could play a role in emotional regulation. These findings, however, require further scientific validation. Anecdotal evidence also suggests self-reported feelings of alleviated irritability and everyday stress. Thus, Including this mighty mushroom in your wellness arsenal may nurture a steady and soothed response to situations that affect your body and mind.

Lion’s Mane has been studied for its properties, which might influence the expression of cytokines and potentially affect mood. Additionally, there is some interest in its potential to influence the transmission of monoamines like serotonin and dopamine, but conclusive evidence in this area is still lacking.

The influence of Lion’s Mane may make it possible for you to maintain balance in your emotional health. It may also enable you to have healthy responses to life stressors. Keeping Lion’s Mane in your routine may be one key to constant bliss and comfortability. 

Lion’s Mane & Cardiovascular Health

Adding some Lion’s Mane to your meals may help to keep your heart pumping and working efficiently, thanks to its phytochemicals and antioxidants that can preserve heart health and protect your cells. However, the extent of these benefits and their direct impact on heart health require more detailed research. Additionally, Lion’s Mane may support blood circulation, which could contribute to increased energy levels, but further studies are needed to confirm these effects. 

Preliminary research indicates that Lion’s Mane might have cardioprotective effects, such as supporting healthy blood glucose levels, which is critical to the protection of the heart because these factors can help you sustain healthy blood vessels and cardiac nerves to work optimally.  However, these findings are yet to be conclusively proven, and more research is still needed.

Some studies have explored the potential of compounds like hericenone B in Lion’s Mane to influence platelet and circulatory health, though this area of research is still developing. Platelet and circulatory health are very critical because they keep the blood flowing in your veins at an appropriate rate. 

These potential benefits may also be paired with the mushroom’s possible influence on cholesterol. Research into Lion’s Mane has included its potential to inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and impact fat metabolism, which could be beneficial for cardiovascular health and weight management. However, these effects are not yet fully established and warrant further investigation.

Lion’s Mane & Digestive Health

As if Lion’s Mane couldn’t get any better, consuming this mushroom may upgrade your digestive health. Lion’s Mane is believed to have potential benefits for digestive health, primarily due to its polysaccharides and steroids, which may nurture beneficial gut bacteria.

The potential of Lion’s Mane to contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, thereby optimizing GI tract function, is an area of interest, but it requires further scientific validation.

Compounds in Lion’s Mane, such as diterpenoids and polysaccharides, are being studied for their potential benefits on the gut, as well as their role in the immune response. However, the extent of these benefits in human health is still under investigation.

Lion’s Mane could potentially be beneficial for ushering in a positive gut microbiota that will help keep your gut strong. This could lead to improved immune function and a beneficial gut microbiome, but at this time, the research on these benefits is inconclusive. 

Lion’s Mane & Immune Support

Lion’s Mane is thought to support immune health by influencing the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. However, the direct impact of Lion’s Mane on immune system efficiency requires more comprehensive research. 

The fungal immunomodulatory proteins found in Lion’s Mane are believed to share characteristics with immunoglobulins and might support immune cell activity, including cytokine production and T-cell activation, which are critical for a healthy immune system. These findings, while promising, are still being explored for their full implications in immune health.

Additionally, we have to take a closer look at the antioxidant activity of Lion’s Mane. The antioxidant properties may play a role in reducing oxidative stress, potentially protecting cells. However, the extent and mechanisms of these antioxidant effects in the context of immune support are still under investigation.

Risks and Side Effects of Lion’s Mane

Much isn’t known about the potential side effects of Lion’s Mane because the corresponding research is limited, but there has been caution against toxicology. The results of one research study address gastrointestinal discomfort as an adverse effect of supplementation. The participants received four 250 mg tablets, consisting of 96% Lion’s Mane, that they took three times daily. This suggests a need for further research to understand dosage-related side effects.

You’ll want to take precautions if you are allergic or sensitive to the mushrooms. There was a case of mushroom sensitivity related to a dry extract of Lion’s Mane, and it resulted in respiratory failure. Another incident of sensitivity was dermatitis as a reaction.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a healthcare practitioner before consuming Lion’s Mane. During pregnancy, mushroom poisoning can be an issue because there may be potential exposure to contamination. Contamination may also be due to raw consumption, in which there may be a threat regarding bacteria exposure to the mother and baby.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Products

There are various Lion's Mane products, as this mushroom is a functional food. It is commonly available as a capsule or powdered supplement, and of course, it is available as a fresh mushroom. Additionally, it can be prepared into tea by boiling the dried mushrooms until they soften and then straining them.

The right product may be chosen based on your daily habits and preferences. You may prefer to make a tea if you prefer to drink it, or you may choose a powdered supplement, as these are more easily accessible compared to fresh Lion’s Mane, and they may be most versatile in their use. Whether you decide on capsules or fresh mushrooms, consider that this choice may also align with what an appropriate dose of Lion’s Mane would be for your needs. 

I suggest also including some recommendations for choosing a third-party tested product for safety and potentially a few other guidelines for choosing a quality product.

Incorporating Lion’s Mane Into Your Diet

On your wellness journey, you may discover various recipes and effective ways to incorporate Lion’s Mane. This will be determined by your tastes in food and the amount of supplement you need, as well as the type of supplement you use. One popular option is a powdered supplement, and it can be mixed into meals like pasta.

Preparing fresh Lion's Mane to be used in your meals would be ideal, especially considering other preparations may not be regulated regarding safety and efficacy standards. The mushrooms can be cooked in olive oil while cooking quickly on high heat. Your mushrooms can be cooked and added on top of a homemade burger, or you can eat it with chicken or have it on the side with something like rice.

If you opt for other types of supplementation, like capsules, you may see Lion’s Mane being offered by itself, or it may be provided along with other components. As you incorporate Lion’s Mane into your diet, be mindful that the dosage needs can vary between individuals. 

Some studies have suggested three to five grams of Lion’s Mane daily can be useful for improving cognitive function, while another possibility is to take three 350 mg Lion’s Mane capsules each day to initiate cognitive improvements. While this dosage can work for some, it is important that work with your doctor on a suitable dosage for you.


Overall, it would be a good thing to consider adding Lion’s Mane to your wellness routine. This mushroom serves as a multipurpose agent that may enhance your health in various ways.

While the potential benefits of Lion’s Mane for heart health, cognitive function, and gut health are promising, it's important to weigh these against the potential risks, especially given the limited research in certain areas. Developing a consistent routine with Lion’s Mane can help you maximize its benefits while monitoring any reactions or side effects.

If you're considering starting a Lion’s Mane regimen, it's advisable to begin slowly and observe how your body responds. For instance, incorporating Lion’s Mane tea into your routine a couple of times a week can be a good start. Consistency is key to evaluating its effects on your health.

As you establish your regimen, consider the fact that there are still aspects unresearched and unexplored regarding the use of Lion’s Mane in health. For these reasons, ease slowly into your use of the supplement, and try not to vary from your established schedule. 

For example, if you decide to have Lion’s Mane tea every Tuesday and Thursday morning, try to stick to this. Keeping a log of your consumption and any health changes can be invaluable in assessing the effects and determining the appropriate dosage for your needs.

One possible way to initiate your supplementation is to start with Lion's Mane mushroom powder. Some literature suggests that Lion’s Mane can be administered three times during one day. You don’t have to use it so frequently to start your regimen, but instead, begin by adding a nice scoop of powder into your tea or smoothie, and then gradually add it to certain dinners or meals like pasta if you’d prefer.

Later, if you decide that powder is not suitable for you, try Lion’s Mane capsules, but only take one in a day to start. Keep a log of any time you consume the supplement to assess the health results you experience and to determine if you need to increase or decrease your dosage. 

Remember, while some literature suggests various dosing schedules for Lion’s Mane, these recommendations are based on limited research. It's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially to determine the most suitable dosage for your individual health needs and goals. As research on Lion’s Mane continues to evolve, staying informed and cautious is key to safely integrating this supplement into your wellness journey.


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