Lion’s mane seems to be the miracle mushroom, but can it prevent and treat cancer?
We looked at the latest research on the effects of Hericium erinaceus on various types of cancers and were quite impressed with what we found.
Let’s dive into the details.
What is Lion’s Mane?
The lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is an edible mushroom known as one of the healthiest fungi in alternative medicine. It’s been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and is still popular for its brain-boosting benefits. Lion’s mane grows primarily in northern Europe, Asia, and North America.
Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane
Research on the lion’s mane mushroom’s benefits indicates this fungus has the potential to promote the production of nerve growth factors and repair nerve cells. It appears to ease the symptoms of dementia, mood disorders, and neuropathic pain, as well as improve overall cognitive functioning.
Some of the beneficial effects of Hericium erinaceus:
- reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
- improves cognitive functions and overall brain health
- protects against mild cognitive impairment and memory loss in illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease
- reduces inflammation and nerve pains
- encourages apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells
- improves digestive health
- lowers blood sugar levels
- reduces inflammation and provides antioxidant activity
- provides protective effects for the nervous system and reduces symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis
Bioactive Compounds Found in Lion’s Mane
Hericium erinaceus mushroom delivers an arsenal of healthy bioactive compounds, such as:
- digestive enzymes
- prebiotic fibers
- hericenones and erinacines
While many of these compounds are only beginning to be understood by science, some are known to have profound effects. For example, hericenones, found in lion’s mane fruiting bodies, and erinacines, present in the mycelium of the fungus, have incredible neurotrophic potential.
Can Lion’s Mane Cure Cancer?
Hericium erinaceus is one of the few medicinal mushrooms with the potential to aid in the treatment of various cancers, including leukemia, breast cancer, and bladder cancer.
Aromatic compounds found in lion’s mane were shown to cause apoptosis of cancer cells, meaning that they encourage the death of cells affected by cancer.
Cerebroside E, a compound found in the fruiting bodies of Hericium erinaceus, was shown to be particularly beneficial in cancer treatment. A 2015 study concluded that cerebroside E inhibited angiogenesis (the formation of new blood cells) in cancer cells and promoted cancer apoptosis.
Lion’s Mane and Leukemia
Although more human studies are needed, cell research suggests that lion’s mane mushroom supplements could support leukemia treatment.
A human cell study examined the effects of lion’s mane on leukemia cells. The results show that Hericium erinaceus mushroom extracts have therapeutic potential against leukemia, as both aqueous and ethanolic extracts aided in cancer cell apoptosis.
Lion’s Mane and Gastrointestinal Cancer
Lion’s mane was shown to have anti-cancer potential when it comes to various cancers of the digestive tract.
A 2014 study concluded that lion’s mane extracts could protect against colon cancer and gastric cancer, especially when used in combination with traditional cancer treatment (such as chemotherapy and radiation).
Lion’s Mane and Gastric Cancer
A study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms looked at the effects of Hericium erinaceus on precancerous human gastric cells.
Polysaccharides isolated from lion’s mane mycelia were shown to be effective in preventing gastric cancer progression.
Thus, a lion’s mane mushroom supplement could prevent gastric cancer from forming and slow down its development if it forms.
Lion’s Mane and Colon Cancer
Lion’s mane polysaccharides could be beneficial in colon cancer treatment, as well. According to a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, polysaccharide HEFP-2b, a bioactive compound contained in lion’s mane mushrooms, has the potential to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells.
These effects could be related to lion’s mane’s ability to stop the cell cycle at the S-phase (before mitosis or meiosis), although more research is needed to fully understand this mechanism.
Lion’s Mane and Lung Cancer
Studies published on the effects of Hericium erinaceus on lung cancer show great potential when it comes to both lung cancer cell apoptosis and metastasis inhibition.
Lion’s Mane and Lung Cancer Apoptosis
According to a study published in the 2020 issue of the Food and Function Journal, peptides found in lion’s mane could aid in lung cancer treatment. These peptides have the ability to capture free radicals and induce apoptosis in human lung carcinoma cells.
Lion’s Mane and Lung Cancer Metastasis Inhibition
In addition to causing lung cancer cell apoptosis, lion’s mane may inhibit lung cancer metastasis.
An animal study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry examined the effects of lion’s mane on colon cancer cells that metastasized to the lungs.
Results show that lion’s mane mushroom extracts have the potential to inhibit metastasis of cancer cells to the lung, at least in CT-26 colon cancer-transplanted mice.
The mice that were given a lion’s mane extract were 69% less likely to develop lung cancer metastasis than those that weren’t given this mushroom.
Lion’s Mane and Breast Cancer
Although the research on lion’s mane and breast cancer is still in its infancy, the results are promising.
A 2021 in vitro study examined the anti-cancer effects of this medicinal mushroom on estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) human breast adenocarcinoma cells.
ER+ breast cancers grow in response to the hormone estrogen, and they make up about 80% of all breast cancers.
Results show that a Hericium erinaceus water extract could be a potent candidate for ER+ breast cancer treatment due to this mushroom’s apoptotic properties.
What We Can Conclusively Say About Lion’s Mane and Cancer
Here’s what we know to date about Hericium erinaceus and cancer:
- Bioactive compounds found in lion’s mane encourage cancer cell apoptosis, according to several cell studies.
- A study on the effects of lion’s mane on leukemia shows promising results.
- Lion’s mane shows potential when it comes to the treatment of various gastrointestinal cancers, including gastric and colon cancer.
- According to human cell and animal studies, Hericium erinaceus could aid in lung cancer treatment and prevent colon cancer from metastasizing in the lungs.
- Lion’s mane could aid in ER+ breast cancer treatment, according to a 2021 in vitro study.
- More human studies are needed to explore the underlying mechanisms of lion’s mane and its effects on cancer.
- Given that there are no downsides to taking lion’s mane, its relatively low cost, and its high availability, it may make sense to include this functional food into one’s diet as a way to prevent cancer or aid in its treatment.
Are You Interested in Taking Lion’s Mane for Cancer?
If you want to start taking lion’s mane as a way to prevent or treat cancer, why not have it in your morning bowl of cereal?
Forij Superfood Granola contains hyperconcentrated extracts of lion’s mane, cordyceps, and chaga mushrooms. The granola is vegan, gluten-free, and made of organic ingredients.
You can choose from three delicious flavors: cinnamon, sunflower seed cacao, and vanilla almond. Or get a bundle with all three flavors if you want to start your morning with some variety.
Lion’s Mane and Cancer FAQ
Who should not take lion's mane?
Lion’s mane is generally safe for everyone. However, if you’re prone to allergies—especially to mold, yeast, and other fungi—you should be cautious when taking any adaptogenic mushroom, including lion’s mane.
Some people also choose to avoid these adaptogenic mushrooms during pregnancy, although there is no evidence that lion’s mane supplements cause any harm to the fetus or the mother.
How quickly does lion's mane work?
That depends on what you’re taking the mushroom for. You can notice the short-term effects of lion’s mane after just a few days. You’ll likely feel less anxious and more energized within the first two weeks of taking lion’s mane mushroom extracts. However, to reap the long-term benefits of lion’s mane, such as its antioxidant activities, you should be taking it consistently for at least a few months.
Does lion's mane make you high?
No, lion’s mane can’t get you high. This mushroom does not contain psychoactive compounds, such as psilocybin, which are responsible for the mind-altering properties of magic mushrooms. Therefore, while you may notice spiritual benefits such as improved clarity and brain function, you don’t have to worry about psychedelic effects when taking lion’s mane.
Are there negative effects of lion's mane?
Although there is no research on the risks and side effects of this mushroom, anecdotal evidence and centuries of use suggest that lion’s mane has few, if any, negative effects.
For example, people who are not used to adaptogenic mushrooms may experience digestive issues such as diarrhea and bloating.
However, these side effects should subside once your body gets used to the medicinal mushroom, and you can always lower the dose you’re taking to lessen these negative effects.
Should you take lion's mane every day?
Yes, if you want to reap the full specter of benefits lion's mane provides, you should take this functional mushroom every day. Luckily, with so many ways to take lion's mane—capsules, tea, fortified foods, and fresh mushrooms, to name a few—you’re unlikely to run out of options.
What time of day should you take lion's mane?
It’s best to take lion’s mane in the morning, either before or with your breakfast. That way, the energizing and memory-boosting benefits of Hericium erinaceus will help you thrive during work hours.
Can I take lion’s mane with the reishi mushroom?
Yes, you can take lion’s mane with any medicinal mushroom, including reishi mushrooms. When it comes to medicinal mushrooms, the whole is better than the sum of its parts, so you’ll likely reap more benefits of lion’s mane if you take it with other adaptogenic fungi.
This article was written strictly for informational purposes and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The statements contained herein are not evaluated by healthcare professionals or the FDA advisory board and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment information.