Can lion’s mane make a difference in the prevention and treatment of diabetes?
Science suggests that the answer is yes!
We examined the research regarding lion's mane and diabetes. Here's what we found.
What is Lion’s Mane?
Native to North America, Europe, and Asia, lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. This mushroom feeds off dead trees, although they can be found on living trees where they live as parasites, killing the trees in the process.
Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane
Research on the health benefits of lion’s mane indicates the mushroom has significant potential to promote neurogenesis and to prevent and repair nerve damage. Lion’s mane appears to alleviate dementia, depression and anxiety, and neuropathic pain, as well as improve overall brain function.
Some of the apparent effects of the lion’s mane mushroom:
- reduces anxiety and depressive disorders
- improves cognitive functions and overall brain health
- protects against mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease
- reduces inflammation and nerve pains
- prevents blood clots
- encourages apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells
- improves digestive health
- lowers blood sugar levels
- boosts immunity
- reduces symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis
Lion’s Mane Bioactive Compounds
Lion’s mane mushrooms contain bioactive compounds, such as:
- prebiotic fibers
- digestive enzymes
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes (Diabetes mellitus) is a chronic health condition that affects your body’s ability to turn food (more specifically sugar) you consume into energy.
In healthy individuals, food gets broken down into sugars and released into the bloodstream. The pancreas then releases insulin, which allows your cells to absorb the sugar and use it for energy.
However, people with diabetes either don’t produce enough (or any) insulin or can’t use the insulin properly. Therefore, the sugars can’t get into the cells and provide energy to the body.
The Two Types of Diabetes
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes both lead to high blood sugar levels and diabetes complications that come as a result of the increase in blood sugar. However, the mechanisms behind these diseases are different.
Type 1 diabetes is usually hereditary and starts earlier in life, often in childhood or the early teenage years. People with this type don’t produce insulin. Therefore, they need to take insulin shots in order for their body to be able to turn food into energy.
Type 2 diabetes is often the result of poor lifestyle, although people with diabetes in their family history are more prone to getting it. People with this type don’t respond to insulin well or don’t make as much insulin as they should. In addition to insulin, the treatment for type 2 diabetes may include oral diabetes medication.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Early diabetes symptoms include an increase in hunger and thirst, the frequent need to urinate, dry skin, and weight loss. All of these symptoms will subside once a person starts taking insulin.
Still, if a person with diabetes doesn’t take medication or restrict their sugar intake, they can develop long-term complications, such as:
- eye problems
- slower wound healing
- nerve pain and damage
- skin infections
Can Lion’s Mane Treat Diabetes?
The medicinal mushroom Hericium erinaceus may help treat both types of diabetes as well as prevent type 2 diabetes. These medicinal mushrooms show great potential when it comes to lowering blood sugar levels, as well as lessening neuropathic pain related to diabetes.
The Hypoglycemic Potential of Lion’s Mane
Several studies suggest that lion’s mane mushroom extract may be able to lower blood glucose levels.
For example, an in vitro study examined the effects of Hericium erinaceus on blood sugar levels. Fruiting bodies found in lion’s mane had an α-glucosidase inhibitory activity, meaning that they exhibited the potential to lower blood sugar levels.
An animal study conducted in 2013 came to a similar conclusion. The researchers looked at the effect of Hericium erinaceus on diabetic rats. Results show that the lion's mane mushroom reduces blood sugar levels, at least in animals that exhibit diabetes, after 28 days of use.
Lion’s Mane and Diabetes-Related Neuropathic Pain
Taking a lion’s mane mushroom supplement may be able to improve symptoms of diabetes, such as nerve pain. A 2015 study investigated the effects of Hericium erinaceus extract on diabetic neuropathy in laboratory rats. Results show that the lion’s mane extract may be able to offer pain relief and aid in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy, at least in animals.
The Influence of Nerve Growth Factor on Diabetes
Hericenones and erinacines, compounds found in lion’s mane, show potential to promote the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) proteins in the body. These proteins have been linked to neurite outgrowth, as well as the production of many cell types, including pancreatic beta cells.
The pancreatic cells are responsible for insulin production. Although more human trials on the effects of lion’s mane on the pancreas are needed, due to its ability to promote NGF production, this mushroom shows promise when it comes to the prevention of diabetes.
What We Can Conclude About Lion’s Mane and Diabetes
Here’s what we know to date regarding Hericium erinaceus and diabetes:
- According to human cell and animal studies, lion’s mane could aid in diabetes treatment due to its hypoglycemic potential.
- Lion’s mane may be able to alleviate neuropathic pain, a common long-term complication of diabetes.
- Compounds found in lion’s mane may aid in the production of NGF proteins, which influence the pancreas and its ability to produce insulin.
- More human studies are needed to learn about the underlying mechanisms of lion’s mane and its protective effects on diabetes.
- Given that there are no downsides to taking lion’s mane, its low cost, and high availability, it may make sense to include the fungus into one’s diet as a way to prevent or lessen the symptoms of diabetes.
Does Lion’s Mane Interact With Diabetes Medications?
There are no studies on the interactions of diabetes medications with an aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus. However, due to the potential hypoglycemic effects of lion’s mane, you should keep track of your blood sugar levels when taking a lion’s mane supplement in order to make sure the glucose level doesn’t drop beneath the recommended level.
Interested in Trying Lion’s Mane for Diabetes?
If you’re interested in trying lion’s mane for diabetes, and you’re not a fan of the earthy taste of mushrooms, our Forij Superfood Granola may be the perfect choice for you.
The hyperconcentrated extract we use packs quite a punch, as it contains 10-15 times the nutrients a regular mushroom powder does.
Additionally, the granola contains a chaga (an adaptogenic mushroom with promising anti-diabetic potential) and cordyceps extract, is vegan, gluten-free, and tastes delicious. You’ll never have to suffer through the taste of mushrooms in order to reap their benefits again!
Lion’s Mane and Diabetes FAQ
Can you take lion’s mane every day?
Consuming lion's mane supplements every day is not only safe but quite beneficial. Even at high doses, lion’s mane won’t cause any serious side effects. However, we suggest starting with a lower dosage in order to prevent digestion issues.
Are there risks and side effects to taking lion’s mane?
There are no known adverse effects to taking lion’s mane. However, if you are pregnant or planning for a baby, you may want to avoid lion’s mane, as well as many other types of adaptogenic mushrooms. Although these mushrooms are probably safe for pregnant people and infants, there is no research to support this, so you may want to err on the side of caution.
Is lion’s mane a blood thinner?
Lion’s mane mushrooms are anticoagulants, which means they decrease blood clotting. While the mushroom won’t act as a blood thinner on its own, it can aid in the blood-thinning properties of certain medications. Therefore, if you are on blood thinners, it’s best to consult your doctor before you start taking a lion’s mane supplement.
Can lion’s mane be taken on an empty stomach?
Yes, it’s safe to take lion’s mane extracts and supplements on an empty stomach. However, if you have a sensitive stomach, doing so may cause some digestion issues. To prevent digestion issues, take your lion's mane supplements with a meal or opt for fortified foods, such as our granola.
Can you take a lion's mane mushroom and reishi mushroom together?
Yes, you can take lion’s mane mushrooms with any other type of medicinal fungus, including reishi. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to adaptogenic mushrooms, so the benefits of reishi mushrooms can only be improved upon if you take them with lion’s mane and vice versa.
This article was written strictly for informational purposes and is not intended to inform about medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).