Lion’s mane mushrooms have many proven benefits for your body and mind, but can they really reduce symptoms of multiple sclerosis?
Research seems to suggest that the answer is yes.
After reading through the clinical trials on the lion's mane mushroom and multiple sclerosis, we can confidently say that lion's mane appears to alleviate symptoms of this progressive disease.
And now for the finer details of how lion’s mane affects multiple sclerosis.
What are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
Lion’s mane mushrooms, otherwise known as yamabushitake, monkey head mushroom, or by its scientific name Hericium erinaceus, is a medicinal fungus that’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
The fungus grows in Europe, North America, and Asia, feeding off dead tree debris, as well as living trees. Although it’s been a staple in the East Asian diet for a long time, researchers are just starting to look into the mechanisms behind the many benefits of lion’s mane.
Lion’s Mane Benefits
Research on the health benefits of lion’s mane indicates the mushroom has significant potential to promote neurite outgrowth and to prevent and repair nerve damage. Lion’s mane appears to alleviate dementia, depression and anxiety, and neuropathic pain, among other neurological effects.
Hericium erinaceus seems to aid in:
- reducing anxiety and depression symptoms
- improving cognition
- protecting against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- reducing inflammation and nerve pains
- encouraging apoptosis of cancer cells
- reducing risk of heart diseases
- speeding recovery of nervous system injuries
- lowering blood sugar levels
- reducing symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis
Lion’s Mane Vitamins and Minerals
The lion's mane mushroom contains plenty of vitamins, including thiamin, biotin, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6. It also contains important minerals for health, such as:
Lion’s Mane Bioactive Compounds
In addition to vitamins and minerals, lion’s mane mushrooms contain bioactive compounds, such as:
- prebiotic fibers
- digestive enzymes
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS, for short) is the most common demyelinating disease, meaning that the source of the symptoms lies in the progressive damage to the myelin sheath of nerves.
MS is a progressive disease that doesn’t have a cure as of yet, although many medications, as well as herbal remedies, can slow down the progression of the disease.
What is a Myelin Sheath?
A myelin sheath is an insulating layer that forms around nerve cells in the central nervous system, as well as the spinal cord.
These sheaths are mainly found on nerves that need to send quick electrical impulses to the brain, and they form down the entire length of the nerve.
Myelin sheaths protect the nerves from electrical impulses generated by neurons that are in close proximity, and help the neuron they’re attached to send impulses more rapidly.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Symptoms of MS are caused by the inability of myelin sheaths to do their jobs due to damage. These symptoms include:
- fatigue and weakness
- vision issues
- numbness, tingling, and mobility issues
- muscle spasms
- neuropathic pain
- bladder control and bowel issues
- libido problems
- mental health issues (especially anxiety, depression, mood swings, and irritability)
- issues with cognitive functions (problems focusing, thinking, and learning)
Is Lion’s Mane Good for Multiple Sclerosis?
Lion’s mane mushrooms show great promise when it comes to multiple sclerosis treatment, both anecdotally and scientifically.
Many people with MS notice an improvement in their symptoms once they start taking a lion’s mane mushroom extract. Dr. Terry Wahls, a medical professional who turned to medicinal mushrooms once she got diagnosed with MS, and her patients swear by its remyelination properties.
Although there are no human studies on the effects of lion’s mane on MS, a few animal studies looked at the effect of this medicinal mushroom on the myelination process.
For example, an in vitro animal study compared the myelination process in cells with a Hericium erinaceus extract to those without. Results show that the lion’s mane mushroom extract both caused the myelination process to start earlier and provided a higher rate of myelination.
Lion’s Mane May Alleviate Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
People with multiple sclerosis often report that lion’s mane mushrooms reduced symptoms of their disease significantly. Here’s how these medicinal mushrooms can alleviate common MS symptoms:
Lion’s Mane Has the Potential to Ease Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Due to the myelin sheath damage, the nerves may send signals to your pain receptors, which can cause muscle spasms and acute pain. So, does lion’s mane help neuropathy? Medical news research seems to suggest so.
A few animal studies suggest that lion’s mane extract has the potential to alleviate neuropathic pain. For example, a 2015 study investigated the effects of Hericium erinaceus on alloxan-induced naturopathic pain in rats. The study concluded that the groups of animals treated with the mushroom showed fewer signs of oxidative stress caused by pain after 6 weeks of treatment.
Another animal study focused on the effects of Hericium erinaceus on neuropathic pain caused by a spinal nerve ligation in mice. The animals who were treated with a lion’s mane extract showed fewer signs of naturopathic pain and neuroinflammation than the control group.
Lion’s Mane Can Alleviate Depression and Anxiety
Multiple sclerosis affects mental health just as much as physical health, with anxiety and depression being the most common issues. Luckily, lion’s mane mushrooms show great potential when it comes to managing mild anxiety and depression.
A 2018 study investigated the effects of Hericium erinaceus on anxiety and depressive behaviors in mice. The results suggest that the medicinal mushroom reduced these behaviors by promoting hippocampal neurogenesis.
A Japanese human study came to a similar conclusion. In it, the participants took a psychological test that measured depressive behavior. Then, they were divided into two groups, one of which was given a lion’s mane supplement, while the other group was given a placebo. After 4 weeks, the group that was given the lion's mane supplement scored much lower on the test, meaning that they exhibited fewer depressive behaviors, than the control group.
Lion’s Mane Can Lessen Memory Issues
Multiple sclerosis can cause lesions to develop in the parts of the brain responsible for processing information, which can lead to memory loss and difficulty learning new skills. However, research suggests that, with regular use, lion’s mane may be able to lessen these symptoms of MS.
A Japanese study looked at the effects of Hericium erinaceus on peptide-induced memory and learning deficits in mice. Mice were fed a diet rich in lion’s mane for 23 days. The results show that the mushroom prevented the impairment of short-term and visual recognition memory caused by the peptides.
These findings suggest that Hericium erinaceus could prevent memory problems caused by diseases such as dementia and multiple sclerosis.
Lion’s Mane Can Help with MS Related Bowel Problems
People with progressive MS experience a plethora of bowel issues, from constipation to irritable bowel syndrome. According to research, the effects of lion’s mane on your bowels can be quite beneficial.
For example, a 2017 study examined the effects of lion’s mane mushrooms on inflammatory bowel disease. Results show that this medicinal mushroom relieved the symptoms of bowel inflammation by regulating the gut microbiota.
What We Can Conclude About Lion’s Mane and Multiple Sclerosis
Here’s what we know to date regarding Hericium erinaceus and multiple sclerosis:
- According to animal studies, lion’s mane mushrooms show great promise as a natural way to manage MS, due to their remyelination properties.
- Lion’s mane mushrooms can also alleviate various symptoms common for MS, such as anxiety and depression, memory issues, bowel problems, and neuropathic pain.
- More human studies are needed to learn more about the underlying mechanisms of lion’s mane and its effects on MS.
- Given that there is no downside to lion’s mane consumption, its relatively low cost, and high availability, it may make sense to include the medicinal mushrooms into one’s diet proactively.
Lion’s Mane Dosage for Multiple Sclerosis
If you’re using lion’s mane to manage MS, a higher dosage may be more beneficial. Some people with MS report taking 750 mg per day, while others take upwards of 1000 mg per day. Still, if you’re new to lion’s mane, you can always start with a lower dosage and work your way up over a few weeks.
What Time of Day Should You Take Lion’s Mane?
It’s best to take lion’s mane in the morning or early afternoon, as the mushroom can have a stimulating effect and may make you feel more focused and alert. You can take lion’s mane at night, but the stimulating abilities of the mushroom may make you feel restless.
How Long Does it Take for Lion’s Mane to Work?
It will take anywhere from two weeks to a few months for you to notice a difference in your symptoms. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t notice the benefits of lion’s mane immediately. Be persistent and take lion’s mane every day, and you’ll notice a difference before you know it.
Interested in Trying Lion’s Mane for Multiple Sclerosis?
If you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, there is no harm in including a lion’s mane supplement in your diet, and the benefits it could provide are vast. However, it’s important to make sure your supplements are of premium quality.
Our Forij Superfood Granola is vegan, gluten-free, and contains a hyperconcentrated extract of lion’s mane, as well as chaga and cordyceps mushrooms. In a morning bowl of cereal, you get 10-15 times the nutrient density you would get in a regular mushroom powder, with none of the mushroom taste.
Lion’s Mane and Multiple Sclerosis FAQ
Does lion's mane cross the blood-brain barrier?
Yes, lion’s mane compounds can pass through the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier serves an important function, screening sensitive brain tissues from toxins carried in the blood.
While protecting your brain from toxins, the blood-brain barrier also keeps out many beneficial substances as well.
However, hericenones and erinacines—bioactive compounds found in many adaptogenic mushrooms, including lion’s mane—can cross the blood-brain barrier quite easily.
These beneficial compounds stimulate nerve growth factors (NGF) that can provide many benefits, including brain injury protection, nerve regeneration (neurogenesis), and myelination.
Is lion's mane a blood thinner?
Lion’s mane mushrooms are anticoagulants, which means they decrease blood clotting. While the adaptogenic mushroom won’t act as a blood thinner on its own, it may 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 lion’s mane supplements.
Can lion's mane reverse brain damage?
Yes, research seems to suggest lion’s mane mushrooms can reverse brain damage. Hericium erinaceus has a protective effect on the brain. Research suggests that, in case of central nervous system nerve damage caused by a stroke or a progressive illness (such as Alzheimer's disease or MS), lion’s mane may be able to protect the brain.
Can you take lion’s mane with antidepressants?
Although anecdotal evidence suggests that it is safe to take lion’s mane with antidepressants, there is no research to back up that claim as of yet. Therefore, if you plan on taking lion’s mane in higher doses and you’re on antidepressants, make sure to consult with your physician or psychiatrist beforehand.
Can lion’s mane regenerate nerves?
Yes, studies suggest that lion’s mane shows the potential to regenerate nerves, and even create new neurons. The bioactive compounds found in the medicinal mushroom stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) proteins. The NGF proteins, in turn, stimulate the creation of new neurons as well as the regeneration of existing ones.
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 and shiitake mushroom varieties. When it comes to adaptogenic mushrooms, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, so the benefits of reishi mushrooms can only be improved upon by taking them with lion’s make and vice versa.
Does lion’s mane work immediately?
If you take a lion’s mane supplement every day, you should start noticing some changes in two to three weeks. However, don’t get discouraged if you don’t see an immediate improvement in your symptoms and overall health. Keep taking daily supplements of the medicinal mushroom, and maybe even increase the amount you consume daily, and you’ll surely notice changes in a month or so.
This article was written strictly for informational purposes and is not intended to inform about illness diagnosis or treatment of any kind. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).