It’s been proven that lion’s mane mushrooms promote nerve growth, but do they help relieve nerve pain?
We took a deep dive into the latest research on the effects of Hericium erinaceus on neuropathy and were quite impressed with what we found.
Let’s get into the science.
The lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is one of the healthiest medicinal mushrooms you can consume. It commonly grows in North America, Asia, and Europe and is widely used in alternative medicine for the beneficial effects it has on mental, physical, and spiritual health.
What are the Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane?
Research on the potential benefits of the lion’s mane mushroom indicates this fungus has the potential to promote nerve regeneration by stimulating nerve growth factor protein production, and hence repair brain cells. It appears to ease the symptoms of dementia, lessen oxidative stress, as well as improve brain functions and neuronal health.
Some of the beneficial effects of lion’s mane include:
- reduces symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, and depressive disorders
- reduces inflammation and oxidation
- improves overall brain health and cognitive functioning, including learning and memory
- reduces the risk of heart disease and blood clots
- promotes neurite outgrowth
- improves mental clarity and protects against mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease
- lowers blood sugar levels and aids in diabetes treatment
- encourages apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells, and has the potential to fight cancer
- improves digestive health and prevents stomach ulcers
- boosts the immune system and improves immune function
- has neuroprotective properties and reduces nerve damage in neurodegenerative autoimmune disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
What are the Side Effects of Lion’s Mane?
There’s no scientific evidence for any negative side effects of lion’s mane, while centuries of use suggest that this mushroom is completely safe to consume for healthy individuals. However, you should be cautious of taking medicinal mushrooms, including Hericium erinaceus, if you are on blood thinners.
Since this mushroom prevents blood clotting, lion’s mane could interact with medication that has the same effect (such as Aspirin, Heparin, and Warfarin) and slow down coagulation and wound healing. Thus, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional before you start taking lion’s mane if you take anticoagulants.
What is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is nerve dysfunction and damage—commonly caused by medication, an autoimmune disease, or a neurological disorder—that affects nerves that reside outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves). The symptoms usually affect nerve endings on the hands and feet first, and spread upwards to other parts of the body.
Neuropathy is highly painful and disruptive for those unfortunate enough to be plagued by it.
Certain medications can cause neuropathy, with chemotherapy patients being particularly susceptible to having neuropathy as a side effect.
Medical conditions that can cause neuropathy include:
- diabetes (more than half of diabetes patients will develop some type of neuropathic pain)
- infections (such as hepatitis B and C, HIV, Lyme disease, and diphtheria)
- hereditary neuropathy disorders (such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease)
- bone marrow disorders
- trauma and nerve injury
- tumors that press on peripheral nerves
- autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus)
Symptoms of neuropathy include:
- numbness and tingling in hands and feet
- sharp or burning nerve pains
- lack of coordination
- sensitivity to touch
- muscle weakness and paralysis
- heat intolerance
- digestive and bladder problems
- dizziness and drops in blood pressure
Does Lion’s Mane Help Neuropathy?
Yes, lion’s mane mushrooms have the potential to alleviate neuropathic pain. A 2019 study examined the effects of Hericium erinaceus on cisplatin-induced peripheral neuropathy.
Cisplatin is one of the most effective anticancer drugs, commonly used to treat solid tumors. However, people who take high doses of it often experience neuropathic pain. This severely limits the dosage cancer patients can receive, and, in turn, the efficacy of the drug.
In this study, the researchers gave half of the animals both cisplatin and a lion’s mane hot aqueous extract, while the other half were only given cisplatin. The animals that were given Hericium erinaceus showed fewer signs of neuropathy and cisplatin-induced weight loss.
The neuropathy-relieving activity of lion’s mane warrants a further detailed investigation, especially on human subjects. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to add this mushroom to your diet as alternative medicine if you struggle with neuropathic pain.
Does Lion’s Mane Promote Nerve Growth?
Yes, lion’s mane appears to promote nerve growth by stimulating the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) proteins.
An in vitro study suggests that one of the properties of the lion’s mane mushroom is its ability to promote neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells. Bioactive compounds isolated from Hericium erinaceus fruit bodies significantly increased the presence of NGF proteins in these cells.
Human studies (such as the double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of Hericium erinaceus on mild cognitive impairment) show promising results, but the body of evidence is not sufficiently robust to conclusively say that lion’s mane promotes nerve growth and regeneration in humans.
Does Lion’s Mane Repair Myelin?
Yes, scientific and anecdotal evidence suggest that lion’s mane can repair myelin. A myelin sheath is an insulating layer that forms around nerve cells.
This insulating layer is integral for the proper functioning of nerve cells, and demyelination—myelin sheath damage—can cause many neurological disorders (for example, multiple sclerosis).
The beneficial effects of Hericium erinaceus on multiple sclerosis—a disorder caused by demyelination—are widely known, and many MS patients use it for its ability to repair the myelin sheath.
Although there are no human studies on the effects of lion’s mane on the myelin sheath, a few animal studies looked at the potential benefits 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 Nerve Regeneration
While there are no human studies on this topic, animal studies suggest that lion’s mane mushrooms could aid in the regeneration of nerve cells.
An animal study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms looked at the neuroregenerative potential of a lion’s mane extract (higher basidiomycetes) in the treatment of peripheral nerve injuries.
The researchers compared the effects of a lion’s mane with the effects of vitamin B12 (commonly used in neuropathy treatment) following crush injury to the peroneal nerve of adult rats.
Hericium erinaceus elicited quicker peripheral nerve regeneration in the early stages of recovery. These results are quite promising and warrant more human research on the topic of lion’s mane and nerve regeneration.
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 fruiting bodies of many functional mushrooms, including lion’s mane—can cross the blood-brain barrier quite easily. These beneficial compounds induce nerve growth factor (NGF) production that can provide many lion's mane benefits, including brain injury protection, nerve regeneration (neurogenesis), and myelination.
Can Lion's Mane Repair Nerve Damage?
According to research, the lion's mane mushroom is extremely effective in nerve repair and regeneration. Nerve regeneration helps relieve symptoms of neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and Parkinson's disease.
The potential of lion's mane mushrooms for nerve repair was examined in a 2011 animal study. In this study, rats with peripheral nerve damage were given an oral extract from the fresh fruit bodies of lion's mane.
Results show that the function recovery, examined with a walking track analysis, was significantly faster in rats that were given the lion's mane extract than the negative control group.
Though further research on human nerve fiber injuries is needed, this study suggests that the activity of aqueous extract of lion's mane prevents further injury and speeds up the nerve healing process, at least in animal nervous systems.
What We Can Conclusively Say About Lion’s Mane and Neuropathy
Here’s what we know to date about lion’s mane and neuropathy:
- Lion’s mane appears to ease neuropathic pain caused by cisplatin, a common anti-cancer drug.
- According to an animal study, Hericium erinaceus can repair peripheral nerves following damage caused by a crush injury.
- Lion’s mane stimulates the production of nerve growth factors, and, in turn, promotes the growth of nerve cells.
- Hericium erinaceus appears to promote remyelination as well, at least according to animal studies.
- More human studies are needed to uncover the underlying mechanisms of lion’s mane and its effects on neuropathy.
- 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 as dietary supplementation proactively.
Are You Interested in Taking Lion’s Mane for Neuropathy?
If you want to try Hericium erinaceus for neuropathy, we suggest doing so with our healthy mushroom granola.
Why? Well, it’s delicious, for one. You can choose from three flavors—sunflower seed cacao, vanilla almond, and cinnamon—but we suggest getting a bundle of all three as they’re equally tasty.
More importantly, in one bowl of gluten-free, vegan granola, you get a daily dose of lion’s mane, as well as extracts of cordyceps and chaga mushrooms, which have massive health benefits of their own.
Lion’s Mane and Neuropathy FAQ
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 a lion’s mane mushroom extract.
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.
Can you take too much lion's mane?
We do not recommend taking more than the recommended dosage of lion’s mane mushrooms, which is anywhere from 250mg to 5000mg depending on what you’re taking it for. Taking too much lion’s mane won’t cause any serious issues, but it may cause stomach discomfort and diarrhea.
What time of day should you take lion's mane?
It’s best to take lion’s mane in the morning or early afternoon. Like many adaptogenic mushrooms, lion’s mane can have energy-boosting effects and improve your focus, which can be quite beneficial during the workday. However, if you take it later in the day, the stimulating effect of lion’s mane may interrupt your sleep and make you restless.
Why does lion's mane make me sleepy?
Lion’s mane mushrooms stabilize cortisol levels. This hormone fluctuates throughout the day, making you feel alert during the day and sleepy in the evening. Thus, taking a lion’s mane supplement can help you fall asleep and promote more restful sleep.
However, lion’s mane shouldn’t make you tired during the day, although some confuse the anxiolytic properties of this mushroom with feeling sleepy.
Can I take lion’s mane with other medicinal mushrooms?
Yes, you can take lion’s mane with any other type of medicinal fungus, including the reishi mushroom, cordyceps, chaga, and many more. When it comes to adaptogenic mushrooms, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Therefore, the benefits of lion’s mane can only be improved upon by taking them with other mushrooms 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).