The first time Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) caught my attention was back in 2015. I was on my typical “after-work walk” and geeking out to an episode of SmartDrugSmarts (a podcast) in which a mushroom aficionado, researcher, and expert was discussing the therapeutic potential of Lion’s mane mushroom. Immediately after finishing the episode, I created a note within my phone to order Lion’s mane mushroom for self-experimentation (specifically to subjectively assess whether it would enhance my cognition).
Despite the phone memo to order Lion’s mane mushroom, I abstained from ordering any because I was already in a highly productive daily routine (using a supplement stack that I liked) and didn’t want to risk potential reduced productivity as a result of Lion’s mane mushroom. Eventually, in my free time, I got around to searching for Lion’s mane mushroom supplements online, but realized a couple things: (1) prices of these supplements were high and (2) vendors seemed to be selling fake Lion’s mane mushroom (e.g. products labeled “Lion’s mane mushroom” devoid of authentic Lion’s mane mushroom). For this reason, I skipped on placing an order.
Nearly 2 years would pass since my initial interest Lion’s mane mushroom before I finally took the plunge and ordered some. What prompted me to finally order some was the unexpected onset of a health condition: peripheral neuropathy. Specifically, EMG tests revealed median and radial nerve abnormalities, the combination of which likely explained my nerve pain.
What is Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)?
Lion’s mane mushroom is an edible mushroom with medicinal properties that’s native to North America, Europe, and Asia. Experts identify Lion’s mane mushroom via its: affinity for hardwoods (especially American beech), long spines (exceeding 1 cm), growth in a single clump of dangling spines, and emergence in the late summer/fall months.
If you Google images of Lion’s mane mushroom, you’ll understand why it’s sometimes referred to as “bearded tooth fungus” – it looks like a beard in the shape of a tooth. It is apparently common for non-experts to mistake lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) for other edible Hericium species.
Taking Lion’s Mane Mushroom for Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)…
Approximately 2-3 months after the initial onset of my nerve pain, I ordered a Lion’s mane mushroom supplement and began ingesting it daily. I figured that if it increased nerve-growth factor (NGF), it might: restore normative peripheral nerve function and/or regenerate any damaged peripheral nerves (such from injury). For about 2 months, I continued dosing with Lion’s mane mushroom on a daily basis.
In my personal experience, supplementation with Lion’s mane mushroom failed to help my nerve condition. That said, I didn’t experience any negative or unwanted side effects from Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation. Moreover, I felt as though my brain function (perception/cognition) was slightly different (neither improved nor worsened) compared to pre-supplementation. (Because this wasn’t a strong effect, I’m thinking it was likely a placebo response).
Why didn’t Lion’s mane mushroom improve my nerve pain?
There are a multitude of reasons as to why Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation may have been ineffective for my nerve pain – I’ve listed them below.
- It’s just not effective: Let’s face it, Lion’s mane mushroom may just be downright ineffective for the treatment of nerve damage and/or nerve conditions in humans. It may work well in certain animal models, but perhaps it’s relatively useless in humans. Another possibility is that this supplement was ineffective for my particular type of nerve condition. Also worth considering is that Lion’s mane mushroom may have simply been incompatible with me as an individual based on things like: my genetics, neurophysiology, metabolism, etc.
- Suboptimal dosing: It’s possible that I was administering too low of a dose and/or that the bioavailability of my supplement was too low to elicit any therapeutic effect. That said, because I didn’t want to take mega-doses each day (as this would be relatively expensive – and possibly a complete waste of money), I figured the dosage guidelines on the supplement were worth following.
- Inadequate duration: I administered Lion’s mane every day for approximately 2 months. It’s possible that Lion’s mane mushroom is only effective for the treatment of nerve conditions if administered for an even longer-term such as 90 or 120 days straight. Another possibility might be that, although Lion’s mane supplementation immediately helps restore nerve function, users will not notice benefits from supplementation for at least 3 to 12 months after initiation – due to the fact that nerves grow very slowly.
- Multi-faceted condition: Perhaps there’s more to my particular nerve condition than just “nerves.” It’s possible that I’m dealing with a condition like RSI (repetitive strain injury) or cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) in which a combination of nerves, tendons, blood vessels, and/or small muscles of the hands are synergistically implicated.
- Untreated cause: It’s also possible that the cause of my nerve condition is still untreated. For example, let’s hypothesize that: daily exposure to biotoxins (e.g. mold, a gas leak, etc.), an untreated infection, or an undiagnosed autoimmune problem is the direct cause of my nerve condition. If the direct cause of my nerve condition is somehow still unaddressed, then Lion’s mane mushroom stands little to zero chance of facilitating a therapeutic effect until the direct cause is controlled.
Lion’s Mane for Nerve Damage & Regeneration (Research)
Included below are summaries of studies in which the effects of Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) upon nerves were recorded. Keep in mind that some of these studies investigated the effect of Lion’s mane on nerves from within the central nervous system (CNS) as opposed to the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
2017: Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), Modulates Purinoceptor-Coupled Calcium Signaling and Murine Nociceptive Behavior.
Liu, Chueh, Chen, et al. noted that H. erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushroom) is understood to elicit neurotrophic effects via promotion of nerve growth factor synthesis. Additionally, researchers previously discovered that H. erinaceus suppresses adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-induced calcium signaling in neuronal PC12 cells. ATP is a neurotransmitter that can stimulate purinoceptors (P2 purinergic receptor) to facilitate signaling of cellular calcium and secretion to induce physiologic effects such as pain.
- Intro: Because chronic pain significantly reduces quality of life proper treatment is of critical importance. Standard treatment for pain conditions involves ongoing administration of analgesics, however, these medications commonly damage organs (liver and kidneys) and over time, individuals become tolerant to the analgesic effects as a result of physiologic desensitization.
- Methods: Researchers conducted a study in which the analgesic potential of H. erinaceus was evaluated via measurements of ATP-induced calcium signaling in cell lines (PC12 and HOS) and pain-related behaviors in mice.
- Results: H. erinaceus extracts inhibited ATP-induced calcium signaling in rat (PC12) and human (HOS) cell lines. Furthermore, the ATP-induced calcium signaling was completely inhibited in the human (HOS) cell lines, suggesting that the effect may be superior in humans than rats. Observations of pain-related behaviors in mice suggested significant reductions in heat-induced pain as a result of H. erinaceus administration.
It was concluded that H. erinaceus may have a novel mechanism of action whereby it effectively attenuates pain. Though this study isn’t directly related to the effect of Lion’s mane mushroom on nerve damage, it’s possible that the combination of its analgesic effect and neuroregenerative effect could reduce or aid in the management of neuropathic pain.
2016: Hericium erinaceus mycelium and its isolated erinacine A protection from MPTP-induced neurotoxicity through the ER stress, triggering an apoptosis cascade.
Kuo, Lu, Shen, et al. conducted a study in which they sought to assess the effects of H. erinaceus mycelium, and the specific compound “erinacine A,” in animal models of Parkinson’s disease.
- Participants: MPTP mice models of Parkinson’s disease
- Aim: To determine whether H. erinaceus mycelium (HEM) and erinacine A inhibit
- Groups: Mice were either: treated with H. erinaceus mycelium, erinacine A, or left untreated – after an MPTP injection
- Measures: Brain histological examination (neurons and neural biomarkers)
- Results: Treatment with H. erinaceus mycelium decreased: loss of dopaminergic neurons; oxidative stress-induced apoptosis; and concentrations of glutathione, nitrotyrosine, and 4-HNE. It also ameliorated MPTP-related motor deficits. Treatment with erinacine A reduced MPTP-induced cytotoxicity and apoptosis.
It was concluded that components of Lion’s mane mushroom may prove protective against neurodegeneration. That said, it is unclear as to whether this study is relevant for individuals hoping to use Lion’s mane supplements for the treatment of peripheral nerve degeneration and/or injury. Perhaps Lion’s mane mushroom supplements would exert similar anti-inflammatory effects upon peripheral nerves as they do upon central nerves in the event of damage or degeneration.
2015: Chemical constituents from Hericium erinaceus and their ability to stimulate NGF-mediated neurite outgrowth on PC12 cells.
Zhang, Yin, Cao, et al. assessed the constituents of Hericium erinaceus. Various compounds were isolated from the bodies of the mushroom and characterized via spectroscopy. The isolated constituents of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushroom) included:
- hericenone K
- ergosterol peroxide
- inoterpene A
- astradoric acid C
- oleanolic acid
- ursolic acid
These constituents were then evaluated with PC12 cells and NGF (nerve growth factor) to determine if they would stimulate neurite growth. For reference, PC12 is a cell line (containing neuroblastic and eosinophilic cells) derived from a pheochromocytoma of the rat adrenal medulla. Researchers discovered that several of the aforestated constituents significantly increased neurite outgrowth in the presence of NGF (20 ng/mL). The finding that components of Lion’s mane mushroom stimulate neurite outgrowth in a PC12 supports the concept that supplementation with Lion’s mane mushroom might reverse nerve damage. That said, this is merely an animal cell-line study – not a trial of Lion’s mane supplementation in patients with peripheral nerve injuries.
2015: Lion’s Mane, Hericium erinaceus and Tiger Milk, Lignosus rhinocerotis (Higher Basidiomycetes) Medicinal Mushrooms Stimulate Neurite Outgrowth in Dissociated Cells of Brain, Spinal Cord, and Retina: An In Vitro Study.
Samberkar, Gandhi, Naidu, et al. published a paper discussing the potential of medicinal mushrooms for the treatment of neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. Researchers reported that while there are thousands of different types of edible/medicinal mushrooms, only a few appear promising for the enhancement of neuronal health. According to the researchers, Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is probably the most substantiated mushroom for neuronal enhancement.
In their report, they underscore that Lion’s mane mushroom is known for its ability to regenerate peripheral nerves. For this reason, researchers conducted a study in which Lion’s mane mushroom (H. erinaceus) and another medicinal mushroom (L. rhinocerotis) were evaluated in dissociated brain, spinal cord, and retinal cells from chick embryo for their abilities to stimulate neurite outgrowth – compared to BDNF. The researchers used immunofluorescence to analyze tissue for neurite growth. Increases of neurite outgrowth were listed as follows.
- Lion’s mane mushroom (50 mcg/mL): 20.47% (brain), 22.47% (spinal cord), 21.70% (retinal cells)
- rhinocerotis (50 mcg/mL): 20.77% (brain), 24.73% (spinal cord), 20.77% (retinal cells)
Results indicate that both medicinal mushrooms can significantly increase neurite outgrowth in dissociated chick cells. Though neurite outgrowth increases were not significantly different between the mushrooms, if we’re technical, outgrowth from L. rhinocerotis was slightly superior to that of H. erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushroom). In short, this study merely shows that Lion’s mane can stimulate neurite outgrowth in a dissociated chick cell line from the CNS – not in a living human with nerve injury/damage in the PNS.
2014: Protective effects of Hericium erinaceus mycelium and its isolated erinacine A against ischemia-injury-induced neuronal cell death via the inhibition of iNOS/p38 MAPK and nitrotyrosine.
Lee, Chen, Teng, et al. conducted a study to determine if H. erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushroom) elicits anti-inflammatory effects to protect neurons.
- Participants: Rats with global ischemic stroke.
- Methods: Rats were subject to carotid artery occlusion-induced ischemia reperfusion brain injuries. Thereafter, a subset of rats received H. erinaceus mycelium and one of its constituents (erinacine A), whereas the remaining rats received no treatment.
- Measures: Inflammatory cytokines (serum), infarcted brain volume, and proteins from the stroke animal model were recorded to gauge the effect of H. erinaceus mycelium.
- Results: Administration of H. erinaceus mycelium decreased total infarcted brain volumes by 22% and 44% at respective dosages of 50 mg/kg and 300 mg/kg – compared to the untreated group. Concentrations of cytokines (IL-1B, IL-6, and TNF-Alpha), nitrotyrosine proteins, phosphorylation of p38 MAPK, CCAAT enhancer-binding protein, homologous protein, and reactive nitrogen species – were all significantly minimized as a result of erinacine A.
Researchers concluded that the findings from this study support the idea that Hericium erinaceus mycelium exhibits nerve-growth properties. It was the nerve-growth properties that minimize neuronal injury associated with ischemia. Though this study showcases the central neuroprotective and/or neuroregenerative potential of Lion’s mane mushroom constituents in the aftermath of insult (from ischemia) among rats, it is important to emphasize that this was not conducted in humans. At this time, it remains unclear as to whether similar neuroprotective and/or neuroregenerative effects would be observed among humans using Lion’s mane mushroom after nerve injury – especially when targeting the peripheral nervous system (as opposed to the central nervous system).
2013: Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia.
Lai, Naidu, Sabaratnam, et al. state that isolated constituents of Lion’s mane mushroom, including Hericenones and erinacines, are capable of inducing NGF (nerve growth factor) synthesis within nerve cells (neurons). Based on this knowledge, researchers sought to investigate the synergism between H. erinaceus aqueous extract and exogenous NGF on neurite outgrowth of neuroblastoma-glioma cell NG108-15.
- What was tested? The synergy between H. erinaceous aqueous extract and exogenous NGF in MRC-5 and NG108-15 cells, as well as the neuroprotective properties of mushroom extract with regard to oxidative stress.
- Results: H. erinaceous (aqueous extract) was non-cytotoxic to MRC-5 and NG108-15 cells. The combination of 1 mcg/mL mushroom extract plus 10 ng/mL NGF generated the greatest increase in neurite outgrowth (60.6%). erinaceus extract did not significantly reduce oxidative stress among NG108-15 cells.
It was concluded that constituents of Lion’s mane mushroom extract stimulate the release of extracellular NGF in NG018-15 cells, which in turn, leads to neurite outgrowth. Because Lion’s mane mushroom extract stimulated neurite outgrowth, but did not mitigate oxidative stress, it was deemed neurotrophic but not neuroprotective. While the results of this study clearly underscore the neurotrophic properties of Lion’s mane mushroom, the testing involved specific isolated cells – rather than actual human subjects with nerve injuries. For this reason, though the findings support the idea that Lion’s mane mushroom could regenerate certain nerves, it is unknown as to whether regeneration would occur among humans with peripheral nerve injuries.
2013: Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help?
Sabaratnam, Kah-Hui, Naidu, et al. published an extensive report in which the medicinal properties of various mushrooms, including Hericium erinaceus, were discussed. Hericium erinaceus was suggested to enhance brain and nerve health. It was implied that Hericium erinaceus, as well as other mushrooms, may prove beneficial for the estimated 80-90 million senior citizens dealing with age-related neurodegeneration by 2050. Authors concluded that regular consumption of medicinal mushrooms such as Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane) could prove therapeutic in the aftermath of nerve injury (e.g. from accidents) or in the case of age-related degeneration.
2012: Neuroregenerative potential of lion’s mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (higher Basidiomycetes), in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury (review).
Wong, Naidu, David, et al. conducted a study in which the neuroregenerative properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushroom) were investigated in animal models.
- Participants: Adult female Sprague-Dawley rats
- Methods: Crush injuries were induced to the peroneal nerves of adult female Sprague-Dawley rats. The goal was to determine if an aqueous extract of Lion’s mane mushroom could facilitate recovery from the sustained crush injuries through stimulation of nerve repair. The neuroregenerative efficacy of Lion’s mane mushroom was compared to that of methylcobalamin (vitamin B12), a supplement commonly administered to treat peripheral nerve disorders. The treatment groups were also compared to untreated rats.
- Measures: Rats were analyzed via walking track to determine hind limb function and toe spreading ability. Immunofluorescence was utilized to evaluate neuronal status (activity, recovery, signaling pathways).
- Results: Hind limb function and toe spreading occurred earlier among rats that received Lion’s mane mushroom or vitamin B12 – compared to untreated rats. Axonal regeneration and motor endplate/neuromuscular junction reinnervation was superior among rats that received Lion’s mane mushroom or vitamin B12 – compared to untreated rats. Rats that underwent Lion’s mane or vitamin B12 treatment also exhibited favorable gene expression and neuronal signaling – compared to untreated rats.
It was concluded that daily oral administration of Lion’s mane mushroom (H. erinaceus) stimulates peroneal nerve regeneration in the aftermath of injury – if administered in the early stages of recovery. That being said, Lion’s mane mushroom appeared no more efficacious than vitamin B12 in the facilitation of nerve regeneration. Additionally, because this study was conducted in rats, outcomes may be irrelevant to humans with nerve injuries. Still, results are in support of the concept that Lion’s mane mushroom can bolster peripheral nerve regeneration in the aftermath of injury.
2008: Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells.
Mori, Obara, Hirota, et al. analyzed the effects of ethanol extracts of 4 edible mushrooms, one of which was Hericium erinaceus. Other mushrooms studied included: Pleurotus eryngii, Grifola frondosa, and Agaricus blazei.
- What was tested? The effect of ethanol mushroom extracts on nerve growth factor (NGF) gene expression in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells, as well as the efficacy of H. erinaceus in vivo ddY mice with 5% H. erinaceus powder added to their feed for 7 days.
- Results: Only Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane mushroom) upregulated nerve growth factor (NGF) mRNA expression. Increases in NGF mRNA were documented as being concentration-dependent such that, the greater the dose of Lion’s mane administered, the more substantial the increase in NGF mRNA. What’s more, when 1321N1 cells were incubated with H. erinaceus extract, neurite outgrowth was enhanced in PC12 cells. Researchers further discovered that the addition of 5% H. erinaceus powder to the feed of ddY mice for 7 days facilitated increased NGF mRNA within the hippocampal region.
It was concluded that Hericium erinaceus significantly increases NGF gene expression in 1321N1 cells and NGF mRNA within the hippocampal region of ddY mice. Based on the fact that H. erinaceus extracts stimulated JNK phosphorylation, and administration of a JNK inhibitor (SP600125) attenuated the upregulation of NGF induced by H. erinaceus – it was noted by researchers that the primary mechanism Hericium erinaceus with respect to nerve growth involves modulation of JNK signaling.
Key findings in research of Lion’s mane mushroom for nerve damage…
I’ve highlighted some of the key findings from the research of Lion’s mane mushroom as an intervention for nerve damage/injury. Understand that these findings are only from a combination of cell line studies (some of which are human cells) and animal model studies.
- Dose-dependent effects: All available research indicates that the therapeutic effects of Lion’s mane mushroom on nerves is dose-dependent. The greater the dosage of administration, the more substantial the upregulation of NGF and neurite outgrowth.
- Immediate administration: It appears as though Lion’s mane mushroom is therapeutic in facilitating nerve regeneration when administered in the immediate aftermath of nerve damage/injury. That said, it is unclear as to whether Lion’s mane mushroom could stimulate nerve regeneration in post-acute aftermath of an injury.
- Mechanism of action: It is known that Lion’s mane mushroom contains chemicals that directly upregulate and interact with NGF (nerve growth factor). The primary mechanism by which Lion’s mane mushroom may stimulate nerve growth is via stimulation of JNK phosphorylation and downstream effects (e.g. c-Jun, c-fos, etc.).
- Nerve regeneration: Cell line and animal model studies show that Lion’s mane mushroom extracts facilitate nerve regeneration after nerve injury.
- Neuroprotective effect: In addition to stimulating nerve regeneration, Lion’s mane mushroom extracts protect nerves/neurons by reducing inflammatory cytokines and reactive nitrogen species.
- Reduces pain (?): An animal model study indicates that Lion’s mane mushroom may induce an analgesic effect via modulation of ATP-induced calcium signaling. It’s possible that this mode of action would help minimize the intensity of nerve pain in humans.
Research Limitations, Concerns, and Unknowns associated with Lion’s Mane Mushroom for Nerve Damage & Regeneration
After reviewing the available literature in which Lion’s mane mushroom was investigated a prospective intervention for nerve conditions, I felt obligated to highlight some limitations, concerns, and unknowns regarding Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation.
- Administration timing: It’s unclear as to whether the timing of Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation matters in regard to facilitating neuroregeneration after nerve injury. My guess is that administration timing definitely matters. If too much time elapses, you may be outside the necessary therapeutic window in which Lion’s mane supplementation could provide benefit. So if you’re going to supplement, sooner is probably better than later.
- Bioavailability: The bioavailability of various Lion’s mane mushroom supplements is currently unknown. While most supplements are sold in powdered formats, others are sold as aqueous extracts. It’s possible that the aqueous extracts are more bioavailable than the powder extracts.
- Central vs. peripheral action: It’s unknown as to whether Lion’s mane mushroom supplements facilitate greater central or peripheral action. It’s possible that Lion’s mane mushroom may exert greater effects centrally than peripherally; or vice-versa. It’s also possible that central and peripheral impact is relatively similar.
- Contamination: Because Lion’s mane mushroom supplements are not regulated by the FDA, consumers should beware of potential contaminants within their products. Only purchase Lion’s mane mushroom supplements that were properly sourced and evaluated for contamination. It has been noted that mushroom supplements sourced from China probably contain lead.
- Dosage unknown: Though companies might estimate therapeutic dosages of Lion’s mane mushroom supplements for the treatment of various medical conditions, exact therapeutic dosages are unknown. For this reason, anyone supplementing will not know whether they’re really getting enough to stimulate nerve growth. Nevertheless, preliminary findings suggest that “more is better” for stimulation of nerve growth.
- Legitimacy: Another problem you’ll run into when ordering any supplement (including Lion’s mane mushroom) is product legitimacy. Certain companies may falsely advertise that they’re selling Lion’s mane mushroom, when in fact it contains an entirely different mushroom and/or filler – thus faking the consumer. Moreover, dosages of supplements may be subject to manipulation such that you may end up getting significantly less mushroom than was advertised.
- Non-human studies: Lion’s mane mushroom hasn’t been evaluated for the treatment of any medical condition in humans. Current research is limited to cell line and animal studies. Large-scale randomized controlled trials need to be conducted before we know whether Lion’s mane mushroom supplements are likely effective for the treatment of medical conditions (e.g. nerve damage).
- Safety unknown: It’s unclear as to whether Lion’s mane mushroom is safe – especially if administered at high doses and/or over a long-term. Additionally, we don’t know what substances (medications and supplements) Lion’s mane mushroom might adversely interact with. Preliminary testing in humans is needed to understand whether regular ingestion of Lion’s mane mushroom is as safe as has been implied.
- Side effects unknown: The side effects of Lion’s mane mushroom are completely unknown. Preliminary anecdotes indicate that Lion’s mane mushroom is unlikely to cause severe and/or unwanted side effects. That said, human testing is warranted to understand potential side effects and/or adverse reactions.
What I’d recommend for Lion’s mane mushroom researchers…
The most obvious problem associated with research of Lion’s mane mushroom for the treatment of medical conditions is the lack of human trials. Zero human trials (even pilot studies) have been conducted to evaluate the safety and hypothesized efficacy of Lion’s mane mushroom supplements for the treatment of neurological conditions. Because no human trials have been conducted, it’s completely unknown as to whether Lion’s mane mushroom is of therapeutic value among humans – with any medical condition.
- Human trials: I believe that Lion’s mane mushroom and/or its constituents warrant further investigation via human trials as a treatment for central (CNS) and peripheral (PNS) nerve damage and/or neurologic conditions.
- Identify therapeutic constituents: Additionally, I think it would prove beneficial and profitable if researchers pinpointed and isolated the specific constituents within Lion’s mane mushroom that facilitate NGF upregulation and neurite outgrowth.
- Improved supplements: Once the specific constituents that induce nerve growth are identified, supplements can be manufactured to contain solely the most therapeutic constituents – rather than the entire mushroom. (This would be similar to supplementing with pure curcuminoids (the therapeutic components of turmeric) as opposed to turmeric).
- Medication development: If a pharmaceutical company were able to identify the therapeutic constituents of Lion’s mane mushroom for the treatment of neurological conditions, as well as the pharmacodynamics of these constituents, they may wish to develop a synthetic medication that elicits superior neuroregenerative potency and safety – compared to Lion’s mane supplements. Such a medication development could be a win-win in that it would allow big pharma to profit while possibly curing or significantly reversing nerve damage among patients. For this reason, researchers who are confident in Lion’s mane mushroom may wish to present their ideas to big pharma.
Does Lion’s Mane Mushroom help nerve damage?
Though Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation didn’t help my nerve condition, I still believe that Lion’s mane mushroom could prove therapeutic for others with nerve damage and/or pain – especially if administered as an adjunct. That said, because zero randomized controlled trials have been conducted in humans to evaluate the efficacy of Lion’s mane mushroom for the treatment of nerve damage and/or neuropathic pain, it’s unknown as to whether the supplement is clinically useful. Preliminary research indicates that it should be effective, but many substances show promise in preliminary stages of research only to be proven ineffective in large-scale randomized controlled trials.
Right now all we have are anecdotes (e.g. “Lion’s mane mushroom completely healed my nerve damage). Random anecdotes on the internet are better than nothing, however, they do not prove cause and effect. Someone taking Lion’s mane supplements may end up recovering from nerve damage – but the supplementation may not have been the actual reason as to why they recovered (perhaps it was coincidental. Moreover, because supplement companies are trying to sell as many products as possible, it’s reasonable to suspect that some Lion’s mane mushroom reviews and/or claims may have been intentionally faked to entice future buyers.
Still, my guess is that many reviews of Lion’s mane mushroom are legitimate. Based on the evidence, I think that Lion’s mane mushroom supplements promote nerve health (within the CNS and PNS). However, whether Lion’s mane mushroom supplements actually play a role in reversing nerve damage among humans is impossible to know.
Should you take Lion’s mane mushroom for nerve damage or nerve repair?
Preliminary research and anecdotes suggest that Lion’s mane mushroom is probably safe and well-tolerated (with few side effects) in humans. That said, before you consider using Lion’s mane mushroom as an intervention for nerve damage, nerve pain, or neuropathy – consult a medical doctor (preferably a neurologist) to confirm that it’s safe in accordance with your current medication/supplement regimen and medical status. (The last thing you need is to end up with an adverse reaction or interaction effect that could’ve been avoided by simply verifying the safety of Lion’s mane mushroom with your doctor).
Assuming your doctor says that it’s safe for you to take Lion’s mane mushroom supplements for your nerve condition, you should realize that its efficacy remains unknown in humans. It’s possible that you may end up spending a fair amount of money on Lion’s mane mushroom supplements with nothing to show for it (you derive zero therapeutic benefit). However, it’s also possible that Lion’s mane mushroom may provide modest, moderate, or substantial benefit if administered in a timely manner at the proper dosage.
If your nerve condition is severe and nothing is helping much – it probably couldn’t hurt to supplement with Lion’s mane mushroom for a while in hopes of improvement. I know that when my nerve pain was at its worst, I’d have paid a significant amount of money for relief. Though fairly expensive for a supplement, the cost of Lion’s mane mushroom will be of zero concern if it effectively alleviates nerve pain.
What dosage of Lion’s mane mushroom should you take for nerve damage?
If you are unsure about what dose of Lion’s mane mushroom supplement to administer for the treatment of nerve damage and/or for the induction of nerve regeneration, I’d talk to a neurologist and/or scientist that’s familiar with the supplement for dosing recommendations. Furthermore, even if your doctor (e.g. neurologist) suggests that Lion’s mane mushroom is a safe supplement for you to try, you’ll still want professional help in optimizing the dosage (such as if side effects occur and/or therapeutic effect remains unnoticeable. That said, I realize many medical professionals will hesitate and/or be unable to give dosing recommendations (even if they think the supplement is safe to use).
I’ll tell you what I’d do if taking Lion’s mane for a nerve condition. Initially, I’d evaluate the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic profile of Lion’s mane mushroom constituents and investigate possible interactions with other substances I’m using. Next, I’d simply purchase a Lion’s mane supplement that I thought was the best available and follow dosing instructions that came with the supplement.
- Follow dosing instructions: Most Lion’s mane supplements have dosing recommendations on the bottle and/or package in which they are delivered. Usually, the dosage recommendations are contingent upon the potency of the specific extract. For example, a 10:1 extract (with 30% polysaccharide content) may recommend a dosage from 500 mg to 3000 mg per day. In this case, it may be best to start with a low or intermediate dose, and if you tolerate it well, titrate upwards to a higher dose
- Highest recommended dose: Assuming you tolerate low and intermediate doses of Lion’s mane mushroom, and are hoping to regenerate nerves, it may be best to maximize your daily intake by administering the highest recommended dose as soon as possible. Why? Because in all preliminary studies, the therapeutic effect of Lion’s mane mushroom appears dose-dependent (with a greater effect from higher doses).
- Adjust dosage as you see fit: If you’re experiencing side effects from a high dose of Lion’s mane mushroom, you may need to adjust the dosage a bit. If I were taking Lion’s mane mushroom and experiencing unwanted side effects at a high dose, I’d decrease the dosage until I was taking the highest possible dose that didn’t trigger the unwanted side effects.
How long will you need to take Lion’s mane mushroom for benefit?
Because Lion’s mane mushroom hasn’t been well-researched as a treatment for neurological (nerve-related) conditions in humans, it is unknown as to whether any therapeutic benefit is derived from its supplementation among human users. Assuming humans respond similarly to animal models and/or cell lines, nerve growth factor (NGF) and neurite outgrowth should begin within a couple weeks. However, just because NGF might increase and neurite outgrowth may occur within a couple weeks of supplementation does NOT mean that you’ll rapidly recover from your neurological condition and/or injury.
Even if there’s a noticeable increase in neurite outgrowth within the first couple weeks of supplementation, it may be months before this results in symptomatic improvement such as: reduced neuropathic pain or nerve regeneration. Moreover, my guess is that there are two major factors that will determine whether you derive any benefit from Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation for a neurological condition. These include: timeliness of administration (after onset of neurological condition) and the severity of your neurological condition.
Someone who fails to administer Lion’s mane mushroom in a timely manner (e.g. waiting months after onset) and/or is diagnosed with a highly-severe nerve damage/degeneration – may not benefit at all from Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation. On the other hand, someone who administers Lion’s mane mushroom soon after the onset of a neurological condition (e.g. within days) and/or is diagnosed with a modest nerve injury may be more likely to benefit from supplementation. That said, these are just my hypotheses and should not influence whether you decide to give Lion’s mane mushroom a shot – (they may be totally inaccurate).
In any regard, assuming you are lucky enough to respond to Lion’s mane mushroom for the treatment of a neurological condition, you may experience some immediate analgesic effect (within a few weeks) whereby nerve pain is slightly reduced. However, if Lion’s mane helps you completely recover from nerve damage, this process will likely require months and/or years – nerve injuries generally heal very slowly. If I had to guess, I’d say that you’ll need to take Lion’s mane mushroom supplements for at least 3-4 consecutive months (90-120 days) for moderate neurological changes to occur (assuming the supplement is having an effect).
If you benefit from Lion’s Mane but stop taking it, will your nerve condition return?
Possibly. If the Lion’s mane mushroom supplement that you were taking was eliciting an analgesic effect which helped you cope with neuropathic pain, then discontinuation of the supplement may result in a resurgence of your neuropathic pain. Additionally, it’s possible that cessation of Lion’s mane mushroom before any substantial nerve growth and/or restoration is induced would lead to a return of your underlying condition. Still, it’s also possible that your initial neurological condition might return after cessation of Lion’s mane mushroom supplements only to be less severe due to the fact that some neurological healing occurred as a result of your supplementation.
If by some miracle you manage to respond well to Lion’s mane mushroom supplements, and you administer them regularly for a long-term (e.g. 4 to 12 months), it’s possible that a neurological condition could be reversed. Assuming your symptoms improve such that nerve damage is no longer observed and/or neurological symptoms abate, perhaps the Lion’s mane mushroom will have acted in a curative manner. For those who are “cured” of a neurological ailment via the neuroregenerative effect of Lion’s mane, discontinuation of supplementation shouldn’t cause symptomatic relapse.
On the other hand, if you either: have a severe neurological condition, don’t supplement in a timely manner (after neurological disorder onset) and/or your neurological condition is mediated by autoimmunity or genetics – discontinuation of supplementation will probably result in complete resurgence of unwanted symptoms. In short, predicting whether symptoms will return after long-term, daily Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation is contingent upon: (1) whether Lion’s mane is effective in humans and (2) the specific individual using Lion’s mane mushroom.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplements (What I Recommend)
As of current, it’s difficult to endorse particular Lion’s mane mushroom supplements over others. That said, some individuals have recommended to avoid any Lion’s mane mushroom supplement containing mushrooms that were sourced from China. Why? Because there’s increased likelihood of cross-contamination from air pollution. As a result, companies may be selling Lion’s mane mushroom supplements contaminated with heavy metals (e.g. lead) due to lack of FDA oversight (not something you’d want if attempting to restore nerve function).
If you want to play it safe, know the sourcing of your Lion’s mane mushroom supplement and read all customer reviews to ensure that people are satisfied with the product. It’s probably also smart to consider the format and constituents within your Lion’s mane mushroom supplement that you’re considering for purchase. Certain formats may be more bioavailable than others (e.g. liquid vs. powder) and/or contain additional ingredients that you personally might dislike and/or be allergic to (e.g. alcohol).
Below are links to Lion’s mane supplements that I think are solid choices. These are affiliate links, however, these are products that I’ve already researched and/or used for myself. You don’t need to purchase through my links, but the price is the same for you either way (plus you support my content creation by doing so).
- Om Organic Mushroom Supplement, Lion’s Mane: This seems to be a quality product that’s organic and sourced from Carlsbad, California. The cost is about $30 for 100 servings at 2000 mg per dose. Compared to most Lion’s mane supplements on the market, this seems to be the best value. If I don’t want to pay extra for the Four Sigmatic Elixir, I usually rock with this stuff.
- Four Sigmatic Organic Mushroom Elixir Mix with Lion’s Mane: This is the supplement that I prefer use because I think it has the highest quality sourcing and I like the taste. That said, because it’s formatted to taste good and marketed well, it has a fairly high price. You’re getting a box of 20 packets (1500 mg dose per packet) for nearly $40… fairly steep for most people, but less expensive than most pharmaceutical meds or a daily commercial coffee chain habit over the span of a month.
- Host Defense – Lion’s Mane Extract: This is a liquid tincture type supplement that costs around $30 for a total of 45 servings. Some people prefer the liquid format over the powdered forms of Lion’s mane. Anyone who dislikes consuming and/or is allergic to alcohol should avoid this product. That said, some people think that liquid tinctures are more bioavailable than powdered formats – this is debatable.
- Lions Mane Mushroom Extract Powder by Real Mushrooms: This Lion’s mane mushroom supplement sources its mushrooms from China. That said, from what I’ve read, the company claims to be very thorough with its quality control. In other words, they’ve mentioned that no contaminants (e.g. heavy metals, pesticides, etc.) will be found in their mushrooms. If you purchase this brand, you’ll pay around $30 for 60 servings of 1000 mg – an alright deal.
Note: I’ve tried several of these products and would gladly utilize any if given them as a gift. My personal favorite is the Four Sigmatic Lion’s mane mushroom devoid of caffeine. It tastes good (yet unique) as a standalone. That said, I often mix it with my chocolate whey protein shake in the morning. The combination of chocolate whey with this Lion’s mane mushroom product is fantastic.
Do I currently take Lion’s mane mushroom?
Yes. Although my initial trial of Lion’s mane mushroom failed to improve nerve function (as measured by an EMG) and alleviate my nerve pain, I believe Lion’s mane mushroom is extremely healthy as a supplement. Despite the fact that I ceased Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation for several months after my initial trial, I’ve since reinstated intermittent supplementation for the sake of general health. After reviewing preliminary data, I believe supplementation with Lion’s mane mushroom likely enhances a myriad of functions across cognitive, neurologic, and physiologic domains.
Have you tried Lion’s mane mushroom for nerve damage?
If you’ve used Lion’s mane mushroom supplements for the treatment of nerve damage, nerve pain (e.g. neuropathic pain), or any other neurological condition – share your experience in the comments section below. To help myself and others better understand your situation, I’ve noted some questions that might be worth answering in your comment.
- What specific nerve condition are you dealing with? (What diagnosis did you receive from a neurologist?)
- What specific brand of Lion’s mane mushroom supplement are you taking?
- What daily dosage of Lion’s mane are you taking?
- Do you administer Lion’s mane mushroom with or without food?
- Do you use Lion’s mane mushroom as a standalone intervention or as an adjunct with other medications and supplements? – If so, how do you know which agents are eliciting therapeutic effects and which aren’t?
- How long have you been taking Lion’s mane mushroom supplements?
- Have you noticed any improvement in your neurological condition since initiating supplementation with Lion’s mane mushroom?
- Have you noticed any favorable effects from Lion’s mane mushroom supplementation?
- If you were to rate the efficacy of Lion’s mane mushroom supplements for your medical condition, on a scale from 1 to 10 (with higher numbers being more effective) – what would you rate it?