Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Everything You Need To Know

Lion’s mane mushrooms, also known as hou tou gu or yamabushitake, are large, white, shaggy mushrooms that resemble a lion’s mane as they grow. They are an edible mushroom that is used both as a culinary ingredient and sold as a dietary supplement.As a supplement, lion’s mane is used primarily for cognitive enhancement and immune support. Several studies have shown that it improves mood, memory, and cognitive function, or at least prevents cognitive decline. In this article, we’ll look at what studies say about the benefits of lion’s mane and where lion’s mane is grown.

Lion’s Mane Studies

So far, most lion’s mane studies have been performed on rats and mice, but there have been a few studies conducted on humans. More importantly, we have a rough idea of its effective dosage and we know how lion’s mane works with respect to its primary mechanism of action.

Lion’s Mane For Memory

While lion’s mane is widely believed to improve memory, the evidence for this in humans is still mostly indirect. That said, multiple lines of research do support the use of lion’s mane for this area of health.

In wild-type mice, lion’s mane was shown to improve spatial memory and in elderly mice it was shown to reverse age-related decline in recognition memory.  In fact, quite a few studies have found similar benefits in mice.


H. erinaceus improved recognition memory during mice aging. Value measured pre-supplementation (pre) and post-supplementation (post) on locomotor, recognition memory, and LAC (Locomotor and Cognitive) FI. p < 0.05 (*). Retrieved from

In humans, however, studies haven’t tested memory in non-elderly subjects. There is evidence that lion’s mane can partially reverse mild cognitive decline in adults. However, this benefit was not permanent and began to decline gradually over the four weeks following cessation of lion’s mane supplementation.

While there is reason to think lion’s mane might improve memory in cognitively healthy humans, there’s no direct evidence for it yet.

Lion’s Mane For ADHD

Lion’s mane has not been studied as a treatment for ADHD, and since it doesn’t appear to work by acting on dopamine, there’s no reason to suppose it would be effective for treating ADHD.

That said, several other conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia have high comorbidity rates with ADHD– and as you’ll see, lion’s mane may be helpful in treating them.  So, while it can’t treat ADHD as such, lion’s mane may help with some of the secondary issues stemming from ADHD. 

Lion’s Mane For Anxiety

Several studies support lion’s mane ability to reduce anxiety symptoms. In one human study, women going through menopause experienced a reduction in anxiety symptoms after 4 weeks of taking lion’s mane.


Differences in psychometric measures before and after the trial. Retrieved from

Another study found that lion’s mane reduces anxiety in mice. In this study, the mechanism was identified as the promotion of neurogenesis in the hippocampus. This also suggests that the benefits may last beyond cessation of lion’s mane usage since the new neurons would continue to exist.  

Lion’s Mane For Depression

The same studies which found a reduction in anxiety symptoms also noted a reduction in depressive symptoms. This is apparently due to the same reason – an increase in neurogenesis in the hippocampus via increased production of nerve growth factor.

Lion’s Mane For MS

Multiple sclerosis is characterized by the destruction of the myelin sheaths coating the synapses between neurons.  Because it promotes neurogenesis, lion’s mane has been theorized to reduce MS symptoms.  Indeed, one study has found that lion’s mane stimulates the growth of myelin sheaths.

That said, no studies have actually tested lion’s mane on MS patients yet, so take this one with a grain of salt.

Lion’s Mane For Sleep

Few studies have examined the effects of lion’s mane on sleep.  Since it can reduce anxiety, there’s a theoretical basis for thinking that lion’s mane could improve sleep, at least in anxiety patients.  That said, the aforementioned study on menopausal women found no statistically significant improvement in sleep quality, despite reductions in anxiety.  

More studies are needed here as it’s likely that there is an effect, but it may not be very large in practical terms. 

Lion’s Mane For Dementia

Multiple studies conducted in both humans and mice support the finding that lion’s mane slows cognitive decline and can at least temporarily reverse symptoms of cognitive decline at a dosage of 3 grams a day for 16 weeks.

Although the improvements started to at least partially reverse after the cessation of lion’s mane treatment, the fact that lion’s mane works by enhancing neurogenesis suggests that the effects may be at least partly permanent or semi-permanent, lasting beyond cessation of treatment.


Lion’s Mane Mushroom Side Effects

Studies so far have found that lion’s mane typically has no side effects.  One study in rats found no measurable side effects of lion’s mane even after ingestion of 1000 mg/kg of body weight for 90 days.

Lion’s Mane Allergy

In one case study, a 63-year-old man was admitted to a hospital suffering from acute respiratory distress apparently caused by an allergic reaction to lion’s mane, which he had been taking four months prior.  He was able to recover with steroid therapy but showed damage to his lungs.  Doctors stated that it was probable that lion’s mane had caused the issue.  

In another case study, a 53-year-old man who cultivated mushrooms developed contact dermatitis in response to lion’s mane.  Notably, the man had farmed other mushrooms for decades but developed dermatitis only one month after beginning to cultivate lion’s mane.  

While this allergic reaction appears rare, people who are strongly prone to allergies may wish to avoid lion’s mane. 


How To Use Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Here’s what you need to know about how to take lion’s mane.

Lion’s Mane Dosage

Lion’s mane dosages used in studies have varied between one and three grams per day.  It’s not yet clear which exact dosage within this range is ideal, nor what the exact dose-response relationship is.  

It is common to start taking lion’s mane conservatively, consuming only one gram a day before very slowly ramping up the dosage.

When To Take Lion’s Mane

Studies have often divided lion’s mane dosages into several doses per day.  For instance, a three-gram per day dosage is often divided into one gram, three times a day.

Given that lion’s mane works via promoting neurogenesis and its effects are mostly long-term, the timing probably isn’t terribly important.  You could make the argument that since neurogenesis mostly takes place during sleep, lion’s mane may be more effective when taken at night, but this is only speculative.

In fact, the main benefit of dividing the dosage is probably just that it reduces any potential for gastric upset.  That said, given that the half-life of lion’s mane is unknown, it makes sense to divide your dosage throughout the day.  

One last thing to consider is that due to the unknown long-term effects of lion’s mane, it might be smart to use it only in short cycles with breaks in between.  For instance, you could take one gram a day for 4-16 weeks, then take a few months off, before doing another cycle at two grams a day, and so on.  That would allow you time to assess the long-term effects of lion’s mane.


Studies You Can Read About Lion’s Mane