Are Lion's Mane Mushrooms Addictive?
Updated September 22, 2023.
Lion's Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are a type of functional mushroom commonly used in alternative and traditional Eastern medicines. The term "mushroom" often has bad connotations when discussing its effects on the mind and body, mostly due to the illicit hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms (magic mushrooms). It's important to understand that, although Lion's Mane and other functional mushrooms can have spiritual benefits and side effects, they are not the same as psychedelic mushrooms. Lion's Mane does not get you high.
That being said, could they have the potential to be addictive to some individuals?
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Is It Safe to Take Lion’s Mane Every Day?
On this particular topic, there isn't much scientific evidence to suggest that taking Lion's Mane every day for multiple years would be safe. However, there also isn't any evidence to suggest that it could be harmful. The studies we do have, although looking at rats specifically, seem to suggest that Lion's Mane mushrooms are safe, even at high doses for an extended period of time.
Additionally, unlike many popular pharmaceutical drugs, the average person doesn't run the risk of building up a dependency on Lion's Mane mushroom tablets, building up a tolerance to their effects, or suffering tolerance withdrawal.
Can You Become Addicted to Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
Considering that they don't operate the same way that pharmaceutical drugs do, it's simply not feasible to suggest that you can become addicted to Lion's Mane. At least, not in the sense of chemical dependency. Sure, you might build up some degree of addiction in the same way that you would junk food, but it definitely wouldn't be too difficult to give them up if the need arose. Plus, at least Lion's Mane is far healthier than McDonald's.
The same is true no matter what kind of Lion's Mane recipe you're going for. Whether you're making Lion's Mane tea, using Lion's Mane drops, or adding powdered Lion's Mane extract to your coffee, you'll face the same risk of addiction, which is almost nonexistent.
Does Lion's Mane Make You Happy?
If this seems like a loaded question, it's because it is. Some people think that the reason you build a chemical dependency on pharmaceutical drugs is purely because of the way they make you feel. Antidepressants make you "happy," therefore it's the happiness you must be addicted to, right?
That's not entirely true.
Take SSRIs, a type of antidepressant, for example. They work by inhibiting the amount of serotonin (a mood-boosting and mood-stabilising neurotransmitter) that your brain reabsorbs. This extra serotonin helps to regulate your mood, making you feel happier. Your brain compensates for this extra serotonin, and you build up a tolerance to that drug, meaning that you need to take higher doses to feel the same effect. Then, when you suddenly stop taking that drug, your brain has become accustomed to reabsorbing more serotonin than it was beforehand, which results in their being comparatively less of it without the effects of the antidepressant. This is chemical dependency.
Lion's Mane doesn't operate the same way. While it may bring you feelings of happiness, they are secondary and attributed primarily to an overall increase in well-being as a result of their therapeutic benefits. It's not addictive levels of happiness because your body won't suddenly compound the negative things you were experiencing without the mushroom. Reducing oxidative stress and inflammation (among other things) isn't the same as preventing your brain from operating under its normal modality.
Should You Be Worried About Lion's Mane Addiction?
To conclude this article in a definitive manner, you should feel no more worried about a potential Lion's Mane addiction than you are about an addiction to eggs. So long as you are sticking to the recommended dose of Lion's Mane and living a healthy lifestyle, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.