The Potential Side Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Updated September 20, 2023.
There is a growing body of evidence to support the potential benefits of various functional mushrooms, including Lion's Mane (Hericium rinaceus). Conversely, there is a surprising scarcity of research into the potential side effects of functional mushrooms. Currently, no studies have looked directly at the negative effects of long-term Lion's Mane use in humans.
Certain groups should definitely approach Lion's Mane with caution, mostly those with already existing mushroom allergies. However, many claims about its adverse effects have been disproven, like the belief that Lion's Mane reduces sleep quality, where the reality is the exact opposite. Let's look at some possible Lion's Mane adverse effects, and disprove some common misconceptions..
Does Lion's Mane Have Any Side Effects?
Lion's Mane is generally regarded as safe. Yet, certain people and groups in particular may experience side effects which are mostly mild. Here are the most widely reported adverse effects and contraindications:
Though uncommon, some men have reported decreased libido from taking Lion's Mane. This occurs possibly due to the mushroom blocking testosterone conversion to DHT (dihydrotestosterone). However, this effect is not widespread, and any side effects typically go away after stopping Lion's Mane use.
Lowered Blood Pressure
There is some evidence that Lion's Mane mushroom has a hypotensive effect, which means it can lower blood pressure. This effect, however, is typically mild and is not associated with fainting or other serious adverse effects.
One of the most commonly reported side effects are difficulty breathing and skin rashes. If you are one of the few people who experience these after consuming Lion's Mane mushrooms or any variation of their extracts, there's a high chance you're allergic to mushrooms. The experienced allergic reactions will be similar to most other mushroom allergies with minor symptoms such as the following:
- Swelling of the lips, mouth, and airways
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin rashes or hives
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramping or bloating
4 Lion's Mane Mushroom Myths Dispelled
Lion's Mane comes in the form of powder extracts, supplements (capsules and pills), tinctures (drops), and teas. You can also add fresh Lion's Mane to meals, as it has great taste. The benefits and side effects of these product types are largely the same. The only difference between that matters is bioavailability.
With that matter resolved, let us proceed to debunk various misconceptions surrounding this remarkable therapeutic fungus.
1. Lion's Mane Won't Affect Your Dreams Negatively
The reason for this belief is due to the positive effects that Lion's Mane seems to exhibit on REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is the stage of the sleep cycle where individuals typically dream, so a more active REM sleep would likely lead to more vivid dreams. However, the REM stage is very important, as it gives the brain the energy it needs to function during the day and is required for mental restoration.
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2. Lion's Mane Is Not Addictive
Unlike many pharmaceutical drugs, Lion's Mane mushrooms and their extracts don't directly stimulate or inhibit hormone release. So since you can't necessarily build up a chemical dependency or suffer tolerance withdrawal, the risk of addiction is incredibly low.
3. Lion's Mane Won't Make You Trip
People often relate the term "functional mushroom" to the negative connotations associated with the illicit psilocybin fungus, colloquially referred to as "magic mushrooms".
However, there are significant differences between these two types of fungus. Despite their distinct, fluffy pom-pom look, Lion's Mane does not have psychedelic properties. It won't cause hallucinations or get you "high".
4. Lion's Mane Is Unlikely to Cause Headaches
Not only there is no evidence that Lion's Mane will cause you headaches, but preliminary research suggests the complete opposite. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Lion's Mane mushrooms are thought to help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, both of which can contribute to headaches. In one study, an extract of Lion's Mane mushroom was found to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines in rats.
Does Lion’s Mane Have Any Negative Interactions With Other Drugs?
Unfortunately, here the research becomes really scarce. There are no known interactions between Lion's Mane mushrooms and any pharmaceutical drugs, nor with other types of functional mushrooms. Some people prefer to mix different functional mushroom varieties as they believe the effects compound. In contrast, others think that the effects are diminished and that you should instead stick to one type that targets your specific symptoms.
Is Lion's Mane Safe or Dangerous?
Researchers and many others are confident that the benefits far outweigh the very low risk that these mushrooms present.
If you don't have a mushroom allergy, there is even less risk of adverse effects.
That being said, there are precautions that need to be taken by certain individuals, including:
- Those with bleeding disorders
- Those expecting surgery soon
Additionally, it's advised that pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid functional mushrooms entirely. There aren't any studies that suggest Lion's Mane mushrooms to be particularly dangerous for these women, but none have looked at the safety of this fungus in these cases either. As such, it's better to err on the side of caution and avoid functional mushrooms altogether.
If you aren't sure of your own predisposition, or if you are on prescribed medication, you should consult your doctor before deciding to incorporate these mushrooms into your life.