Is It Safe to Eat Lion's Mane? (2024)

Key Takeaways

  • Lion’s mane mushrooms are said to offer brain-boosting benefits.
  • These are available fresh as a culinary ingredient and in supplement form.
  • More research is needed to confirm the touted benefits, but most experts say that it is generally safe to eat these mushrooms.

Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus), also known as yamabush*take and hóutóugū, is a type of edible mushroom that grows in North America, Europe, and Asia. It is said to support brain health and is sold as a culinary ingredient and dietary supplement.

Eating lion’s mane isn’t new, but this mushroom is starting to become a trendy meat substitute. It’s also found in many mushroom coffee blends because it is believed to increase focus.

“Lion’s mane is known as the ‘smart mushroom,’” Sunshine Weeks, ND, a naturopathic doctor and an associate professor in the department of botanical medicine at Bastyr University in San Diego, told Verywell in an email. She added that it has been used to improve memory and mental clarity.

Research on lion’s mane is limited, but a small study published in 2010 suggested that lion’s mane may help reduce feelings of anxiety. Over the course of four weeks, the 30 study participants either ate cookies with powdered Hericium erinaceus or placebo cookies that did not contain the powder. Participants were required to answer a daily questionnaire and this self-reported data helped support the conclusion that lion’s mane may support mental health.

Another study published in 2019 found that taking Hericium erinaceus supplements for 12 weeks improved cognitive function but this study was also conducted with about 30 participants and more research is needed to verify these findings.

These are some of the few studies that have tested lion’s mane on humans. Most research has been conducted on animals or on cells in test tubes.

“The laboratory research has been focused on whether there are improvements on brain function, lower depression and anxiety, and improvements on gut health,” Vijaya Surampudi MD, MS, an associate professor of medicine in the division of clinical nutrition with UCLA Health, told Verywell in an email.

Until more human studies are conducted, Surampudi said it is hard to know the actual impact of these mushrooms on our system, regardless of their nutrition profile.

What Makes Lion’s Mane Potentially Healthy?

While researchers are still learning about the medicinal benefits of lion’s mane, this mushroom is known to offer some nutritional benefits.

“It has a decent profile of vitamins and minerals. If you’re going to eat it and create meals from it, whether you’re using it as a side dish or using it as a main entree, you definitely can enjoy it,” Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, MS, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics based in the Boston area, told Verywell.

This mushroom is a good source of protein, fiber, potassium, zinc, and B vitamins like riboflavin, according to Anderson-Haynes.

High-Protein Foods for Every Eater

Lion’s mane is very versatile and its chewy crab-like texture makes it a good alternative for people following a vegan diet. A TikTok video with over 1.3 million views also shows how you can turn lion’s mane into a steak substitute by pan-searing the fungi.

Where to Find Lion’s Mane

These mushrooms are white and shaggy and, as the name suggests, look like the fur on a lion’s mane. If you want to try this mushroom, look for it at your local grocery store, online, or on a restaurant menu.

“Often you can find it at farmer’s markets from the mushroom vendor,” Weeks, who educates students on edible and medicinal wild plants, said.

Weeks said that you can also find these mushrooms in the wild, but it’s important to bring a knowledgeable guide with you who can help you with identifying and ethical harvesting.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “accidental mushroom poisoning” from wild mushrooms leads to almost 1,400 emergency room visits annually.

Wild mushroom harvesting regulations vary so check local guidelines before foraging. Some places require a foraging permit even if you are not planning to sell the mushrooms.

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Can Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Be Toxic?

Lion’s mane does not seem to be harmful for most people, but a subreddit support group with over 4,000 members said that the effects can be “devastating and life-changing.”

The research on this mushroom’s safety and the optimal dosage is “lacking” according to Surampudi.

“In general, culinary amounts of fresh lion’s mane carries few risks,” Surampudi said but added that some people may experience nausea, abdominal discomfort, and skin rashes after consuming these mushrooms.

Lion’s mane supplements are also available. But since an optimal dose has not been set, it can be challenging to know how much to take. Supplements are also not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which means that these products might contain ingredients that don’t match up with the label.

“It can be dangerous if people that are taking diabetes medication take large doses of lion’s mane in supplement form because it can really drop blood sugars,” said Anderson-Haynes, who is a certified diabetes care and education specialist, but added this could be a plus for people who are not on diabetes medication.

She also said that people who are pregnant or taking blood thinners should avoid lion’s mane and recommends that most people try lion’s mane as a food first since supplements are also more concentrated than what you’d eat in a meal.

“If you’re eating it typically two times a week in your meals, that shouldn’t be a major concern,” Anderson-Haynes said.

What This Means For You

Consider talking to a trusted healthcare provider before adding lion’s mane to your dietary or supplement routine. If you decide to eat lion’s mane, make sure to wash it thoroughly first and toss it out once it becomes brown, slippery, or smelly.

2 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, et al. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake.Biomed Res. 2010;31(4):231-237. doi:10.2220/biomedres.31.231

  2. Saitsu Y, Nishide A, Kikushima K, Shimizu K, Ohnuki K. Improvement of cognitive functions by oral intake ofHericiumerinaceus.Biomed Res. 2019;40(4):125-131. doi:10.2220/biomedres.40.125

Is It Safe to Eat Lion's Mane? (1)

By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a nutrition writer, educator, and culinary instructor.

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Is It Safe to Eat Lion's Mane? (2024)


Is It Safe to Eat Lion's Mane? ›

Lion's mane mushrooms are considered safe in general, unless you're allergic to mushrooms. No significant side effects have been reported in research, but if you experience any adverse symptoms after consuming lion's mane, seek prompt medical attention.

Is Lion's Mane safe to eat? ›

Lion's mane mushrooms are said to offer brain-boosting benefits. These are available fresh as a culinary ingredient and in supplement form. More research is needed to confirm the touted benefits, but most experts say that it is generally safe to eat these mushrooms.

What are the risks of lion's mane? ›

Does Lion's Mane Have Side Effects? If you have a medical condition or a history of asthma or allergies, consult your doctor before you try lion's mane. “Lion's mane is generally well tolerated, but the most common side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea and a skin rash,” says Dr. Watson.

Who should avoid Lion's Mane? ›

Auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), pemphigus vulgaris (a skin condition), and others: Lion's mane mushroom might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases.

Is there a poisonous lion's mane? ›

Lion's mane has no look-a-likes, edible or poisonous, and all forms are edible and delicious in the kitchen. With that said, Jenna does prefer the texture of H. erinaceus, which looks like a faceless hedgehog or a truffula tree out of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.

Is Lion's Mane hard on the liver? ›

Recently, lion's mane has been purported to improve cognition and relieve anxiety and depression. Lion's mane is generally recognized as safe and has not been linked to serum enzyme elevations during therapy nor to episodes of clinically apparent liver injury.

Is Lion's Mane like Adderall? ›

Infact, according to The Guardian, lion's mane mushroom has been proved to be a great ingredient for improving cognitive performance among older adults. One of the major factors in using lion's mane mushroom compared to adderall is due to its nature of being easily abused.

Can Lion's Mane damage liver? ›

Recently, lion's mane has been purported to improve cognition and relieve anxiety and depression. Lion's mane is generally recognized as safe and has not been linked to serum enzyme elevations during therapy nor to episodes of clinically apparent liver injury.

Is Lions Mane addictive? ›

In the case of Lion's Mane, there is currently no evidence to suggest that it can cause addiction or dependence. Lion's Mane is a natural mushroom that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, particularly in Asian cultures. It is also widely consumed as a food source in many countries.

Is lions mane fda approved? ›


The FDA verified through post-marketing surveillance that the abovementioned food supplements are not registered and the Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) have not yet been issued.

Can you take Lion's Mane every day? ›

The answer is Yes. You can take Lion's Mane everyday. Lion's Mane is a powerful medicinal mushroom that can provide a wide range of health benefits, including improved cognitive function, enhanced mood, and better immune system response. That said, it's generally recommended to cycle it on and off for maximum benefit.

Does lions mane increase estrogen? ›

Oestrogen is the menstrual cycle and bone health superstar, and it can be even more of a star when joined on the stage by our mushroom buddy, Lion's Mane. Research has shown that taking Lion's Mane extract can stimulate the production of oestrogen. That means no more anxiety, depression or lacklustre sleep.

How quickly does Lion's Mane work? ›

Does lion's mane work immediately? While some people may feel a difference incredibly quickly after only a few days, this is rare. Most users will need to take lion's mane regularly for several weeks or 2-3 months before feeling a significant effect and reaping the long-term benefits.

Is Lion's Mane illegal in the US? ›

Lion's mane mushrooms and products made from them are generally legal -- but if you plan to harvest your own wild mushrooms, check your state laws on which species can be picked and where such harvesting is legal.

Is there a false lion's mane mushroom? ›

Features of Hericium Americanum - Bear's Head Tooth

Bear's head tooth mushroom is one that can be easily mistaken for lion's mane.

What part of lion's mane is edible? ›

The outside is covered in downward hanging strands giving the fruiting structure the look of a lion's mane or a beard. It is also snow white. This fruiting structure is the edible portion of the fungus. The fungus should be firm but soft and wet-feeling, not hard and dry-feeling.

Will Lion's Mane show up on a drug test? ›

There is no evidence that Lion's Mane will cause a failed drug test. The compounds found in Lion's Mane are not known to be detected by drug tests, so it is unlikely that taking this supplement will result in a failed test.

Can lions mane cause anxiety? ›

Lion's Mane mushroom is generally considered safe and is even believed to have potential cognitive and health benefits. However, as with any supplement or food, individual reactions can vary. Anxiety as a reaction to Lion's Mane mushroom powder is not commonly reported.

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