Lion’s mane mushroom may help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety thanks to its health-promoting properties which activate certain neural pathways in the brain. Studies show that supplementing 2-11g/day (particularly of certain extracts) may help after 1-2 months.
Table of Contents
- What is Lion’s Mane?
- Does Lion’s Mane help with depression?
- How does Lion’s Mane help with depression?
- Does Lion’s Mane Help With Anxiety?
- How many mg of Lion’s Mane per day?
What is Lion’s Mane?
Lion’s Mane, or hericium erinaceus, is an edible mushroom widely known throughout the world for its myriad of health benefits.
Although Lion’s Mane has only recently grown in popularity in the West, it holds a prominent position as a healing fungi in Asia, where it has long been used in folk and traditional medicine, particularly in China and Japan. The mushroom is known as hóu tóu gū in Chinese, meaning “monkey head mushroom”, and as yamabushitake in Japanese, meaning “mountain monk mushroom” (Spelman, 2017).
Lion’s Mane has a range of health benefits. In addition to its anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effects, it contains properties that allows it to function as an anticancer, antioxidant, and antimicrobial agent. It furthermore offers neuroprotective benefits and immunity support (Friedman, 2015). In traditional Chinese medicine the mushroom has been used for the prevention of oxidative stress related disorders (Ghosh, 2021).
In this article, we’ll dive specifically into Lion’s Mane benefits for depression and anxiety.
Does Lion’s Mane help with depression?
It may help. The evidence supports the fact that supplementing with Lion’s Mane for 1-2 months can help treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, the dosage at which you can observe results may be much higher than you expect.
Overall, there are roughly a half dozen studies evaluating the effectiveness of Lion’s Mane supplementation for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Although most of these studies are relatively small, using 60 or fewer participants in the study, their findings are promising. Often, after 1-2 months, participants who supplement find a reduction in their symptoms. The dosages administered range across studies, but effective daily dosages include: 12 g, 3.6 g, 60 mg/kg, and 200-400 mg/kg (Chong, 2019). We’ll dive more into the dosing below, as well as what type of Lion’s Mane products may enable these benefits and at what dosage.
One of the most cited studies on the subject consists of 12 women who took H. erinaceus daily for 4 weeks (2 grams a day of powdered fruiting body via cookies) versus 14 women who took placebo (Nagano, 2010). After the four weeks, those who took the supplement scored better for their symptoms of concentration, irritability, and anxiety. However, these findings were not statistically significant compared to the control group. Although this study is limited, and the broader research does indicate Lion’s Mane may be effective under some circumstances.
One study examined H. erinaceus supplementation for male mice, and found that supplementing 60 mg/kg/day for 4 weeks had anti-anxiety and antidepressant-like effects. Supplementation also promoted hippocampal neurogenesis (the creation and connection of new neurons in the hippocampus part of the brain), which is important for the management of stress and moods (Ryu, 2018).
How does Lion’s Mane help with depression?
Lion’s Mane activates the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) pathway, nerve growth factor (NGF) activity, and anti-inflammatory processes. All of these factors may contribute to its antidepressant-like effects.
Before understanding how Lion’s Mane may help with depression, it’s important to understand what causes depression in the first place.
Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the world. You may be suffering from depression yourself, or know someone who has. Despite its prevalence, the causes and treatments for depression are still not perfectly understood. However, one thing we do know is that inflammation plays a role in the development of depression. This means that anti-inflammatory drugs can have antidepressant-like effects.
Lion’s Mane reduces inflammation
Lion’s Mane appears to increase production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Because depression is linked to elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, this indicates that the anti-inflammatory properties of Lion’s Mane help alleviate depression.
Anti-inflammatory cytokines are a good thing, but why? Cytokines themselves are small proteins that modulate immune system responses (Arango, 2014). Some cytokines act to make diseases worse, pro-inflammatory cytokines, whereas others reduce inflammation and promote healing, anti-inflammatory cytokines (Dinarello, 2000). Pro-inflammatory cytokines seem to be linked to depression. For example, the brains of people who suffered from major depressive disorder (MDD) while alive were observed to have elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (Shelton, 2011).
Why would elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines cause depression? One explanation involves serotonin: pro-inflammatory cytokines activate certain processes which decrease the availability of serotonin. They may also deplete stores of tryptophan (which is the precursor of serotonin) and decrease how much dopamine is expressed, thus inhibiting reward-related behaviors (Shelton, 2011).
One study provides further evidence that inflammation plays a critical role in depression and that the anti-inflammatory properties of Lion’s Mane help to alleviate it. Mice were injected with an inflammatory substance used to induce depression-like behaviors. Afterwards, they were treated with a single dose of amycenone (a standard extract of H. erinaceum) or placebo and then evaluated using the most widely-used behavioral tests for detecting antidepressant-like activity in mice. Those who took the 200mg/kg of amycenone scored significantly better on the tests. The researchers also found that amycenone increased the production of a particular anti-inflammatory cytokine (interleukin-10, or IL-10) which is consistent with the premise that it is the anti-inflammatory properties of Lion’s Mane that may help it to relieve depression and anxiety (Yao, 2015). We also know that several antidepressant medications have been shown to suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines, which may explain their effectiveness in treating depression.
Lion’s Mane activates BDNF
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, H. erinaceus has also been found to activate what is known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) pathway, one of the neurotrophic factors linked with depression. This is indicative of antidepressant effects, because some antidepressant treatments, which alleviate symptoms of depression, restore or increase BDNF levels (Chong, 2019).
Lion’s Mane stimulates NGF
Certain bioactive compounds within H. erinaceus (hericenones and erinacines) enable the biosynthesis of nerve growth factors (NGF). Because increased levels of NGF are associated with nerve cell growth and connectivity, they instill antidepressant-like effects. Thus, increasing NGF levels via these compounds may also explain Lion’s Mane’s antidepressant-like effects (Chong, 2019).
Does Lion’s Mane Help With Anxiety?
It may help. With adequate dosage, Lion’s Mane may help relieve symptoms of anxiety after 1-2 months.
Most studies evaluating the effectiveness of Lion’s Mane on depression also consider symptoms of anxiety, and several find improvements for both (Chong, 2019). One study found that 5g daily supplementation decreased depression, anxiety, and sleep disorder among obese/overweight participants. This study is particularly unique because the supplements, Microtherapy Hericium capsules, consist of 80% mycelia and only 20% fruiting body extract, whereas most studies rely on pure fruiting body extract. However, the study did not maintain a placebo or control group, making it difficult to infer the statistical significance of its results (Vigna, 2019).
How many mg of Lion’s Mane per day?
Taking 2,000mg/day of powdered fruiting body (or 11,000 mg/day via Amyloban 3399 tablets) for 4-8 weeks has been shown to provide antidepressive and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. See our dosage article for the breakdown.
Because studies evaluating the effectiveness of Lion’s Mane use different supplements, extracts, and dosages, there is no single, obvious answer to the appropriate dosage. Instead, by analyzing the studies that do exist and the supplementation prescribed, we may draw some basic conclusions as to the appropriate daily amount. The dosages in the studies below were found to be effective in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety or to have antidepressant-like effects, after 4-8 weeks of supplementation.
|Microtherapy Hericium||5g / day||Vigna, 2019|
|Powdered fruiting body||2g / day||Nagano, 2010|
|Amyloban 3399||11.7g / day||Okamura, 2015;|
It’s worth noting that, based on these studies, the larger the dosage, the less important the source of the powder may be (whether from fruiting body or mycelia). In Vigna, 2019, participants consumed 5g/day, mostly of mycelia, whereas in Nagano, 2010 participants consumed only 2g/day, but of pure fruiting body. Both observed promising results in participants.
A common dosage administered in studies is 6 Amyloban 3399 capsules a day, for at least one month. This has been associated with marginal improvements for symptoms of anxiety and insomnia (Okamura, 2015) and alleviation of depression (Inanaga, 2014). This is equivalent to 11.7 grams a day.
Compelling evidence exists that the compounds within H. erinaceum may provide antidepressive and anti-anxiety effects for people suffering from these disorders. Studies have observed that supplementing 2g/day of powdered fruiting body (or 11g/day of amycenone, a standard extract, sold as Amyloban 3399 capsules) reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety after one to two months.
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