Does Lion's Mane Cause Headaches?

The mystery of nature is often the source of several myths that drive people away from its blessings. Such is the case for Lion’s Mane, too.

For some reason, many believe that Lion’s Mane causes headaches. But, is there any truth at all to this belief? Read on to find out if Lion’s Mane causes headaches and what it can actually do for your brain’s health.

What is a Lion's Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane is a type of fungus that some people believe provides several health benefits.

People eat many types of mushrooms, both wild and cultivated, for their nutritional and medicinal value. Mushrooms are high in antioxidants, which help to protect the body against cell damage caused by free radicals.

Lion's Mane mushroom, also known as Hericium Erinaceus, is an edible fungus known as the hedgehog mushroom, pom pom mushroom, or bearded tooth mushroom. The fungus grows on dead or dying hardwood trees, particularly American beech. It has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine for its health-promoting properties.

What are the Health Benefits of Lion's Mane?

Western medicine has some catching up to do when it comes to medicinal mushrooms. Fortunately, some studies have already revealed several potential benefits of Lion’s Mane. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Supports Brain Health

Lion's Mane mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, but it’s only recently that modern scientific studies have explored the mushroom's potential nootropic (cognitive-enhancing) benefits. 

The main bioactive compounds of this mushroom are hericenones and erinacines, which stimulate special cells in the brain called nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF is responsible for the growth of neurons and is crucial to cognitive function. 

In one study, 28 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) took a supplement containing 1,000 mg of Lion’s Mane daily for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, those taking Lion’s Mane supplements showed significant improvements in mental speed, attention, and memory compared to a placebo group.

Another study conducted in Japan found that extracts from Lion’s Mane mushrooms may be beneficial for treating Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Researchers concluded that these compounds might help prevent nerve cell damage and improve cognitive function.

Lion's Mane Mushroom May Help Fight Cancer

Lion's Mane contains two unique compounds — erinacines and hericenones — that may help fight cancer by stimulating nerve growth factor (NGF).

Test-tube studies have found that Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts can reduce the growth of certain types of cancer cells, although they may not affect healthy cells.

Additionally, one test-tube study found that erinacines can help target and destroy leukemia cells while leaving healthy blood cells unaffected.

Lion's Mane May Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with more than 300 million people affected. Studies suggest that Lion's Mane may help decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.

Thirty participants with mild cognitive impairment were given Lion's Mane or a placebo for 16 weeks in one research. Those who consumed Lion's Mane had lower melancholy, anxiety, and irritation levels.

In another study, 28 menopausal women were given either Lion's Mane or a placebo for four weeks. Those consuming Lion's Mane experienced significantly reduced feelings of depression but slightly increased irritability.

Promoting Heart Health and Lowering Blood Pressure

The function most widely associated with the lion's mane is its ability to promote heart health and lower blood pressure.

Lion’s Mane contains a chemical called hericenone that helps lower cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

One study found that Lion's Mane extract reduced blood pressure in rats with high blood pressure. The researchers suggested that hericenones may have a protective effect on the heart by lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow.

There is also information to support taking Lion's Mane pre workout.

Supporting the Immune System

The two most important components of Lion’s Mane are its polysaccharides (similar to beta-glucans) and glycosides (similar to lectins). The polysaccharides stimulate the immune system by increasing white blood cell activity, stimulating macrophages (which generally function to destroy intruders), and recruiting neutrophils (typically to fight pathogens).

Treating Digestive Disorders

The medicinal properties of Lion's Mane have been found to improve inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcers, gastritis, constipation, and other digestive disorders. This is because lion's mane contains the compound erinacine, which has been found to help absorb amino acids in the body.

Promoting Skin Health and Healing Wounds

Studies show that lion’s mane extract and powder can promote healing and reduce inflammation.

In one study, rats with wounds were fed a diet containing either 0%, 1%, or 5% of lion’s mane mushroom powder. After seven days, the wounds of rats fed the highest dose were significantly improved compared to those given the lowest dose.

Another animal study showed that an ethanolic extract of H. Erinaceus promoted wound healing in rats, suggesting that it may have similar effects in humans.

Improving Memory

Lion’s Mane mushrooms are a powerful natural nootropic. Nootropics are compounds that enhance cognitive function and memory. 

Specifically, it can help improve mental clarity, concentration, focus, and memory. They also promote creativity and support healthy brain function.

What Can Cause a Migraine?

Migraines are often described as a pulsing or throbbing pain on one side of the head. The pain is often accompanied by sensitivity to light, sound and odors, nausea, or vomiting. Migraines can cause moderate to severe pain that can last for hours or even days.

Migraine attacks can occur several times a month or less than once a year. Some people who suffer from migraines also have auras, which are visual disturbances that include flashing lights, zigzag lines, and temporary vision loss.

A combination of factors can trigger migraines. These include: 

  • Hormones. Many women have headaches when their estrogen levels fluctuate. Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement treatment, for example, can aggravate migraines. Thus, changing to a different form of contraception may help in certain situations.
  • Foods. Some people are sensitive to aged cheeses, salty foods, and processed foods, which can cause migraines. Skipping meals can also set off an attack.
  • Additives to food. In some people, the artificial sweetener aspartame and the preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG), which are found in many foods, can cause migraines.
  • Drinks. Migraines can be triggered by alcohol, particularly wine and caffeinated beverages.
  • Stress. Some people experience migraines due to stress at work or at home. Relaxing after a stressful incident, strangely enough, can trigger a migraine episode – possibly due to changes in blood flow.

Can Lion's Mane Cause Headaches?

Lion’s Mane doesn’t cause headaches in a harming, kill your mood way.

What it does do is boost the production of NGF - Nerve Growth Factor. If you're deficient in NGF, Lion's Mane can cause headaches. NGF is a growth factor that promotes the differentiation and survival of neurons (brain cells). It's crucial for brain development, and repairs damaged nerve cells.

To make NGF, your body needs:

  • Choline - is found in eggs, meat, fish, soy lecithin, cabbage, spinach, and broccoli.
  • B-vitamins - are found in meat, nuts, seeds, legumes, and green vegetables.
  • Ascorbic acid - is found in citrus fruits, red & green peppers, broccoli, sweet potatoes, etc.

How to Prevent Lion's Mane Headaches

While many people take Lion’s Mane mushroom for its cognitive health benefits, some have reported that this medicinal mushroom can cause headaches. To make sure you're getting the most out of your daily dose of Lion’s Mane, we've compiled a list of helpful tips on preventing Lion’s Mane headaches.

The first thing to consider is your dosage. Lion’s Mane mushroom is safe at higher doses, but as with any supplement, it is wise to start small and work your way up. If you take Lion’s Mane powder or supplement in capsule form, start with one gram per day and increase the dosage by one gram every few days until you feel comfortable at your highest dose. 

If you are cooking with dried Lion’s Mane mushrooms or using a liquid tincture, the recommended starting dose is one teaspoon per day and should be increased by one teaspoon every couple of days until you find the right amount for you. It should also be noted that since everyone processes supplements differently, it may take some people longer than others to find their appropriate dosage level.

Lion's Mane Mushroom for Migraines

We know it sounds contradictory, but Lion's Mane mushroom is perhaps the best natural supplement for migraines.

The medicinal mushroom has been tested in a number of studies, with all of them finding it to be highly effective against debilitating headaches. A 2014 study from China found it was as effective as a pharmaceutical drug for migraines and caused fewer side effects.

Lion's Mane for migraines works by inhibiting pro-inflammatory compounds called cytokines, which are associated with migraine pain.

In fact, Lion's Mane mushroom has so many benefits that it makes sense just to take it every day rather than waiting until you get a migraine to pop a pill. Studies have shown that it improves focus and memory, boosts mood and reduces anxiety, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, and even helps with nerve regeneration (which could help people with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease).

Can you Take Lion's Mane at Night?

While there isn’t a specific time to take Lion’s Mane, it may be especially beneficial to do so at night.

The reason is that it can boost serotonin, helping regulate sleep-wake cycles, and melatonin, the hormone that helps us feel sleepy. Likewise, Lion’s Mane supports better sleep patterns, a recent study found that rats who consumed lion's mane had more restful sleep than those who didn't.

What are the Possible Side Effects of Lion’s Mane?

Few research studies have investigated Lion’s Mane for its side effects, but there is some evidence that it may cause:

  • Digestive complaints include stomach pain, diarrhea, and nausea.
  • Allergic reactions. These may include skin rashes and breathing difficulties.

There are no known interactions between Lion’s Mane and other medications or substances, although this does not mean that interactions can’t occur.

In addition, there are no research studies that have investigated the safety of Lion’s Mane in young children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. For these reasons, it’s better to consult your healthcare provider before using any kind of Lion’s Mane supplement if you fall into any of these categories.

We hope you enjoyed this article. Check out our other resources on Lion's Mane and erectile dysfunction, and follow VYU to stay up to date on all things functional mushroom!