Lion's Mane for Neuropathy
In an era strongly influenced by Western medicine, many people are not sufficiently exposed to traditional medications used by ancient civilizations. These mainly comprised herbs, mushrooms, and animal parts considered medicinal or adaptogenic.
Today, there is a surging interest in these natural substances owing to their potential therapeutic benefits. The science world is alight with palpable excitement as researchers and scholars seek to unearth the hidden mysteries of natural medicines.
And it is easy to see why; soaring healthcare costs and the emergence of novel diseases have fueled justifiable interest in cheaper, effective alternatives to conventional drugs.
Ultimately, this has led us back to nature and reifies the words of German diarist Anne Frank who firmly believed "that nature brings solace in all troubles." And so, in this article, we look at lion's mane for neuropathy.
Is this hugely popular mushroom a potential remedy for neuropathy? Let's find out!
- Neuropathy is caused by damaged nerve cells and mainly affects peripheral body parts like the legs, feet, and arms.
- Research on lion's mane for neuropathy has yielded promising results suggesting potential therapeutic benefits.
- Besides its potential benefits of neuropathy, lion's mane may also help with memory, mood, and digestion.
What are the Health Benefits of Lion's Mane?
Before we delve into the benefits of lion's mane, aren't you interested in knowing what it is?
Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a mushroom native to Asia, Europe, and North America. It grows on the trunks of dead hardwood trees and is easily identifiable by its long white spines. It is edible, and the fruit bodies have a long culinary history in Asia.
In Europe, these fruit bodies are mainly produced between August and November.
Lion's mane exhibits some extraordinary traits. For example, it can fruit intermittently on the same dead tree for 20 years and survive for 40! Keep in mind that lion's mane, like all mushrooms, is a fungus, and fungi generally have very short life spans.
Nonetheless, lion's mane is more famous for its potential health benefits. Here are some worth taking note of:
Promotes Brain Health
Brain function typically declines with age. This explains why most older adults exhibit reduced mental and cognitive ability.
Lion's mane may help as studies indicate that it contains compounds that may stimulate brain cells growth. Additionally, animal studies [1, 2, 3] suggest that this mushroom may mitigate the effects of Alzheimer's disease, a condition that leads to progressive memory loss.
A recent study demonstrated lion's mane's ability to boost brain health in people with mild Alzheimer's disease. After 49 weeks of daily supplementation with 1 gram of mushroom extract, there were significant improvements in cognitive test scores. A promising finding, indeed!
Promotes a Better Mood
Depression and anxiety are common mental health problems. It is estimated that up to 10% of the global population suffers from anxiety disorders. While the causes of depression and anxiety vary from person to person, chronic inflammation is a leading contributor.
Fortunately, lion's mane mushrooms might help reduce symptoms of depression/anxiety because it contains anti-inflammatory properties. Animal studies provide evidence that lion's mane extracts could help regenerate brain cells, thus improving hippocampal functioning [4, 5]. The hippocampus is a region in the brain involved in emotion and memory processing.
In menopausal women, lion's mane mushroom has been reported to reduce self-reported feelings of anxiety and irritation. However, there are limited human studies on the health benefits of H. erinaceus, so more research is undoubtedly needed.
May Prevent Stomach Ulcers
Like the mental illnesses described before, digestive tract ulcers are prevalent. It is mainly caused by a damaged mucus layer due to long-term use of NSAIDs and excessive growth of the H. pylori bacteria.
But it appears lion's mane extract may help with stomach ulcers. It may inhibit unregulated growth of H. pylori and protect the stomach lining in vitro. Moreover, a 2013 animal study showed that this mushroom could prevent alcohol-induced ulcers more effectively than conventional anti-acidity medications.
Since it is an anti-inflammatory, lion's mane may reduce inflammation and minimize tissue damage in the digestive tract. It may also help with inflammatory bowel diseases, e.g., Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis [6, 7, 8].
In fact, a 2016 study found that taking a mushroom supplement containing 14% lion's mane extract "significantly reduced ulcerative colitis symptoms and improved quality of life" after 3 weeks.
The supplement used in the 2016 study contained other mushroom extracts, making it difficult to conclude about lion's mane's effects specifically. Still, such findings are precious and highlight the immense pharmaceutical potential of mushrooms.
May Reduce the Risk of Nervous System Injuries
The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system. Together with nerves spread throughout the body, these components transmit signals that support various bodily functions.
Typically, spinal cord and brain injuries can lead to loss of mental functions and paralysis, which can take time to heal. However, research shows that lion's mane mushroom extract may help speed up the healing of nervous system injuries by stimulating the regeneration and repair of nerve cells.
Again, it is essential to note that these findings are based on in vitro experiments. There is still no evidence that lion's mane would have a similar therapeutic effect on humans.
May Reduce Heart Disease Risks
Here is a grim statistic: heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. It caused 1 in every 5 deaths in 2021. But here is something to ponder — the major risk factors include obesity, high levels of oxidized cholesterol, and blood clots.
The good news is that lion's mane extract may influence these factors and reduce the risks of heart disease. For instance, a rat study showed that lion's mane extract enhances fat metabolism, thus reducing triglyceride levels. It also exhibits the ability to aid weight loss.
Needless to say, high triglyceride levels and obesity are risk factors for heart disease. By reducing both, lion's mane mushrooms may improve heart health.
Lion's mane extract may also prevent cholesterol oxidation in the blood. This is important because oxidized cholesterol sticks to the artery walls and hardens them (Atherosclerosis). This increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Lion's mane also contains hericenone B – a compound that reduces the rate of blood clotting hence the risk of stroke and heart attack.
All in all, more human studies are needed to validate these preliminary findings.
Boost Immune System
A strong immune system helps the body fight germs and diseases. One way to strengthen your immune system is by eating healthy, wholesome foods like lion's mane mushrooms.
Indeed, research shows that these mushrooms can boost immunity by enhancing intestinal immune system activity. This helps the body fight disease-causing pathogens that enter via the nose or mouth.
Moreover, a 2012 study found that daily supplementation with lion's mane extract lengthened the life span of rats infected with salmonella bacteria nearly four-fold. Despite these promising effects, lion's mane immune-boosting properties need more research.
Are there any Side Effects to Taking Lion's Mane?
Lion's mane exhibits no side effects when fresh and is generally well-tolerated. However, this mushroom may cause side effects such as nausea, abdominal discomfort, and skin rash in supplement form.
There are documented cases of people experiencing breathing difficulties after taking lion's mane mushrooms. Other widely reported adverse effects of lion's mane are:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduced libido
- Allergic reactions
Generally, research on lion's mane side effects is limited, so exercise caution if you plan to use it. That being said, people with bleeding disorders, diabetes, and those due for surgery are advised against taking lion's mane supplements. Additionally, pregnant and breastfeeding women should also keep off functional mushrooms.
There are no studies depicting lion's mane to be particularly detrimental to people with such conditions, but none have looked at its safety either. So, better to err on the side of caution. If you have any pre-existing health condition for which you are on medication, consult a physician before supplementing with functional mushrooms.
What is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is a condition caused by damaged nerves. It has many causes, namely autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, or side effects of certain medications. Neuropathy often affects nerve endings, so it primarily manifests in peripheral body parts like the legs, feet, and arms.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of this disease are bothersome and include:
- Numbness/tingling in hands and feet
- Loss of sensitivity and coordination
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle weakness and paralysis
People afflicted by neuropathy can experience great discomfort, so knowing there are ways to mitigate these symptoms is heartwarming.
Does Lion's Mane Help Neuropathy?
Even though lion's mane has been extensively studied, its neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties have received significant attention. Thanks to these two properties, this mushroom extract may stimulate the production of nerve growth factors (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF).
These proteins are important in supporting nerve cells' growth, maintenance, and survival in the entire nervous system. By doing so, lion's mane could help repair damaged cells, reduce nerve pain, and boost muscle strength.
In a 2012 study, the researchers investigated the effect of H. erinaceus on peripheral nerve injury. They concluded that this mushroom "could promote the regeneration of injured rat peroneal nerve" when administered daily.
There is further evidence that lion's mane may activate the Nfr2 pathway leading to cytoprotective and detoxificant genes expressing in large numbers. This helps reduce oxidative stress, thus supporting healthy nerves and brain health.
Moreover, lion's mane contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help alleviate neuropathic pain and prevent further nerve cell damage. Despite these promising findings, human trials are scarce.
Overall, studying how lion's mane repairs the brain and peripheral nerves is just a fraction of the work. We also need to understand vital aspects like dosage, duration, and form of lion's mane ideal for treating neuropathy.
Can Lion's Mane Regenerate Nerves?
There are currently no human studies on lion's mane's ability to regenerate nerves. However, animal studies suggest it may be helpful towards this end.
A 2012 study investigating lion's mane's neuroregenerative potential in treating peripheral nerve injuries showed it stimulated faster peripheral nerve regeneration, especially in the early stages of healing.
Does Lion's Mane Stimulate Nerve Growth?
Lion's mane may promote nerve growth by triggering the production of proteins called NGFs. These proteins support the health of nerve cells in the nervous system.
In a study, lion's mane was shown to promote neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells thanks to bioactive compounds in the mushroom that increase the expression of NGF proteins.
Furthermore, a limited number of human studies have also shown promising results. However, the evidence is insufficient to robustly conclude that H. erinaceus can promote nerve growth and regeneration in people.
Does Lion's Mane Repair Myelin?
A myelin sheath is a protective layer that covers nerve cells. Naturally, it is vital to the proper functioning of these cells. So it follows that demyelination (damage to the myelin sheath) is closely linked to neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
While there are no human studies on the effects of H. erinaceus on the myelin sheath, there are indications it may be beneficial. For instance, an in vitro study showed that lion's mane extract stimulated early and had a higher rate of myelination.
Of course, these findings warrant further research to help us better understand how lion's mane can help with neuropathy.
How Can You Take Lion's Mane for Neuropathy?
Given the potential health benefits of lion's mane, finding ways to incorporate it into your diet is appealing. That said, the ideal dosage of lion's mane for neuropathy is indeterminate.
So, we recommend consulting a healthcare professional to help you determine the appropriate dosage. Consider starting with 1,000mg of lion's mane extract daily. You can increase this dosage as you get used to the mushroom. On average, a daily intake of 2,000mg of H. erinaceus extract should be enough.
Lion's mane supplements are available in various forms, including powder, capsules, and extracts. The powder can easily be infused in beverages, while pills are convenient for daily oral administration.
If powder is your thing, you'll love our TUNE IN supplement. It is a highly effective expertly-crafted formula comprising lion's mane, cordyceps, ashwagandha extract, Rhodiola root extract, and a plethora of vitamins to supercharge your brain and kick your productivity into overdrive. Just mix it, sip it, and go!
If you want a concentrated form of lion's mane, go for extracts. These are more potent.
Crucially, prioritize purity and quality when selecting lion's mane supplements. Always buy products from reputable brands that use organically grown, non-GMO functional mushrooms. It also helps to go for manufacturers that provide more information about their products, e.g., their sources and processing methods.
Lion's Mane and Neuropathy: FAQs
Can Lion's Mane Help Neuropathy?
There is no clear-cut evidence that lion's mane can treat neuropathy. However, animal studies suggest this mushroom has properties that may help relieve symptoms of neuropathy.
Does Lion's Mane Mushroom Help Nerve Damage?
Substantial evidence shows that lion's mane mushrooms may help with nerve damage. However, more human studies are needed to validate the promising findings of animal studies.
What is the Best Mushroom for Neuropathy?
Lion's mane may promote nerve growth and regeneration in addition to myelin repair. This makes it the best mushroom for neuropathy.
Can Lion's Mane Repair Neurons?
While irrefutable evidence is lacking, several animal studies highlight the ability of lion's mane to repair neurons by stimulating the production of NGFs and BDNFs.
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