One Healthy Supplement Could Be Dangerous If You Have These Conditions

Lion's mane is a fascinating mushroom with cascading white tendrils that look like a lion's mane. Although it has been a staple in traditional Asian medicine for centuries, it's gaining worldwide recognition for its potential benefits. For instance, a recent study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry linked the mushroom to increased nerve growth and enhanced memory. 

"Using super-resolution microscopy, we found the mushroom extract and its active components largely increase the size of growth cones, which are particularly important for brain cells to sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain," Professor Frederic Meunier from the Queensland Brain Institute, who co-authored the study, said in a statement.

Other potential health benefits include improving blood pressure and blood sugar, supporting the heart, liver, and kidney, and boosting energy. However, lion's mane supplements may not be suitable for everyone, especially if you have specific medical conditions or are in certain situations. For instance, people who have diabetes, take certain medications, are pregnant, or have specific allergies should probably avoid it.

Lion's mane supplements and blood clotting

While lion's mane supplements can offer many benefits, if you have blood clotting issues or are taking blood-thinning medications, it's especially important to be cautious. Lion's mane (H. erinaceus) contains compounds that could potentially thin your blood, which can be beneficial for enhancing circulation but could also be a cause for concern if you're already taking blood thinners. Combining lion's mane with medications like warfarin, heparin, or aspirin could lead to excessive bleeding or interfere with the effectiveness of these medications. 

"Anyone who is preparing for surgery or who has a bleeding disorder should avoid lion's mane," Monique Richard, MS, RDN, LDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Everyday Health.

Lion's mane's blood-thinning potential may exacerbate this risk, potentially leading to uncontrolled bleeding, which can be dangerous or even life-threatening. It's also important to carefully monitor clotting factors when taking blood-thinning medications, and adding lion's mane supplements to the mix could make it more challenging for healthcare providers to maintain the appropriate therapeutic levels. Given these concerns, individuals with blood clotting issues or those taking blood thinners should exercise caution when considering lion's mane supplements.

Considerations for blood pressure and diabetes

If you're managing conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes, you might be curious about trying lion's mane supplements, but it's important to be cautious and consider some potential risks. For example, lion's mane supplements can lower blood pressure in some people, which could be helpful if you have hypertension. However, if your blood pressure is already low or you're taking medications to lower it, combining lion's mane with those medications could make your blood pressure too low. That could result in dizziness, fainting, or other problems.

A study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine showed that lion's mane lowers blood glucose levels, which could be great news for people with diabetes. But this interaction can be tricky. If you're already taking medication to lower your blood sugar levels, adding lion's mane supplements could make that effect even stronger, so talk to your healthcare provider first to make sure it's safe and won't cause any complications.

Other special considerations

There are other unique circumstances or medical conditions that require specific caution. For instance, if you have a known mushroom allergy, it's crucial to be extra careful with lion's mane supplements. Although lion's mane is a different species from the usual edible mushrooms like button or shiitake, there is still a risk.

If you're planning a surgery, you should also be careful with lion's mane supplements. Since lion's mane may have blood-thinning properties, it could increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. To be safe, it's best to stop taking lion's mane supplements at least two weeks before any planned surgical procedure. And, of course, always consult with your surgeon or healthcare provider to make sure everything goes smoothly.

If you're pregnant or nursing, it's also important to talk to your healthcare provider about any dietary changes or supplements you're considering. Lion's mane supplements, like many other supplements, don't have enough safety data for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. So, to be on the safe side, it's always best to check with your healthcare provider before taking it.