Do lion's mane and chaga have health benefits?Some research has shown a benefit with lion's mane on certain measures of memory and cognitive function, and possibly depression and anxiety, but results have been inconsistent, and most improvements have been modest, at best. In addition, although laboratory studies suggest that lion's mane may have benefits in nerve injury and gut health, there do not appear to be any clinical studies supporting these uses. (See What It Does for more details.)
There is even less evidence supporting the use of chaga. Although laboratory and animal studies suggest that chaga mycelium may have immune stimulating effects and, in contrast, chaga fruiting body may have immune suppressing effects, there do not appear to be any clinical studies investigating these benefits in people. (See What It Does for more details.)
What is lion's mane and chaga?Like other types of fungus, lion's mane includes a fruiting body and mycelium. The fruiting body is the portion of the fungus that appears above ground and many people think of as being the "mushroom," while the mycelium is what many people think of as being the "roots." Test tube studies have shown that chemicals in lion's mane called "hericenones" and "erinacines" can promote the production of nerve growth factor in cells of the nervous system. (See What It Is for more details.)
Unlike mushroom-forming fungi like lion's mane, chaga is a fungus that grows as a parasite on trees causing a dark, charcoal-like, rough mass on the surface. This mycelial material (which may incorporate some wood from the tree) is what is mainly used in chaga teas and supplements. Only when the tree dies does chaga form a fruiting body, under the tree bark. Chaga fruiting body is used in some supplements.
What quality concerns exist with lion's mane and chaga supplements?The FDA has sent warning letters to some manufacturers of lion's mane supplements for not following good manufacturing practices (see Quality Concerns). ConsumerLab has also found that many products on the market are misleadingly labeled as "mushroom" although made with mycelium.
To review and compare the quality of lion's mane and chaga products, ConsumerLab purchased products as a consumer and tested them for beta-glucan, alpha-glucan, and the heavy metals lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. Tablets and caplets were tested to determine if they would properly release their ingredients. (See How Products Were Evaluated and What CL Found).
Which lion's mane and chaga supplements are best?Based on ConsumerLab's review and testing, it identified one lion's mushroom supplement that passed all tests and was reasonably priced, as well as two chaga supplements. (See Top Picks.)
What are the side effects of lion's mane and chaga?Use of lion's mane may cause abdominal discomfort, nausea, and allergic reactions in some people. It carries a slight risk of causing bleeding and it should be avoided in people with a history of the autoimmune condition known as HMGCR IMNM. Chaga is naturally high in oxalic acid, which can contribution to kidney stone formation and cause kidney injury if taken in high doses, long-term. People taking blood sugar lowering medication or blood thinning drugs should consult with a physician before using chaga. (See Concerns and Cautions for more details.)