Lion’s Mane Hair Loss: Helpful or Harmful?

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Lion’s mane for hair loss treatment is promising based on early research and anecdotal reports.

Hair loss is an unfortunate reality for many people as they age.

Approximately 50 million men and 30 million women in the United States suffer from hair loss or balding.

With limited pharmaceutical options that come with side effects, natural alternatives like lion’s mane mushroom are garnering interest.

In this post, we will cover the current science behind lion’s mane and hair loss treatments and risks, including the best type of lion’s mane to use.

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What Causes Hair Loss?

Lion's mane hair loss treatment

Before examining the potential of the lion’s mane for supporting hair health, it’s important to understand what causes hair loss in the first place.

For both men and women, the most common cause of progressive hair loss is a combination of aging and genetics.

As you get older, levels of hormones like dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone fluctuate, shrinking hair follicles and shortening the active growth phase of each hair.

These effects are worse if you inherit certain hair loss genetic markers.

Other factors like stress, nutrient deficiencies, medications, autoimmune disorders, and chronic inflammation can accelerate genetic and aging-related baldness.

Conventional treatments like finasteride, minoxidil, or hair transplants don’t address the root causes for everyone either.

Related: Bryan Johnson Hair Loss and Graying Treatment

Lion’s Mane Hair Loss Overview

Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is an edible mushroom used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

In recent decades, modern research has confirmed lion’s mane contains a trove of beneficial bioactive compounds, including hericenones, erinacines, polysaccharides, and more.

Studies show lion’s mane extracts can stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) production, activate the Nrf2 antioxidant response, decrease inflammation and enhance cognition.

This impressive health profile underlies why usage as a supplement for brain health and cognitive function has exploded in popularity.

However, emerging research now suggests lion’s mane mushrooms may also offer promising effects for supporting hair growth and slowing hair loss.

Here is an overview of the mechanisms by which lion’s mane may impact hair:

Lowers Dihydrotestosterone (DHT): By inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, compounds in LM extract like hericerin can reduce DHT. This may prevent DHT-related hair follicle miniaturization.

Stimulates Nerve Growth Factor: Lion’s mane contains nerve growth-stimulating compounds called hericenones and erinacines. Increasing NGF may help follicles stay active.

Reduces Inflammation: Chronic scalp inflammation can inhibit hair growth. The anti-inflammatory properties of lion’s mane extract may create a more favorable scalp environment.

Antioxidant Protection: Oxidative damage contributes to hair aging. Lion’s mane provides antioxidant activity, which could shield follicles.

Regulates Immunity: Lion’s mane modulates immune function. This may restrain autoimmune reactions that can cause hair loss, like alopecia areata.

While the potential mechanisms are promising, direct clinical trials on lion’s manes effects in humans with hair loss have yet to be conducted.

Lion’s Mane Hair Loss Risk

Lion's mane hair loss treatment risks

In the nootropics and supplements community, there is an ongoing debate around whether lion’s mane and cordyceps can contribute to hair loss in some users.

The scientific evidence behind these claims warrants an in-depth analysis.

Related: Andrew Huberman Hair Loss: Recommendations & Tips

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)

The hypothesized mechanism behind lion’s mane causing hair thinning relates to its ability to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Some research indicates BDNF upregulates a signaling pathway involving TGF-beta 2, which can prematurely induce the catagen phase of the hair growth cycle.

However, human interventional data confirming this pathway as the definite cause of hair loss from lion’s mane is lacking.

Self Reports

Anecdotal self-reports from users posting online or in forums range widely, with some clearly noticing accelerated thinning or a receded hairline after taking lion’s mane supplements, while many others deny any issues over months or years of use.

For cordyceps, a specific extract demonstrated increased DHT and testosterone in rat studies.

Since DHT is closely tied to pattern hair loss, this evidence appears more persuasive.

However, the data is exclusively in animals so far, and human trials have not replicated cordsyeps’ DHT-raising effects.

So again, available research neither fully supports nor refutes it as a definitive hair loss risk factor.

For any individual experiencing hair loss, tons of variables are at play, from genetics, hormones, diet, and environmental exposures.

Counteract Lion’s Mane Hair Loss

Some prudent preventative measures like taking ginseng to inhibit TGF-beta 2 may limit hair follicle damage.

For those predisposed to hair loss, adopting a cautious approach with using or monitoring these mushroom supplements is reasonable given the uncertainty.

But automatically assuming they will accelerate balding ignores the more nuanced reality of incomplete data.

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About the Author

Drew Wilkins is a fitness and nutrition expert with a Master's in Biokinesiology (emphasis in Sports Science) from the University of Southern California and over a decade of experience as a personal trainer, nutrition consultant, and wellness coach. An avid surfer and soccer player, he brings a unique perspective to his research, advocating for a balanced approach to health that includes physical fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being.

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