The Benefits of Maitake Mushrooms

What You Need to Know

maitake mushrooms
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Maitake (Grifola frondrosa) is a type of medicinal mushroom native to northeastern Japan. Also known as "hen of the woods," this feathered, frilly mushroom is often consumed as a food and the extract is available in dietary supplement form.

A key component in maitake mushrooms is beta-glucan, a type of polysaccharide (a long molecule of carbohydrates found to affect the immune system).

Uses for Maitake Mushroom

Maitake mushrooms are said to offer a wide range of health benefits. For instance, maitake is often said to boost immune function and, in turn, fight certain infections. Maitake is also touted as a natural remedy for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It's even being researched as a potential cancer-fighter.

Benefits of Maitake Mushroom

Although maitake supplements are often marketed to enhance immune function, there's currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effects of maitake in humans. Most of the studies have been laboratory studies. Here's a look at some findings from the available research:

Cancer

In laboratory research, scientists have found that maitake extracts may slow the growth of certain tumors. By spurring activity in immune cells (such as natural killer cells and T-cells), maitake is thought to help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. A component of beta-glucan known as the D-fraction has been found to be have anti-tumor activity.

However, researchers have yet to demonstrate that maitake offers any cancer-fighting benefits in controlled clinical trials.

Diabetes

Some animal studies suggest that maitake may reduce blood glucose levels. In a study published in 2015, for example, maitake was found to reduce glucose levels in rats. Another preliminary animal study found that maitake mushroom extract improved insulin resistance. A health condition known to raise your risk of type 2 diabetes (as well as heart disease), insulin resistance occurs when the body fails to respond properly to insulin (a hormone that plays a key role in using blood sugar for energy).

High Blood Pressure

Maitake may help lower blood pressure, according to animal-based research. For instance, a 2010 study on rats found that maitake helped protect against high blood pressure (in addition to enhancing insulin sensitivity and curbing some aspects of inflammation).

Safety

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the side effects or safety of regular or long-term use of maitake mushroom extract. However, there's some evidence that maitake mushroom supplements may interact with certain medicines (such as blood-sugar-lowering medications and blood-thinning drugs like warfarin). Avoid taking maitake supplements within two weeks of scheduled surgery.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

The Takeaway

Maitake mushrooms are flavorful, extremely versatile mushrooms that can be roasted, sautéed, pickled or added to soups and other dishes. If you're considering the use of maitake supplements or extracts, however, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Given the lack of clinical trials on maitake's benefits, supplements made from these mushrooms cannot currently be recommended for the treatment or prevention of any health condition.

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