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This is not a medical site. Information on this page is provided on a "best efforts" basis for interest only and does not constitute personal advice.
It is essential that you discuss medical matters with your doctor.

Maitake - Potent Mushroom

In Japan, Maitake Mushroom is called "King of Mushroom". Maitake is a very large mushroom (the size of a basketball), which grows deep in the mountains of North-eastern Japan. Maitake is extremely sensitive to environmental changes, which has presented many challenges to those cultivating this mushroom. Only recently have Japanese farmers succeeded in producing high-quality organic Maitake Mushrooms, allowing for wider availability.

The fruiting body and the mycelium of Maitake are used medicinally. In China and Japan, Maitake Mushrooms have been consumed for 3000 years.

In the late 1980s, Japanese scientists identified the Maitake to be more potent than lentinan, shiitake, suehirotake, and kawaratake mushrooms, all used in traditional Asian medicine for immune function enhancement. Historically, Maitake has been used as a tonic and adaptogen. It was used as a food to help promote wellness and vitality. Traditionally, consumption of the mushroom was thought to prevent high blood pressure and cancer - two applications that have been the focal point of modern research. The polysaccharides present in Maitake have a unique structure, and are among the most powerful to be studied to date. The primary polysaccharide, beta-D-glucan, is well absorbed when taken orally and is currently under review for the prevention & treatment of cancer, and as a supportive tool for HIV infection. Clinical research with Maitake Mushroom has increased dramatically in the past several years. Laboratory studies have shown that Maitake Mushroom extract can inhibit the growth of tumors and stimulate the immune system of cancerous mice. Human clinical studies of patients with breast and colorectal cancers are currently under way in the United States. In China, 63 patients with lung, stomach, or liver cancers or leukemia who took four capsules of Maitake extract three times daily before meals for one to three months showed an "anticancer" effect. Reports that Maitake may help AIDS patients fight Kaposi's sarcoma and other symptoms are preliminary and require further scientific studies.

Additionally, people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) may also benefit from Maitake, according to researchers Hiroaki Nanba and Keiko Kubo, authors of "Mushroom Biology and Mushroom Products". Researchers investigated a specific, high-molecular polysaccharide in Maitake called the X-fraction. They found that mice given Maitake had an increased ability to recognize glucose, and the control group had higher blood glucose levels. The researchers suggested that Maitake can reduce insulin resistance, thereby increasing insulin sensitivity. The X-fraction appears to be the active compound with anti-diabetic properties.

Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa) may best be known for its cancer-fighting properties. It contains grifolan, an important beta-glucan polysaccharide (molecule composed of many sugar molecules linked together). Grifolan has been shown to activate macrophages, a type of cell consider the " heavy artillery": of the immune system, explains Larry A. Walker, Ph.D., R.D., author of "Natural products update," published in Drug Topics, June 1997. D-fraction, one of the polysaccharides in maitake mushroom, also energized the cellular immune system.

The evidence confirming maitake's therapeutic value - both in and out of the laboratory - is impressive. Laboratory studies have shown that maitake extract can block the growth of cancer tumors and boost the immune function of mice with cancer.

Haroaki Nanba reported the findings of the following study in "Maitake D-fraction: healing and preventing potentials for cancer," published in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Feb/Mar 1996; In a non-randomized clinical study, 165 individuals with advanced cancer used maitake D-fraction. Patients received either maitake D-fraction alone or with chemotherapy. Maitake mushroom was found effective against leukemia and stomach and bone cancers. Responses were further improved when maitake D-fraction and chemotherapy were used together. Individuals receiving maitake D-fraction also experienced relief from the side effects of chemotherapy, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, hair loss, and deficiency of white blood cells.

People with Type 2 Diabetes may also benefit from maitake mushroom, according to researchers Hiroaki Nanba and Keiko Kubo, authors of "Mushroom biology and mushroom products". Researchers investigated a specific, high-molecular polysaccharide in maitake called the X-fraction. They found that mice given maitake had an increased ability to recognize glucose, and the control group had higher blood glucose levels. The researchers suggested that maitake mushroom can reduce insulin resistance, thereby increasing insulin sensitivity. The X-fraction appears to be the active compound with anti-diabetic properties.

In addition, many doctors in Japan use maitake mushroom to lower blood pressure and blood lipids, two key risk factors in cardiovascular disease.

Beinfield also recommends maitake mushroom for stomach ailments. "It aids digestion by regulating the stomach and intestines, and helps eliminate food stagnation," she explains.

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