Maitake mushroom or Grifola frondosa in Latin is an edible mushroom with both nutritional and medicinal properties. The mushroom is found growing in the dying or dead hardwood trees, particularly maples and oaks.
It is a very distinct-looking tan brown to gray mushroom. Also known as hen-of-the-woods, the cluster of mushrooms resembles the ruffled feathers of a hen sitting in the forest.
Maitake mushrooms are native to the temperate forest of Europe, the eastern part of North America, and China where it is typically found from late summer to early autumn.
What is Maitake Mushroom?
The word Maitake means “dancing mushroom”(1) in Japanese. According to folklore, the name was given because people were supposed to have danced with joy when they found the mushroom.
Maitake is a major culinary mushroom in Japan and China where it has been consumed for many centuries. The mushroom is held in high regard, even used as currency in the Japanese feudal era.
In the last 30 years, much scientific research has been focused on the benefits of Maitake mushrooms. This article will explore up-to-date Maitake mushroom health benefits, its uses, how to consume the mushroom and if it has any side effects.
What are the health benefits of Maitake mushrooms?
Maitake mushroom is used to treat:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol in the blood
- Cancer and side effects of chemotherapy
Hen-of-the-woods mushroom’s main component is the polysaccharide beta-glucan. Apart from this, other bioactive ingredients like polysaccharide fractions (D, MD, MZ, and X) are also present in the mushroom. Additionally, Maitake is a good source of carbohydrates, proteins, dietary fibers, vitamin D, and minerals (potassium, phosphorus, Magnesium, Calcium, and Sodium)
The different bioactive compounds isolated from the mushroom are attributed to the following Maitake mushrooms benefits:
1. Immune Boosting Medicinal Mushroom
The immune system in our body needs to have the right balance to function correctly. Many studies have examined the ability of Maitake mushrooms to modulate immune responses(2). That means the mushroom can alter the response of the immune system to any threat.
Beta-glucans are found to significantly stimulate defense reactions(3) in the body. They are considered to be activators of immune reactions and are highly sought after immune-boosting natural products throughout human history.
The D fraction of the Maitake mushroom is known to activate Natural Killer (NK) cells(4). NK cells control several types of microbial infection by preventing their spread and the subsequent tissue damage caused by such infections.
NK cells can also limit or exacerbate immune responses according to the needs of the body. The stimulation of NK cells by Grifola frondosa extracts also plays an important role in fighting off other foreign substances from the body including cancerous cells. They also hold the potential to control autoimmune disorders.
The extract of Maitake activates macrophages and neutrophils(5), two types of white blood cells that devour microorganisms. They also lead to the production of cytokines(6). These are substances secreted by cells of the immune system which control the growth and activity of the other blood cells and immune cells.
2. Helps Control Inflammation
Maitake mushroom polysaccharides, including beta-glucans, have been known to inhibit two major mediators of inflammation (TNF and interleukin).
The stimulatory actions of the mushroom on macrophages also play a crucial role in the control of inflammation. Macrophages are indispensable key players in(7) inflammation and can regulate inflammation after destroying harmful substances. They also help in wound healing and maintaining homeostasis in the tissue following an injury.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a prolonged inflammatory condition in which the immune system attacks the joint. It leads to significant joint pain and inflammation and is a source of great distress to many people.
Agaroglycerides and ergosterol are two major anti-inflammatory compounds(8) that have shown beneficial effects against pain and inflammation in animal models. The finding of the 2012 study indicates that the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of the Maitake mushroom can be utilized as an alternative medication for inflammatory pain.
Another study conducted in 2002 reported that the mycelium of the Maitake mushroom inhibits cyclooxygenase(9) (COX). Inhibition of COX is one of the mechanisms by which non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) exert their potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Grifola frondosa extracts have shown a significant reduction in inflammatory markers(10) even in healthy people when it was given daily for just 12 days.
3. Keeps Blood Sugar Levels Under Control
Maitake mushroom has anti-diabetes effects, which have been reported in quite a few studies.
The alpha glucan extracted from the fruiting body of Maitake was given to animal models of type 2 diabetes(11). Changes in body weight, levels of glucose in the blood, and the amount of glucose stored in the liver were noted. Following the administration of Maitake, there was a significant decline in the body weight, and blood glucose levels. There was also an increase in the stored glucose content, which can be utilized later when the body needs it.
In many cases of type 2 diabetes, a major factor for the increased blood sugar level is the resistance of tissue to the action of insulin. The glucose-lowering hormone insulin fails to perform its action and therefore diabetes becomes difficult to treat. Many anti-diabetes medications fail to achieve the expected levels of efficiency when there is insulin resistance. While some may be able to control blood sugar, it comes with many potential side effects.
Grifola frondosa is a safe and natural alternative in the treatment of insulin-resistant diabetes. Some reports suggest Maitake may, to some extent, enhance insulin sensitivity(12) and weaken insulin resistance.
4. Flights Malignant Cancer Cells
Maitake's benefits, as an anti-tumor agent, have been put to test in several clinical trials. The natural polysaccharide present in the mushroom shows potent antitumor bioactivity, both during chemoprevention and treatment.
According to experts, this can be partly attributed to the modification in the composition of the microbiota of the gut following the ingestion of mushroom polysaccharides. These beneficial compounds can reverse alterations of bacterial species involved in the development of tumors(13). Controlling microbial dysbiosis can augment health-promoting bacteria and metabolites of the intestine.
Apart from polysaccharides, glycoproteins extracted from the mycelium of Grifola frondosa have been shown to fight off cancer cells(14). Glycoproteins are known to kill the tumor cells(15) by directly putting a brake on their proliferation or by initiating the death of tumor cells.
In addition to the polysaccharides and glycoproteins of the mushroom, beta-glucans and MD fraction, also exhibit anti-tumor effects(16). These bioactive compounds activate cells of the immune system (such as macrophages and lymphocytes) which attack the tumor cells.
In 1999, the Food and drug administration (FDA) approved clinical studies using the D-fraction form of Maitake. This was used in people with advanced prostate and breast cancer. To date, the antitumor property of D-fraction(17) has been studied in cancers of the bladder, prostate, liver, white blood cells, brain, breast, and kidney.
5. Decreases Blood Pressure
The blood pressure-lowering activity of the Maitake mushroom has been the focus of multiple studies.
In a 2010 study(18) carried out on aging female rats, Maitake mushroom extracts reduced blood pressure after four months. There were no significant toxic changes in the blood with the intake of Maitake fractions. This indicates that Maitake could be a safe and natural method to favorably influence the progressive elevation of blood pressure associated with aging.
Another study evaluated the effects of Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms on blood pressure levels(19) in rats with hypertension. In a study conducted at Tohuku University in Japan, 18 rats were divided into three dietary groups. The first group of rats received no mushrooms, the second received Shiitake and the third group received Maitake powders.
The rats were fed salt-infused drinking water for 9 weeks. The blood pressure and bodyweight of the rats fed with the mushrooms had significantly lower blood pressure. It could be possible that the lower bodyweight of the rats, due to the mushroom diet, may have contributed to the lowering of blood pressure.
6. It Has Anti-viral Properties
Grifola frondosa potentiates the host defense system and can exert a protective effect against many viruses that can cause diseases.
Maitake health benefits in fighting off viruses have been reported in a 2007 study. An antiviral protein was extracted from Grifola frondosa that inhibited the replication of Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1)(20).
In the study, the mushroom protein reduced the severity of HSV-1 induced inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis) and stromal keratitis (a type of corneal inflammation that can cause vision loss or blindness) in animal models.
In another study, researchers examined the effectiveness of dietary Maitake mushroom in boosting the potency of influenza virus vaccination(21). This double-blind, placebo-controlled study carried out on healthy adult volunteers analyzed the response to the influenza vaccine by measuring blood antibody levels. Participants were given Maitake daily for 12 weeks and were also evaluated for the suppression of symptoms of the common cold.
The study found that continuously eating Maitake mushrooms can raise the antibody levels against the influenza virus. Additionally, symptoms of severe cold including nasal discharge and headache were significantly improved with the intake of Maitake mushroom.
7. Improves Gut Health
Maitake mushroom benefits in colon inflammation have also been evaluated in clinical research.
The polysaccharide extracts of Maitake mushrooms have shown a reduction in the inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)(22). TNF alpha is one of the major chemicals involved in IBD. In a rat model with IBD, the mushroom inhibited colon ulcers, TNF alpha, and weight loss associated with the disease. Moreover, the clinical effect of Maitake mushroom was similar to a drug commonly used in the treatment of IBD. This study suggests that Maitake mushroom could be valuable medicinal food for the treatment of IBD and could also be used as an alternative treatment modality.
A study evaluated 14 mushroom species, including Maitake, in chronic gastritis(23) caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. It was found that the alcoholic extracts of the mushrooms inhibited the growth of H pylori. This effect of medicinal mushrooms can be potentially utilized in the treatment of H-pylori-associated gastrointestinal disorders.
8. Lowers Cholesterol
Maitake mushrooms, by themselves, have very low amounts of total fat. 100 grams of the mushroom contain just about 0.2 grams of fat. Incorporating Maitake into your daily diet can promote healthy weight loss and improve blood cholesterol levels significantly.
Maitake mushrooms also can alter lipid metabolism(24) by inhibiting the elevation of blood lipid levels and accumulation of fat in the liver.
The study from Tohuku University, Japan also measured plasma cholesterol, triglyceride, and phospholipid levels. There was a significant reduction in the total cholesterol levels in the rats that were fed Maitake. This lipid-lowering property of Maitake could be attributed to increased excretion of Cholesterol or due to the inhibition of its synthesis.
Maitake mushrooms lowered cholesterol(25) in rat models. There was a reduction in total cholesterol and VLDL cholesterol. Similar effects were also seen in another clinical study where mice fed with cholesterol were given extracts of Maitake mushroom.
How much Maitake mushroom should I take?
The dosage of Maitake mushroom depends on what you are taking the mushroom for. The general recommended dose of Maitake is 2000 mg (or 2g) of the mushroom powder.
Maitake mushrooms have cumulative effects. It takes weeks or months before you start noticing the benefits of Maitake mushroom supplements.
What are the Maitake mushroom side effects?
Maitake mushroom is generally considered to be a safe mushroom.
Only a handful of side effects have been reported, which include nausea, allergic reactions, and stomach upset.
Maitake mushroom is not only popular for its earthy aroma and umami flavor, but also its wide range of health-boosting properties. This powerful superfood mushroom not only provides low –calories nutrition but can also be used to treat cancer, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Maitake mushroom benefits range from boosting your immune system to controlling harmful inflammation. Hen of the woods mushroom also keeps your blood sugar levels in check, improves gut health, and attacks cancer cells. Maitake mushroom is not just a staple in traditional Eastern medicine but also the fast-paced lives of the modern world.
- Wu, J. Y., Siu, K. C., & Geng, P. (2021). Bioactive Ingredients And Medicinal Values OfGrifola Frondosa (Maitake).Foods (Basel, Switzerland),10(1), 95. What Is Maitake Mushroom? (1) https://doi.org/10.3390/Foods10010095
- Wu, M. J., Cheng, T. L., Cheng, S. Y., Lian, T. W., Wang, L., & Chiou, S. Y. (2006). Immunomodulatory properties of Grifola frondosa in submerged culture. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry,54(8), 2906–2914. (2) https://doi.org/10.1021/jf052893q
- Novak, M., & Vetvicka, V. (2008). Beta-glucans, history, and the present: immunomodulatory aspects and mechanisms of action.Journal of immunotoxicology,5(1), 47–57. (3) https://doi.org/10.1080/15476910802019045
- Kodama, N., Komuta, K., & Nanba, H. (2003). Effect of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) D-Fraction on the activation of NK cells in cancer patients.Journal of medicinal food,6(4), 371–377. (4) https://doi.org/10.1089/109662003772519949
- Wu, M. J., Cheng, T. L., Cheng, S. Y., Lian, T. W., Wang, L., & Chiou, S. Y. (2006). Immunomodulatory properties of Grifola frondosa in submerged culture.Journal of agricultural and food chemistry,54(8), 2906–2914. (5) https://doi.org/10.1021/jf052893q
- Adachi, Y., Okazaki, M., Ohno, N., & Yadomae, T. (1994). Enhancement of cytokine production by macrophages stimulated with (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan, grifolan (GRN), isolated from Grifola frondosa.Biological & pharmaceutical bulletin,17(12), 1554–1560. (6) https://doi.org/10.1248/bpb.17.1554
- Atri, C., Guerfali, F. Z., & Laouini, D. (2018). Role of Human Macrophage Polarization in Inflammation during Infectious Diseases.International journal of molecular sciences,19(6), 1801. (7) https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19061801
- Han, C., & Cui, B. (2012). Pharmacological and pharmacokinetic studies with agaricoglycerides, extracted from Grifola frondosa, in animal models of pain and inflammation.Inflammation,35(4), 1269–1275. (8) https://doi.org/10.1007/s10753-012-9438-5
- Zhang, Y., Mills, G. L., & Nair, M. G. (2002). Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant compounds from the mycelia of the edible mushroom Grifola frondosa.Journal of agricultural and food chemistry,50(26), 7581–7585. (9) https://doi.org/10.1021/jf0257648
- Johnson, E., Førland, D. T., Saetre, L., Bernardshaw, S. V., Lyberg, T., & Hetland, G. (2009). Effect of an extract based on the medicinal mushroom Agaricus blazei murill on release of cytokines, chemokines and leukocyte growth factors in human blood ex vivo and in vivo.Scandinavian journal of immunology,69(3), 242–250. (10) https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-3083.2008.02218.x
- Hong, L., Xun, M., & Wutong, W. (2007). Anti-diabetic effect of an alpha-glucan from fruit body of maitake (Grifola frondosa) on KK-Ay mice.The Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology,59(4), 575–582 (11) https://doi.org/10.1211/jpp.59.4.0013
- Konno, S. (2001). Maitake SX-fraction: Possible hypoglycemic effect on diabetes mellitus.Alternative & Complementary Therapies: A New Bimonthly Publication for Health Care Practitioners,7(6), 366–370. (12) https://doi.org/10.1089/10762800152709723
- Liu, L., Li, M., Yu, M., Shen, M., Wang, Q., Yu, Y., & Xie, J. (2019). Natural polysaccharides exhibit anti-tumor activity by targeting gut microbiota.International journal of biological macromolecules,121, 743–751. (13) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.10.083
- Cui, F., Zan, X., Li, Y., Yang, Y., Sun, W., Zhou, Q., Yu, S., & Dong, Y. (2013). Purification and partial characterization of a novel anti-tumor glycoprotein from cultured mycelia of Grifola frondosa.International journal of biological macromolecules,62, 684–690. (14) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2013.10.025
- Cui, F., Zan, X., Li, Y., Yang, Y., Sun, W., Zhou, Q., Yu, S., & Dong, Y. (2013). Purification and partial characterization of a novel anti-tumor glycoprotein from cultured mycelia of Grifola frondosa.International journal of biological macromolecules,62, 684–690. (15) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2013.10.025
- Masuda, Y., Kodama, N., & Nanba, H. (2006). Macrophage J774.1 cell is activated by MZ-Fraction (Klasma-MZ) polysaccharide in Grifola frondosa.Mycoscience,47(6), 360–366. (16) https://doi.org/10.1007/s10267-006-0315-7
- Alonso, E. N., Ferronato, M. J., Fermento, M. E., Gandini, N. A., Romero, A. L., Guevara, J. A., Facchinetti, M. M., & Curino, A. C. (2018). Antitumoral and antimetastatic activity of Maitake D-Fraction in triple-negative breast cancer cells.Oncotarget,9(34), 23396–23412. (17) https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25174
- Preuss, H. G., Echard, B., Bagchi, D., & Perricone, N. V. (2010). Maitake mushroom extracts ameliorate progressive hypertension and other chronic metabolic perturbations in aging female rats.International journal of medical sciences,7(4), 169–180. (18) https://doi.org/10.7150/ijms.7.169
- Kabir, Y., Yamaguchi, M., & Kimura, S. (1987). Effect of shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms on blood pressure and plasma lipids of spontaneously hypertensive rats.Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology,33(5), 341–346. (19) https://doi.org/10.3177/jnsv.33.341
- Gu, C. Q., Li, J. W., Chao, F., Jin, M., Wang, X. W., & Shen, Z. Q. (2007). Isolation, identification and function of a novel anti-HSV-1 protein from Grifola frondosa.Antiviral research,75(3), 250–257. (20) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.antiviral.2007.03.011
- Nishihira, J., Sato, M., Tanaka, A., Okamatsu, M., Azuma, T., Tsutsumi, N., & Yoneyama, S. (2017). Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa) enhances antibody production in response to influenza vaccination in healthy adult volunteers concurrent with alleviation of common cold symptoms.Functional Foods in Health and Disease,7(7), 462–482. (21) https://doi.org/10.31989/ffhd.v7i7.363
- Lee, J. S., Park, S.-Y., Thapa, D., Choi, M. K., Chung, I.-M., Park, Y.-J., Yong, C. S., Choi, H. G., & Kim, J.-A. (2010). Grifola frondosa water extract alleviates intestinal inflammation by suppressing TNF-α production and its signaling.Experimental & Molecular Medicine,42(2), 143–154. (22) https://doi.org/10.3858/emm.2010.42.2.016
- Shang, X., Tan, Q., Liu, R., Yu, K., Li, P., & Zhao, G. P. (2013). In vitro anti-Helicobacter pylori effects of medicinal mushroom extracts, with special emphasis on the Lion's Mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (higher Basidiomycetes).International journal of medicinal mushrooms,15(2), 165–174. (24) https://doi.org/10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i2.50
- Kubo, K., & Nanba, H. (1996). The effect of maitake mushrooms on liver and serum lipids.Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine,2(5), 62–66.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8795938/
- Kabir, Y., Yamaguchi, M., & Kimura, S. (1987). Effect of shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms on blood pressure and plasma lipids of spontaneously hypertensive rats. Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology,33(5), 341–346. (25) https://doi.org/10.3177/jnsv.33.341