Fungi 101: Maitake Mushroom

July 29, 2020 7 min read

Are you looking to level up your health and wellness? Medicinal mushrooms lay a strong foundation. While some mushrooms are found in the supplement aisle, you might have experienced maitakes at your local grocery store or farmer’s market without knowing just how beneficial they can be for your overall health.  

A popular culinary mushroom, maitakes have long been used inTraditional Chinese Medicine to reduce fatigue, support immunity and more. Now, their traditional use has spurred a surge of research, allowing scientists to understand the chemical pathways that enable maitake’s impressive effects.

Read on for our guide to understanding maitake mushroom benefits and how you can incorporate them into your daily wellness regimen.

Maitake: The Dancing Mushroom

Maitake mushroomsget their name from the Japanese words for dance (mai) and mushroom (take), purportedly due to the joyful feeling one might get after finding a maitake in the forest. This is just one interpretation—maitakes could also carry this name because of their feathery appearance, which makes the wild mushroom rustle and dance in the wind.

Native to Asia and North America, maitakes are also known as “hen of the woods” and of course by their scientific name,Grifola frondosa. These light brown, many-eared mushrooms can be found growing towards the base of oak and maple trees in late summer. They have a unique, soft texture and an earthy flavor. They are often referred to as a gourmet culinary mushroom.

Maitake Mushroom Benefits

Due to their long history as medicinal mushrooms in Asian cultures, maitakes have been the subject of extensive research, first in Japan and now in the U.S. 

Maitakes are thought to possess the following potential benefits:

  • Improving immune system response
  • Helping maintain healthy blood sugar
  • Supporting weight management

Let’s take a closer look at the current research on maitakes.

Supporting Immunity

In some countries, such as Japan and China, maitakes are used therapeutically to treat immunocompromised patients. However, ongoing research seeks to understand the chemical pathways that enable this edible mushroom’s potential immune-boosting effects. 

Current research shows that maitakes can modulate immune system response. 

The immune system is made up of diverse cells and organs, including the lymphatic system, the gastrointestinal tract, gut-lymphatic tissue and white blood cells. White blood cells are responsible for:

  • Identifying invader cells
  • Signaling other immune cells and organs to respond
  • Directly attacking pathogens

Immunocompromised patients’ immune systems may lag due to a lack of white blood cells. Maitakes seem to promote the growth and activity of these vital cells.

  • In 2013, a team of researchers studiedmaitakes’ effect on T Cell counts. T Cells are a kind of white blood cell. These crucial immune system cells signal the body of invading pathogens. The study found that maitake extracts improved subjects’ T Cell count and overall immune system response.
  • In addition to boosting T Cell count, researchershave found that maitakes can promote the growth of other kinds of white blood cells. This includes NK (natural killer) and cytotoxic T-cells (Tc) that can fight invading pathogens, including tumor cells. This makes maitakes a valuable medicinal mushroom for those suffering from cancer.
  • A2009 Phase I/II study at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital used a maitake extract to study breast cancer patients’ immune system response, with promising initial results. The researchers behind this preclinical trial suggested the therapy move on to clinical trials.

While most studies so far have focused on maitakes’ ability to help people with compromised immune systems, these results suggest these mushrooms could also boost immunity in healthy individuals. 

Current tests show maitake is safely tolerated by most people. It is, after all, a popular ingredient in many dishes. As we await more clinical trials, you can try out maitake’s immune-boosting effects for yourself. Not convinced yet? Check out this guide to understandingmushrooms for immunity.

Maintaining Blood Sugar

Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is important for overall health. Harvard Health Publishingexplains that high blood sugar can:

  • Increase inflammation
  • Lead to diabetes
  • Cause weight gain
  • Heighten the risk of heart disease

In addition, Dr. Niket Sonpal, gastroenterologist and internist, further explains in theHuffington Post that: 

“Consuming too much sugar can affect the cells in your immune system that target bacteria... Sugar affects the way your white blood cells attack bacteria.” 

With so many negative side effects associated with excess sugar, it’s clear that healthy blood sugar is essential to overall health and immune system response.

How can maitakes help? Ina 2003 study, scientists injected diabetic rats with maitake extract and observed that it markedly lowered their glucose levels.

While further human studies are needed, it’s possible that maitakes can help you to maintain healthy blood sugar, especially when used in combination with a sensible diet that is low on added sweeteners.

Maintaining Healthy Weight

As already noted, high blood sugar can lead to weight gain. By modulating blood sugar levels, maitakes may help avoid one of the side effects of high blood sugar: excess sugar consumption. Other studies further support maitakes’ ability to promote healthy weight maintenance.

  • A1997 study on rats with hyperlipidemia (abnormally high fat volume) found that maitakes decreased the amount of fat stored in subjects’ bodies.
  • Another study found that when fed maitake along with a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, rats gained significantly less weight than the control group—they were 24.9% lighter.

A preliminary study on humans even found that maitakes led to weight loss, even with no changes to diet. Those who took a maitake supplementlost an average of 7-13 lbs, and one test subject lost 26 lbs.

Maitakes are naturally low in fat and high in fiber and nutrients. And maitake extracts may support healthy weight loss, especially if used in combination with exercise and a sensible diet.

Traditional Uses of the Maitake Mushroom

As we learn more about the maitake mushroom, its beneficial effects are becoming clear. While the above uses are currently the subject of clinical study, further research may validate on the mushroom’s other traditional uses.

Maitakes’ history as a medicinal supplement can be traced back to 206BC. Ancient texts suggest the locations of wild-growing maitakes wereso closely guarded that a father might only tell his son the location of his mushroom foraging while on his deathbed. 

Accordingly, this highly-prized wild mushroom has amassed a long list of traditional uses. These include:

  • Strengthening bones
  • Improving bladder function
  • Reducing signs of aging from environmental pollutants
  • Increasing energy levels
  • Soothing everyday stress
  • Improving fertility

As more research is conducted, we’ll continue to discover more about this edible mushroom’s supportive effects. 

Luckily, maitakes are no longer so rare and closely guarded. While you can still forage for maitakes, the mushroom is now farmed, making it widely available.

How to Find and Use Maitake Mushrooms

Now that you’ve read about maitake mushrooms, you’re likely eager to make them a part of your lifestyle. And unlike chagas, reishis and other medicinal mushrooms, maitakes are easy to find in the grocery store. 

Cooking with Maitake

If you’re a mushroom lover, consider picking up “hen of the woods” on your next trip to the grocery store or farmer’s market. You could even buy your own growing kit and start a closet mushroom farm. 

As a dense, feathery mushroom, maitakes can make a great meat substitute, whether you’re spending the afternoon grilling or preparing a curry. Try throwing the edible mushrooms into your favorite pasta dish, seasoned with spices for optimal flavor.  Check outBon Appetit's list of fresh maitake mushroom recipes for some inspiration.

Whether seared, sauteed as a base for soup or added to a salad, maitakes need to be thoroughly cooked to avoid chewiness. Don’t try to eat these mushrooms raw.

Plant People Advanced Immune Power Blend

Not everyone is a mushroom lover. In addition, as tasty as maitakes are, it’s hard to incorporate them into each and every recipe you make. 

The solution? Maitake immune supplements. 

If you want to enjoy this mushroom’s benefits on a daily basis, try out Plant People’s Advanced Immune Power capsules, which combine maitakes with the following powerhouse mushrooms:

Along with these five potent mushrooms, thismushroom immune defense blend features potentastragalus benefits, as well as your daily dose ofVitamin C benefits. Taking a maitake supplement is an easy solution for those who are on the go and don't have time to make this edible mushroom into a culinary masterpiece. 

Vegan, sustainably sourced and organic, this immune-boosting blend delivers the best of plant and fungi medicine in a daily capsule. This makes it easy to incorporate maitake mushrooms into your daily routine and take them with you, wherever you’re headed. Try out our Advanced Immune Power to experience the wonderfulmushroom supplements benefits.

Plant People: Embracing the Fungi Among Us

Are you looking for a high-quality source of maitake supplements? At Plant People, we’re plant and fungi experts, dedicated to connecting you with the highest quality natural remedies. We source our ingredients from organic, U.S. farms to maintain quality and consistency through the cultivating and capsulating process.

Our years of experience creating powerful blends ofCBD tinctures andCBD capsules has made us leaders in herbal and botanical remedies. Now, our new Advanced Immune Power blend synthesizes ancient and contemporary research on mushrooms to deliver even more immune-boosting effects.

Are you ready to start feeling better? Try out Immune Power and embrace the difference fungi can make.


Sources:

Alternative Medicine Review. Maitake Extracts and Their Therapeutic Potential.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11207456/

Bon Appetit.6 ways to cook maitake mushrooms. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/how-to-cook-maitake-mushrooms

Harry Preuss.Maitake Magic. 

Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin.“Anti-hyperliposis Effect of Maitake Fruit Body (Grifola frondosa).”https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb1993/20/7/20_7_781/_article/-char/ja/

Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology.“Maitake (Grifola frondosa) Improve Glucose Tolerance of Experimental Diabetic Rats.”https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jnsv1973/47/1/47_1_57/_article/-char/ja/

Huffington Post. “Eating Sugar Can Weaken Your Immune System.”https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sugar-weaken-immune-system_l_5e74ca2cc5b6f5b7c542a3be

Harvard Health Publishing.The sweet danger of sugar. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar

International Journal of Cancer. “Oral Administration of Soluble β-glucans Extracted From Grifola Frondosa Induces Systemic Antitumor Immune Response and Decreases Immunosuppression in Tumor-Bearing Mice.”https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23280601/

Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. “Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa): Systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration.”https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23280601/

Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology. “A Phase I/II Trial of a Polysaccharide Extract From Grifola Frondosa (Maitake Mushroom) in Breast Cancer Patients.”https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19253021/


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