Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is an edible, parasitic type of fungus, a polypore that live on the stalk of leafy trees, most commonly on oak, chestnut or elms. Its most common occurrence is in North East Japan and East North America, but it also grows in Hungary. Due to its several beneficial health effects, it is one of the longstanding herbs of Eastern medicine.
It is known not only as Maitake, but also as polypore. Maitake is used in Japan. Maitake means ’dancing fungus’ because it was believed that the person who found it started to dance immediately, as its price was tantamount to the price of silver.
In Japan it is called the king of fungus, mainly due to its size, which can reach up to 20 kg. The plant itself consists of fungus groups with diameter of 20-50 cm, located on several levels at the foot of harder tree trunks. On its only thick, branch trunk, fungus with fan or tongue-shaped, half-sided hat line up, mostly gray-brown, ochre or darker reddish-brown. The flesh of maitake in his caps is soft and white. It is very tasty at its early age– similar to chicken meat, so it has become a favourite dish. At its later age it smells like a cheese, and becomes less flavoured.
Maitake has been cultivated actively since the 1980’s. It is most commonly used as tea or soup, it is consumed as healing foods in the eastern countries. It is also available as a dietary supplement, so its beneficial properties may be available for everyone.
Japan and China respect Maitake because it supports the body in restoring normal functioning and helps the immune system work. Regular consumption proved to contribute to maintaining health and preventing disease.
The most important ingredient of Maitake is 1.6 beta glucan polysaccharide, complex carbohydrate with high glucose content. It is also a powerful antioxidant compound that enhances the immune system and binds free radicals, therefore helps reducing the risk of inflammation, heart disease and cancer.
Maitake is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, contains important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin B2, magnesium, calcium and potassium. It is a protein-rich fungus.
Its positive effects
The beta-glucan compounds in Maitake activate the white blood cells in the body; thereby increasing the activity of the immune system. They help overcoming, for example, viral, bacterial and fungal infections, and increasing defence.
Several human studies proved promising and suggest that Maitake can reverse tumour growth and improve the activity of anti-cancer cell cells (NK). Beta-glucan in Maitake enhances white blood cell production in bone marrow, which is a crucial process in the prevention of infections and tumour processes – this is especially important for patients receiving cancer therapy (e.g. radiotherapy, chemotherapy).
According to further studies and experience, it is also an effective complement to chemotherapy, which simultaneously reduces the side effects of treatment (such as loss of appetite, hair loss, vomiting) and boosts its effects. In addition, clinical studies are currently been carrying out to support the positive effects on medical products regarding certain malicious diseases (e.g. lymphoma, leukaemia).
Reduces cholesterol level
It reduces high triglyceride levels, raises blood’s so-called good HDL cholesterol level, thereby protecting the health of the heart and the vascular system. It reduces HDL cholesterol while also relieves and detoxifies the liver, helps relieving the accumulation of fats and contributes to the elimination of fatty liver.
- Pohleven, J., Korosec, T., Gregori, A. (2016): Medicinal funguss. Published by MycoMedica
- Vetvicka, V., Vetvickova, J. (2017): Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts. Annals of Translational Medicine, 2014;2(2):14
- Yizhi Zhang, Dejun Sun, Qingjin Meng, Wanxu Guo, Qiuhui Chen, Ying Zhang (2017): Grifola frondosa polysaccharides induce breast cancer cellapoptosis via the mitochondrial-dependent apoptotic pathway. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR MEDICINE 40: 1089-1095,
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- US National Institutes of Health. Beta-glucan and rituximab in treating young patients with relapsed or progressive lymphoma or leukemia, or lymphoproliferative disorder related to donor stem cell transplantation. http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00087009