Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is one of the best-known and the second most frequently used edible fungus in the world. It is indigenous in East Asia, Japan and China, and has been used for around 2,000 years in these areas due to its therapeutic effects and its excellent taste. In Eastern cultures it is considered as the key to long life. Physicians listed it as life scents during the Ming dynasty.
It is known as shiitake in Japan and as scented mushroom in China. Today its use is widespread throughout the world, and after Agaricus, it is the second most grown mushroom (about 1 million tonnes per year). In Hungary, over the last 20 years, it has gradually become known, producing 20 tonnes per year, most of which is exported. Due to its high price it is less popular among consumers in our country.
Shiitake has special aroma and intensive flavour. It tastes and smells like bulb vegetables. The cap is brown with a diameter of 5-12 cm. Its stripe is a lighter-coloured by the cap and has scaly patches, its gills are beige. Its habitat lays only in the bark of dead trees, mostly in the rotten bark of beech, oak and chestnut trees.
Shiitake is used for meals in fresh and dried form. It is also available as a medicine in several forms; as an extract, capsule or as a fresh and dried fungus.
Its nutrient content
It is a mushroom with high protein content that is rich in essential minerals as well. It contains mostly zinc, potassium and phosphorus. The dry matter content is approx. 14% amino acids, 40% of which is classified as essential amino acids. Its vitamin B1, B2 and vitamin D2 content are paramount and it also included provitamin of vitamin D (ergosterol) in significant quantity. There are several types of sulphur types in shiitake, the most significant of which is lentin. On one hand, this compound gives Shiitake a special, pleasing flavour similar to the onions and on the other hand its beneficial effect on health is mainly due to this substance. Another important ingredient is eritadenine (an alkaloid purine derivative) that also has a significant health-promoting effect through cholesterol-lowering activity.
It can be an excellent part of a healthy diet, as it is rich in nutrients and fibre while low in fat.
Its beneficial effect
In traditional Chinese and Japanese folk medicine, it is used for colds, inflammations, stomach complaints, liver diseases, gout, haemorrhoids, nerve disorders, sexual dysfunction, headaches, vascular diseases, tumours, and many other problems.
Lentinan in shiitake is beta-glucan (a kind of polysaccharide) that has an immune-modulatory effect in the human body, and thus effectively increases the ability to defend. Its effect is to activate the cells in the body that are more effective against viruses (influenza A, colds, mumps, herpes, hepatitis B, Epstein-Barr virus, HIV), bacteria and fungi. They are often used to recover weakened immune functions. In Japan, the extract of the shiitake mushroom is officially used as a medicine.
Anti-tumour polysaccharides were detected in the shiitake sporophore, which proved to be effective against tumour formation in certain types of cancer (e.g., colon and rectum cancer, sarcoma). Several scientific studies highlighted that lentinan in shiitake may control the growth of tumour cells. These compounds reduce the activity of tumour cells and, in addition, in patients receiving chemotherapy, they reduce the extent of the side effects associated with therapy.
Reduces cholesterol level
Scientific studies also demonstrate the beneficial effect of shiitake on lipid metabolism. This is mainly attributable to eritadenine, which is able to reduce the so-called bad (LDL) cholesterol. Cardiovascular diseases, many of which are due to high cholesterol levels, are now considered to be common illnesses.
The consumption of shiitake is basically not contraindicated in the case of any disease, but it is important to note that some people may have a dermatitis reaction in the event of a raw, untreated product (called shiitake dermatitis). Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that the consumption of other dietary supplements and herbal products do not substitute for prescribed medical therapy, it is not recommended to use instead of or besides the treatment prescribed or without doctoral consultation.
Hearst, R., Nelson , D., McCollum, G., Millar, B., C., Maeda, Y., Goldsmith, C., E., Rooney, P., Loughrey, J., A., Rao, J., R., Moore, J., E. (2008): An examination of antibacterial and antifungal properties of constituents of Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) mushrooms. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 15 (2009) 5–7. p.
Xiaoshuang Dai, Joy M. Stanilka, Cheryl A. Rowe, Elizabethe A. Esteves, Carmelo Nieves Jr., Samuel J. Spaiser, Mary C. Christman, Bobbi Langkamp-Henken & Susan S. Percival (2015) Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 34:6, 478-487, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2014.950391
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