Maitake Mushrooms: Health Benefits and Side Effects

maitake mushroom

Maitake (Grifola frondrosa), also known as “hen of the woods,” is a medicinal mushroom commonly used as a dietary supplement or consumed as a food. It is native to the wild of Asia, Europe, and northern parts of North America. This mushroom is commonly found growing in clusters from small pores on or close to the base of trees like oak.  It grows mostly from the months of September to October.

For hundreds of years, maitake mushroom has been used for its several medicinal and culinary benefits. In countries like China and Japan, the wild mushroom was valued for its immune-boosting and health-optimizing abilities. However, in recent years, the mushroom is now cultivated mostly for commercial use.

One of the major components in maitake mushrooms is beta-glucan, a type of polysaccharide that significantly impacts the immune system.

This wild mushroom is believed to provide an impressive range of health benefits, including its ability to boost immunity which in turn, combats certain health conditions. The mushrooms are also used as a natural remedy for high cholesterol levels, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even as a cancer-fighter.

Maitake mushrooms are available in fresh, dried, or extract forms.

Health Benefits of Maitake Mushrooms

Let’s take a look at the health benefits of maitake mushrooms.

Boosts the Immune System

Maitake mushroom is most popular for its ability to boost the immune system. Some studies have shown that the edible parts of the mushroom are rich in antioxidants, which include polysaccharides, glucans, and phenols. The beta-glucans found in maitake induces antibodies to be activated and wards off certain chronic ailments.

The mushroom eliminates free radicals and reduces chronic inflammation, making it an effective support for the immune system. Maitake helps to fortify the body against foreign invaders. This makes it potentially beneficial for a range of health issues, including protecting against colds and flu.

However, it is better to consult with a medical doctor before using maitake mushroom.

Lowers the Risk of Cancer

Maitake mushroom not only boosts immunity but protects against chronic diseases. Studies show that it may have some powerful effects that fight against chronic illnesses like cancer.

Due to its antioxidant activity, maitake can eliminate free radicals, making it the go-to supplement for strengthening the body against cancer. Studies show that maitake extracts can even result in cellular death of cancer cells and tumor. Maitakes might also delay, stop, and reverse the spread of cancer. It can be incorporated into a healthy diet to protect against cancer.

In some studies, it was found that maitake extracts may delay the growth of certain tumors. By encouraging activity in immune cells such as natural killer cells and T-cells, the wild mushroom is believed to help prevent the growth of cancer cells. A component of beta-glucan known as the D-fraction has been proven to possess anti-tumor activity as well.

maitake mushroom

Lowers Blood Pressure

Apart from its antioxidant properties, the compounds in this wild mushroom can improve immunity, soothe chronic inflammation, and lower blood pressure. It is, in fact, one of several botanicals that function as holistic hypotensives to significantly reduce blood pressure.

High blood pressure may be a medical health condition but it is not necessarily life-threatening. It can, however, elevate the risk of heart disease or even stroke. Studies have shown that maitake not only lowers high blood pressure, but also boosts insulin sensitivity, and inhibits inflammation.

Reduces the Risk of Diabetes

For people who need to regulate their blood sugars levels, maitake has proven to be helpful with that. Studies suggest maitake’s benefit for the immune system, its ability to positively alter blood sugars levels, and over time even support the treatment for type 2 diabetes.

One study even shows that the mushroom’s polysaccharides are hypoglycemic, which means that they can lower blood sugars. They can also prevent insulin resistance from occurring, the condition that precedes diabetes. Apart from its benefits for type 2 diabetes and blood sugar regulation, more studies indicate that it is useful as
as a daily tonic that provides the body with nutrients.

Some studies suggest that maitake may also reduce blood glucose levels. Another study also found that maitake mushroom extract improves insulin resistance, a medical condition known to elevate a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease when the body fails to respond properly to insulin. The hormone is majorly responsible for using blood sugar for energy.

Deals with Chronic Inflammation

As part of its antioxidant characteristics, maitake mushrooms may also help people who suffer from chronic inflammation problems on a regular basis. This is because, by combating free radicals, antioxidants can also provide some relief for chronic inflammation, which is often caused by the damage done to tissues by these free radicals.

As such, incorporating extra antioxidants from maitake could give some long-term relief for chronic inflammation issues. Some of these issues include rheumatoid arthritis, stress, brain fog, fatty liver disease, depression, fibromyalgia.

maitake mushroom

Rich in Nutrients

There is more to maitakes than antioxidants. Studies have shown that maitake mushroom is packed with a lot of nutrients. These nutrients include B vitamins, protein, potassium, dietary copper, phosphorus, as well as other vitamins and minerals too.

Balanced nutrition is vital for overall health—and maitake provides quite a lot when compared to the basic benefits of fruits and vegetables.

This shows that taking maitake on a daily basis can generally boost immunity for the entire body since every organ needs a variety of nutrients to function well and contribute to overall health.

Side Effects of Maitake Mushrooms

Since there isn’t enough research on maitake mushroom, not much is known about the side effects or safety of the use of the mushroom‘s extract. However, there is some evidence that maitake mushroom supplements may result in some side effects.

  • Maitake may interact with certain medications for lowering blood sugar as well as blood-thinning drugs.
  • People who are scheduled for surgery should avoid taking maitake supplements.
  • Since dietary supplements are not often regulated or tested for safety, maitake supplements should be taken with caution.
  • The safety of supplements in pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, children, those with health conditions and people who are on medications has not been ascertained.

Bottom Line

Like the other medicinal species of mushroom (reishi, cordyceps, cremini, and chaga), maitake can provide a host of health benefits. Although in the western world, they are not exactly considered a potent medicine, they are fast becoming popular as a supplement for treating many medicals conditions.

The mushrooms have a pleasant aroma and can be sautéed, roasted, pickled, or used in soups and other dishes. For thousands of years, maitake has always been known as a health-boosting medicine. Maitake contains antiviral, anticancer, and immune-enhancing abilities and may also help regulate both blood sugar levels and high blood pressure.

It is also effective as a tonic for fortifying the body against weakness and ailments. Evidently, it restores balance to the systems of the body caused by diseases.

If you’re considering the use of maitake supplements or extracts, make sure to talk to your medical doctor before starting your supplement regimen. Due to the lack of clinical trials on maitake’s benefits, supplements made from these mushrooms are not often recommended for the treatment or prevention of any health condition.