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Maitake Mushroom: What Are the Health Benefits and Side Effects?

Superfoods, adaptogens, immune boosters… the alternative medicine market is flooded with promises of longevity, happiness, and improved well-being - but how can we be so sure it’s not all a wasted investment?

maitake mushroom

Maitake mushroom is attracting a LOT of attention.

From claims of cancer-fighting properties to reduced blood pressure, it’s no wonder so many of us are adding this famed fungus to our daily diets.

So, is Maitake worth the hype, or is it just another false promise?

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    Key Takeaways

    • Maitake mushroom is a medicinal mushroom with thousands of years of use in traditional Asian medicine.
    • It contains essential nutrients like vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium, and beta-glucan.
    • Maitake mushrooms may have potential health benefits, including fighting cancer cells, lowering cholesterol, treating type 2 diabetes, and reducing blood pressure.
    • The mushroom is available in various forms, such as capsules, powder, and liquid extracts, and can be easily incorporated into daily routines.
    • Maitake mushroom is generally safe to consume, but some individuals may experience side effects such as nausea or allergic reactions.
    • It is important to consult a healthcare professional before taking Maitake mushroom, especially if you are on medication or have specific health conditions.

    What Is Maitake Mushroom?

    Maitake mushroom (or Grifola frondosa) was first discovered more than 2,000 years ago by Japanese woodcutters and Buddhists. It is a medicinal mushroom that has had thousands of years of use in traditional Asian medicine cultures.

    In Asian medicine, it has been traditionally used as an immune booster, and it’s also thought to help treat various other conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

    Maitake is native to North America and northeast Japan, and it can even be found growing in the UK.

    Maitake mushrooms or ‘hen-of-the-woods’ usually grow between early fall into late November - forming thick clusters with distinctive flattened brown caps and a white edge. Maitake tends to grow around the base of oak tree stumps and sometimes around dead or dying trees.

    Unfortunately, the maitake fungi are short-lived and don’t stick around for long. When they first develop, they emit a pleasant aroma, however, this odour quickly turns sour once fully mature.

    As such - Maitake mushrooms are best foraged while they are tender and young - when they’re mature, they tend to have a more bitter taste and a pungent scent.

    What’s In Maitake Mushroom?

    These mushrooms are considered potent adaptogens and have been a trusted natural remedy for centuries.

    So, what compounds of the Maitake mushroom make it so special?

    Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that helps us to absorb and retain minerals such as phosphorus and calcium, which are essential for keeping our bones, muscles, and teeth in good shape.

    Vitamin D can also support our immune function and lower our risk of developing autoimmune diseases.

    Vitamin D deficiency can cause symptoms like muscle twitching, muscle weakness, fatigue, bone pain and fragility, joint stiffness, and even cardiovascular and neurological conditions.

    Phosphorus

    Maitake is also a strong source of phosphorus. Phosphorus is an important mineral for the human body, and its main function is to help form teeth and bones.

    However, phosphorus can also help us to filter out any excess waste in the kidneys. It can also generate proteins that help repair our tissues and cells.

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    Potassium

    Potassium occurs naturally in most foods, and its role in the body is to maintain normal fluid levels in our cells. Potassium can also help keep our blood pressure steady and help our muscles to contract.

    Hypokalemia, a low potassium level in the blood, can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, adrenal gland disorders, paralysis, and abnormal heart rhythms.

    Beta-Glucan

    Beta-glucans are sugar compounds that can be found in fungi, bacteria, yeast, oats, and barley. Beta-glucans are a substantial source of soluble fibre.

    These naturally occurring polysaccharides play an essential role in maintaining human health, and it’s believed that these compounds contain anti-diabetic, antimicrobial, and anti-hypercholesterolemic properties.

    These immunomodulating agents help our bodies fight off disease and keep us healthy.

    Maitake Mushroom Benefits

    maitake mushroom health benefits

    Maitake mushrooms contain an abundance of some of the most essential vitamins and minerals for human health and longevity.

    So how exactly can this benefit your health, and what illnesses (if any) can Maitake treat?

    Let’s see what the science has to say.

    May Kill Cancer Cells

    Early studies have found that extracts of Maitake mushroom may help treat breast cancer. The research found that Maitake may potentially help fight the reproduction and growth of breast cancer cells, however, more research in this area is needed to confirm this.

    One animal study published in 2013 also found that the Maitake mushroom may suppress the growth of cancerous tumours in mice. This study also found that Maitake mushrooms can help increase the number of cancer-fighting cells in the body.

    Could Help Lower Cholesterol

    If you’re looking to keep your cholesterol in check, maitake may be here to help.

    Researchers discovered that powdered Maitake extract notably lowered the cholesterol levels of mice while increasing the number of fatty acids that provide us with energy.

    This suggests that taking Maitake mushrooms may contribute to healthy arteries, but again, more research is needed to confirm this.

    May Help To Treat Type 2 Diabetes

    In one 2015 study, maitake mushroom was found to positively affect the blood glucose levels of rats with type 2 diabetes. This study also indicated a number of immunomodulatory effects as well.

    However, much more human research and clinical trials are needed to confirm its efficacy in human patients.

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    May Reduce Blood Pressure

    Incorporating the Maitake mushroom into your diet may help reduce blood pressure.

    For example, one animal study performed in 2010 found that Maitake notably reduced blood pressure and even helped increase insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.

    The study was conducted over 4 months and showed a general decline in a number of hypertension markers, however, this again is an animal study and not necessarily indicative of the effects it will have in humans.

    Other Benefits Of Maitake Mushroom

    As well as lowering our cholesterol, beta-glucans may bind to receptors that help improve the symptoms of immunosuppression caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

    Research has shown that Beta-glucans may also promote the activity of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which improve our immune response.

    There are a number of other potential benefits that have been anecdotally reported for centuries in traditional medicine, however, the clinical research is currently very limited.

    These benefits may include:

    • Treating enlarged ovaries
    • Reducing the signs of aging
    • Promoting weight loss
    • Improving gut flora
    • Protecting the body from cell damage

    We for one are excited to see more and more human studies emerge on the maitake mushroom.

    How Do You Take Maitake Mushrooms?

    how do you take maitake mushroom

    Maitake mushroom is generally available in several forms -including capsules, powder, and liquid extracts.

    We prefer to take Teelixir's Maitake powder as it’s got a great earthy taste and is super easy to quickly mix in with coffee, tea, smoothies and cooking.

    There is no ‘defined’ dosage for maitake mushroom - most manufacturers recommend starting out with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp per day for the first week and noticing how your stomach and body respond to it. If you aren’t having any kind of negative reaction, you are likely safe to move up to 1 tsp per day if desired

    Below is a list of dosages that have been used effectively in clinical trials and research, with little to no reported side effects:

    • 18mg of Maitake extract for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
    • 3mg of Maitake twice a day for boosting immune function
    • 40-150mg of dried Maitake extract for cancer patients

    Note: We always recommend consulting a medical professional for advice before taking any alternative supplements such as Maitake.

    How To Prepare Maitake Mushrooms

    If you prefer to take your maitake mushrooms in its raw form, here's how to prepare it: After purchasing or harvesting your maitake mushrooms, the first step is to give them a thorough washing under cool water, being careful not to remove any of their delicate fibres.

    If opting for dried maitake mushrooms, be sure to rehydrate them by submerging in warm water for 20-30 minutes. Once they have finished soaking, lightly squeeze out the excess liquid and they will be ready to cook.

    How To Store Maitake Mushrooms

    Maitake mushrooms should be stored in a cool and dry place. Storing them in an airtight container such as a glass jar or plastic zip-top bag will help maintain their freshness.

    To extend their shelf life even further, you can refrigerate them. It's best to keep them dry and avoid washing them before storing, since they contain 90% water content and will spoil quickly once dampened. If kept properly, maitake mushrooms can last up to 7 days in the fridge.

    Additionally, if you have excess maitake mushrooms that you want to enjoy at a later time, consider freezing them in an airtight container. This way, they can be kept for several months. Cook them first before freezing for the best texture.

    Maitake Mushroom Side Effects

    Maitake mushroom is generally considered as very safe for most people, however, may cause adverse reactions in those with a sensitivity to mushrooms.

    Some reported side effects of Maitake ingestion include:

    • Nausea
    • Stomach cramps and bloating
    • Breathing difficulties
    • Rashes
    • Swelling

    There is also evidence to suggest that Maitake may interact with other drugs.

    One report suggested that Maitake interacted with widely prescribed blood-thinner, warfarin. Maitake also lowers blood pressure and should be avoided by patients taking drugs for these conditions.

    Again, side effects are very rare, but always consult your GP{ before taking maitake mushroom for the first time, and if you experience any adverse effects - stop immediately.

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    FAQs About Maitake Mushroom

    Q1: Who should not take maitake mushrooms?

    Maitake mushrooms are generally safe for consumption. However, individuals who are allergic to mushrooms or have mushroom intolerance should avoid consuming maitake mushrooms to prevent any adverse reactions.

    Q2: Is hen of the woods psychedelic?

    No, hen of the woods, also known as maitake mushrooms, does not have any psychedelic properties. They are edible mushrooms and are commonly used in culinary dishes for their delicious flavor and health benefits.

    Q3: Are maitake and hen of the woods the same?

    Yes, maitake mushrooms and hen of the woods are the same. They are both common names for the mushroom species Grifola frondosa. This mushroom is known for its distinctive appearance, resembling a cluster of ruffled feathers or leaves.

    Q4: Does maitake mushroom interact with any medications?

    Maitake mushrooms may interact with certain medications. For instance, it has been observed that when consumed alongside Tamoxifen, a drug used in chemotherapy, it could potentially influence the drug's effectiveness. However, more observational trials are needed to fully understand the extent and implications of this interaction. It's always advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before combining any form of medication with herbal supplements like Maitake mushroom.

    Q5: What healing properties does maitake have?

    Maitake mushrooms have long been associated with various health benefits. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which support the immune system and overall well-being. Studies have also suggested that maitake mushrooms may have antitumor and antidiabetic properties, although further research is needed to confirm these claims.

    The Bottom Line

    While the clinical research on Maitake is currently still limited, early studies show real promise. Also, let's not completely discount the thousands of years of consistent use in ancient cultures to treat a wide range of issues and ailments!

    With a low price tag, minimal side effects, and science to back its efficacy, the Maitake mushroom is a great one to go to as a ‘general health’ mushroom.

    Whether you want to improve your immunity, reduce your blood pressure, or even up your daily dose of vitamin D, Maitake can be a worthwhile addition to your daily regimen.

    Get an up-close look at the ‘hen of the woods’ in the video below with none other than the mushroom man himself - Paul Stamets!



    Darcy Ogdon-Nolan

    Holding a Bachelor Of Science (Hons.) combined with close to a decade now in the health food and wellness industry, I believe I'm uniquely positioned to provide a depth of knowledge and first-hand experience on emerging health products, trends and ideas! From greens powders and medicinal mushrooms through to protein powders and workout nutrition - I'm particularly interested in what modern science can uncover about what human cultures have been using to treat ailments for millennia!

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