Everything You Need to Know About Maitake Mushroom (2024)

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is an edible medicinal mushroom and a member of the Grifolaceae family and Polyporales order. It is native to northeastern Japan and parts of Asia but also grows in North America and Europe.

Initially used in Japan, maitake mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for centuries and have gained popularity in the Western world.

Maitake mushrooms are rich in macronutrients (protein, fats, carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and phytochemicals (special plant components). They've been studied for their potential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and anticancer effects.

This article covers the uses and benefits of maitake mushroom and its nutrition and safety.

What Is Maitake Mushroom?

Maitake mushroom is considered a major medicinal mushroom due to its many potential health benefits.

Maitake mushroom has traditionally been used in Asia for health promotion and longevity.

Maitake mushrooms also have culinary uses. Due to their umami taste, maitake mushrooms may be used as a recipe ingredient or as a flavoring agent. Some people describe the flavor of maitake mushrooms as sweet and unique.

Recent research has found potential uses of maitake mushrooms in cancer, inflammation, and immunity. These and other health benefits are thought to be due to bioactive ingredients like polysaccharides and polyphenols present in maitake mushrooms.

Maitake mushrooms may also benefit other health conditions, including diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, and neurodegenerative (brain and nerve) diseases. However, research is in the early stages for many of these uses.

Everything You Need to Know About Maitake Mushroom (1)

Maitake Mushroom Nutrition

Maitake mushrooms are rich in important nutrients and phytochemicals that are thought to offer a wide array of health benefits.

One cup of raw maitake mushrooms contains the following:

  • Calories: 22
  • Protein: 1.4 grams (g)
  • Fat: 0.13 g
  • Carbohydrate: 4.9 g
  • Fiber: 1.9 g
  • Calcium: 0.7 milligrams (mg)
  • Iron: 0.2 mg
  • Magnesium: 7 mg
  • Phosphorus: 52 mg
  • Potassium: 143 mg
  • Zinc: 0.5 mg
  • Selenium: 1.5 micrograms (mcg)
  • Folate: 15 mcg
  • Choline: 36 mg
  • Vitamin D: 784 international units (IU)

You'll also find heart-healthy fats, including mono- and polyunsaturated fats and amino acids like tryptophan, leucine, lysine, valine, and others in maitake mushrooms.

Maitake mushrooms are also a source of various phytochemicals, which are plant-based bioactive compounds with potential health benefits.

Beta-glucans (types of polysaccharides) are widely present in maitake mushrooms. In laboratory research, beta-glucans have shown antitumor properties.

Flavonoids and other types of polyphenols are also present in maitake mushrooms. These act as antioxidants, which may be necessary for disease prevention.

Another class of phytonutrients found in maitake mushrooms are glycoproteins. The glycoproteins in maitake mushrooms comprise both carbohydrates and proteins. In lab research, they have been found to have blood-pressure-lowering, blood-sugar-lowering, and antitumor effects.

Maitake Mushroom Benefits

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN), pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Scientific research shows that the maitake mushroom may possess certain health-promoting benefits.

The polysaccharides in maitake mushrooms have been found to have antitumor, antioxidant, antidiabetic, and immunomodulatory (an ability to alter the immune system) effects.

Additional bioactive substances in maitake mushrooms are thought to provide anti-inflammatory effects and other effects.

It's worth noting that much of the research on maitake mushrooms is in its beginning stages. Many studies have been performed in lab settings or on animals rather than humans.

Overall, more research on the potential health benefits of maitake mushrooms is necessary. However, there is still valuable information in the available data.

The following sections outline some of the science behind common uses of maitake mushrooms.

May Reduce Inflammation

Extracts from maitake mushrooms have shown anti-inflammatory capabilities in laboratory research.

In one such study, glycerides and plant sterols extracted from maitake mushrooms inhibited cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, which play a role in inflammation. These bioactive substances were found to have the same inhibition effects on COX enzymes as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

In other lab studies, maitake mushrooms have been found to inhibit additional pro-inflammatory cytokines, like tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-1B.

Human studies are still necessary to prove the anti-inflammatory effects of maitake mushrooms.

Might Help Prevent Cancer

Since the 1980s, maitake mushrooms have been researched for their potential antitumor effects. Most of the studies carried out since then have been performed on animal models or in lab settings, though some small human trials have been completed.

Beta-glucans extracted from maitake mushrooms have shown antitumor effects in animals and humans.

In one very small study, beta-glucans from maitake mushrooms inhibited metastasis progression (new tumors in other parts of the body) in 10 patients with various types of cancer. Specific tumor markers also decreased as a result of maitake mushroom supplementation.

In mice, beta-glucans from maitake mushrooms have been found to enhance the effects of cisplatin, a standard chemotherapy drug.

The potential anticancer effects of maitake mushrooms are thought to be due to their immunomodulatory actions. However, some studies show that maitake mushrooms may act directly on specific cancer cells.

May Lower Lipid Levels

Some animal research suggests that maitake mushrooms may help lower cholesterol.

In one study, rats fed a high-cholesterol diet were given maitake mushrooms for five weeks. Compared to a control group, the rats given maitake mushrooms had significant improvements in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels.

Other animal studies have found lipid-lowering effects of maitake mushrooms via cholesterol excretion through the feces.

Because these effects have only been seen in animals, more research is necessary and should include human trials.

May Help Treat Type 2 Diabetes

The polysaccharides found in maitake mushrooms may help treat type 2 diabetes.

These polysaccharides have been found to decrease fasting blood sugar in mice with diabetes. The same mice given maitake mushrooms also experienced improvements in their oral glucose tolerance as well as their lipid profiles.

In rats with induced diabetes, maitake mushroom polysaccharides were linked to improvements in insulin resistance. According to one study, maitake mushrooms may help with diabetes by reducing inflammation and improving the gut microbiota.

In the future, human studies should be completed to determine the effectiveness of maitake mushrooms for type 2 diabetes.

May Protect Your Brain

Through laboratory studies, scientists have found potential neuroprotective properties in maitake mushrooms.

In one study, maitake mushroom extracts portrayed anti-aging and neuroprotective actions in yeast cells and fruit flies. Beta-glucans are thought to be responsible for these effects.

According to a mini-review, maitake mushrooms' antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help protect neuron cells. These properties may also increase neurogenesis when new neuron cells are made.

Though researchers believe that maitake mushrooms may play a future role in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, more research is necessary, especially in humans.

How to Use Maitake Mushrooms

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements like prescription drugs. That means some supplement products may not contain what its label says.

When choosing a supplement, look for third-party-tested products and consult a healthcare provider, registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN), or pharmacist.

If you're thinking of trying maitake mushrooms, you may wonder how to use them.

One of the first things to decide is whether to use raw maitake mushrooms or a supplement.

Raw maitake mushrooms and supplements may be purchased online or in certain shops, like natural grocery stores. Supplements are typically available in tablet, capsule, liquid extract, or powder form.

There are various ways to use raw maitake mushrooms, which are said to have an umami flavor.

Maitake mushrooms can be eaten raw or cooked, depending on preferences for flavor and texture. Just be sure to rinse them with water first.

Maitake mushrooms can be cooked similarly to how you would cook other types of mushrooms and incorporated into a variety of savory dishes. Because they are somewhat delicate, maitake mushrooms may only require a few minutes of cooking time.

Ideas and recipes for maitake mushrooms are widely available online. Popular recipes include noodles, pizza, soups, and stir-fries. Cooked maitake mushrooms may also be seasoned and served as a side dish.

Safety Considerations and Potential Risks

Maitake mushrooms are generally regarded as safe to use. However, some people may encounter side effects or other issues.

Importantly, maitake mushrooms should be avoided if you're allergic to them. Seek immediate medical attention if you have itching, hives, shortness of breath, or any other symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.

Precautions

Certain precautions should be followed when using maitake mushrooms.

Maitake mushrooms aren't thought to cause side effects. However, raw maitake mushrooms may be difficult for some people to digest. It's best to cook maitake mushrooms if you have a digestive disorder.

People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk with a healthcare provider before using maitake mushrooms. There is a lack of information regarding the safety of maitake mushrooms in these populations.

There are some reports that maitake mushrooms may increase the risk of bleeding. Though research hasn't proved this, people with bleeding disorders or an upcoming surgery should check with a healthcare provider regarding the use of maitake mushrooms.

Interactions

Certain drugs and supplements may interact with maitake mushrooms. Sometimes, an interaction may cause a drug or medication not to work correctly.

Maitake mushrooms may interact with medications used to treat diabetes.

There is some evidence that maitake mushrooms may lower blood sugar. It's therefore recommended that maitake mushrooms be used separately from diabetes medications to avoid hypoglycemia. If you are living with diabetes, talk with a healthcare provider for precise directions on the safe use of maitake mushrooms.

There is also concern that maitake mushrooms may interact with certain drugs used to treat high cholesterol as well as high blood pressure (hypertension). More research is necessary to prove these interactions.

Remember that a healthcare provider can help you understand whether maitake mushrooms are safe for you based on the medications and supplements you take.

Summary

Maitake mushrooms are medicinal mushrooms with various potential health benefits.

Some evidence suggests that maitake mushrooms may help with inflammation, type 2 diabetes, cancer, lipid levels, and brain health. However, more research on the effectiveness of maitake mushrooms for these purposes is necessary overall.

Maitake mushrooms may be consumed raw, cooked, or in supplement form. For the most part, they are considered safe, but some people may need to limit or avoid using them.

As always, talk with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

Everything You Need to Know About Maitake Mushroom (2024)
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