Maitake mushrooms, also known as Hen of the Woods, are edible fungi. They are popular in Asia and have been used medicinally for centuries.
Maitake can grow in humid forests, specifically under maple trees and other broad-leaved trees with lots of moisture, such as streams or near waterfalls where humidity is high.
Maitake mushrooms contain many different nutrients, including protein, fiber, beta carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A), and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, and selenium.
Maitake mushroom also contain two natural anti-cancer compounds: eritadenine and glucosamine.
The Health Benefits of Maitake Mushrooms
Maitake mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for years to treat various conditions. In recent years, researchers have discovered that maitake mushrooms also have therapeutic effects on the brain and nervous system. Here are some of the health benefits of maitake mushrooms:
1. Antibacterial and antiviral properties: compounds in maitake mushrooms may help destroy harmful bacteria and viruses. This makes them a valuable tool for treating infections and improving immunity.
2. Anti-inflammatory effects: Maitake mushrooms can help reduce inflammation in the body. This is helpful for conditions like arthritis, bronchitis, and asthma.
3. Neuroprotective effects: Maitake mushrooms have been shown to protect the brain from damage caused by toxins and other stressors. This can help improve memory recall and cognitive function in aging people struggling with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.
Maitake mushrooms have a long history of being used in traditional Japanese medicine. There is growing evidence that these mushrooms may have health benefits beyond those traditionally associated with them.
Maitake Mushroom Research
If you have studied mushrooms' health benefits, chances are that you have run into maitake. Maitake has shown better results for cancer prevention and treatment and for treating different health conditions.
Other studies suggest that maitake may boost immune-system cells in patients. In lab studies, scientists found that Maitake extract can slow down the growth of some tumors.
In one study published in 2015, for instance, it was found that maitake reduced blood glucose levels in rats. Some animal studies have suggested that maitake can lower blood glucose levels.
According to a survey by Japanese researchers Hiroaki Nanba and Keiko Kubo, a reduction in blood glucose levels was observed in mice given a dose of yams compared with the control group. Early studies suggested extracts from maitake mushrooms may help reduce elevated blood glucose levels to healthier levels.
Maitake mushrooms contain a fiber called beta-glucan, which supports our immune health and may help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Beta-glucans found in the maitake mushrooms boost the production of specific cells in the immune system, including neutrophils, macrophages, T-cells, and natural killer cells -- all essential parts of fighting infections and supporting immune health.
Beta-glucans in maitake mushrooms are thought to be responsible for lowering levels of bad cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and improving artery health. Maitake contains beta-glucan, a polysaccharide found in mushrooms, which supports healthy immune function, among other health benefits.
Among that potent beta-glucans is D-fraction, a maitake extract shown to provide therapeutic effects in cancer patients. As a functional mushroom, maitake contains an astonishing amount of polysaccharides, triterpenes, and other bioactive chemicals, alpha- and beta-glucans, known for offering a broad array of health benefits.
Like all other edible mushrooms, like shiitake, turkey tail, reishi, and lions mane, the Maitake mushroom offers a variety of potential health benefits thanks to its high concentrations of antioxidants, trace minerals, and other beneficial compounds, including complex sugars (aka polysaccharides) called beta-glucans.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has recognized maitake mushroom's anti-cancer and immune-boosting properties. Scientific studies have shown that extracts from this highly valued edible mushroom can potentially benefit cholesterol and blood sugar levels, immune function, and treatment and prevention of cancer.
Researchers concluded that maitake might provide immune benefits, which may help to guard against infections. An in vitro study published in the Annals of Translational Medicine concluded that the rifle maitake mushrooms are effective at stimulating immune responses and are more robust when combined with shiitake mushrooms. In animal studies and test tubes, maitake extract suppressed cancer growth and spread, increased the immune response, and supported the functioning of the bone marrow.
In one study, maitake was shown to decrease the primary inflammatory signal known as TNFa, suppressing the ulceration of the bowel, and reducing the damage caused by free radicals, thereby supporting healthy digestive tracts. By stimulating the activity of immune cells, such as natural killer cells and T-cells, it is thought that maitake may aid in the suppression of the growth of tumor cells.
People have used maitake to support immune system health, liver function, and stress responses, and current studies uncover fascinating anti-cancer potential. Maitake has also been shown to have a hypoglycemic effect, which could help with diabetes management.
It is thought to be beneficial due to maitake mushrooms' ability to improve insulin resistance -- the condition in which your body needs more and more insulin to cope with the sugars in your bloodstream, which may lead to type-2 diabetes. This points to the mushroom's potential for treating type 2 diabetes in humans. Registered Dietitian Erika Ingraham says that is traditionally the way Maitake mushrooms are used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine and that there is plenty of scientific backing that it does support the immune system.
A study of lab animals published in the October 2011 issue of The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that consuming an extract from muscaria for four weeks reduced liver cholesterol levels. Another animal study from Tohoku University Food Chemistry Department had similar results, finding that eight weeks of feeding rats with maitake mushrooms reduced blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.
What's inside Maitake Mushrooms
Maitake mushrooms are a great addition to any diet because they have a high content of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and proteins. They are also low in calories and saturated fat.
1. Maitake mushrooms are high in antioxidants.
Antioxidants help protect cells from damage by free radicals. Free radicals can cause cell damage, cancer, and other diseases. Antioxidants in maitake mushrooms help neutralize free radicals, which helps protect the body from these diseases.
2. Maitake mushrooms are high in minerals and vitamins.
Maitake mushrooms contain calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron. These minerals and vitamins can help improve your health in many ways.
For example, magnesium is necessary for muscle relaxation and sleep, while zinc is essential for immune system function and cell growth. Vitamins A and C help support the immune system and reduce cancer risk.
3. Maitake mushrooms are low in calories and saturated fat.
Maitake mushrooms have only 38 calories per 1/2 cup serving and 3 grams of saturated fat.