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Maitake Mushrooms: Uses and Benefits

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Humans have used maitake mushrooms to promote health and wellness for thousands of years. They are a rich source of nutrients with some amazing benefits.

The Latin name for maitake is Grifola frondosa, and this fungus is also known by several other names – including hen of the woods, the signorina mushroom, kumotake (cloud mushroom) in Japanese, and more.

Read on for our guide to maitake mushrooms and their potential benefits and uses.

What Are Maitake Mushrooms?

Maitake is an edible mushroom that is popular in East Asia and gaining global recognition for its medicinal and nutritional value. People use it to support immunity and manage the stress response, and modern research has focused on its anti-tumor potential.

The name “maitake” originates from the Japanese language and means “dancing mushroom.” It was first discovered over 2,000 years ago by Buddhist nuns and woodcutters in Japan. According to legend, they were so elated by this unique mushroom’s appearance, taste, and therapeutic properties that they danced around with happiness – hence the name.


Maitake is native to the mountain forests of Northeastern Japan, where it gained the nickname “Phantom Mushroom” due to its rarity. However, the fungus can be found in other temperate regions and grown in controlled settings in any climate.

In the wild, maitake mushrooms are commonly found in clusters at the base of oak, elm, or maple trees. They have a unique, frilly appearance that has earned them their nickname “hen of the woods.” They also have a delicate texture and a mild flavor that works well in many dishes, including burgers, stir-fries, and more.

Maitake Mushroom Benefits and Uses

These mushrooms are often consumed as food in Asia and are growing in popularity worldwide. Maitake extract is also available in dietary supplement form, either as a single mushroom or combined with other species.

The benefits of maitake are quite extensive, especially when compared to many other mushrooms. They’re rich in antioxidants, vitamins B and C, fiber, potassium, amino acids, and minerals. Additionally, they’re low-fat, low-calorie, low-sodium, and cholesterol-free.

Finally, maitake mushrooms are often classified as adaptogenic. Adaptogens are non-toxic plants and fungi that help the body fight physical or mental stress and may also help regulate unbalanced bodily systems.

Top 5 Maitake Health Benefits

Maitake mushrooms are often said to improve immune function and subsequently help the body to fight certain infections. Here is a closer look at some of the health properties of maitake.

1. Boosts Immune Function

Immune health is essential to overall health because the immune system acts as a natural defense system, helping to fight off foreign invaders and protecting the body against infection and injury.

Maitake mushrooms are one of nature’s most potent sources of immune-boosting beta-glucan polysaccharides, which are sometimes referred to as “biological response regulators” because of their ability to activate the immune system. Maitake is rich in a unique protein-bound beta-glucan known as D-fraction, which is thought to be responsible for many of the mushroom’s benefits. 

One study found that natural immunomodulating polysaccharides from Grifola frondosa “strongly stimulated both the cellular and humoral branch of immune reactions.”

2. May Regulate Blood Sugar

When maitake is consumed as part of a healthy diet, it may help to stabilize glucose levels in the blood.

For example, one animal study showed that administering maitake mushrooms to rats with diabetes improved their glucose tolerance and increased insulin levels.

3. May Lower Cholesterol Levels

Although more research is needed, some studies suggest that maitake mushrooms may help lower cholesterol levels and keep the heart healthy.

For example, an animal study published in the Journal of Oleo Science found that maitake D-fraction from Grifola frondosa effectively reduced cholesterol levels in mice.

4. Anti-Tumor Effects

In laboratory research, scientists have demonstrated that maitake extracts could slow the growth of certain tumors. They appear to do so by enhancing immune function and slowing tumor growth independently of the immune system.

However, scientists have yet to prove that these effects can be replicated in controlled clinical trials.

Maitake Mushroom Supplement Options

Fresh maitake mushrooms are not readily available in the US, so maitake supplements are the best option for regular consumption. Just remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements. Therefore, it’s essential to do your research first. Here are some of the most popular options:

Maitake Mushroom Teavc-article_image_2

Maitake mushrooms are typically used in East Asian cuisine because they go so well with other foods. However, they are also an excellent option for making mushroom tea. They have a slightly sweet taste with mild earthy and nutty undertones.

You can make maitake tea by simmering dried mushrooms in water for 20-40 minutes, straining, and drinking the resulting liquid. You could also use it as a base for soups.

Maitake Mushroom Powder

Maitake powder is another popular option. For fast absorption, you could mix it directly into hot tea, coffee, or your favorite milk. It also makes a great addition to morning smoothies, raw desserts, baked goods, and more.

Maitake Capsules

If you’re not a big fan of mushrooms or are looking for the quickest and easiest way to take maitake, then capsules may be the best option. Maitake capsules offer a simple and convenient way to add this powerful mushroom to your daily diet.

Maitake Mushrooms: Final Thoughts

Maitake mushrooms have enormous potential in the world of health and wellness. Although research is ongoing, the existing evidence is very promising.

Maitake mushrooms’ benefits are impressive due to their potential to boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, and combat stress. Additionally, maitake mushrooms are an excellent source of nutrition, making them very valuable for overall health.

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Published on: March 18, 2024
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