Maitake mushroom for Herbal Naturopathy: properties, benefits, uses, side effects

Maitake is a medicinal mushroom capable of strengthening the body’s defenses. Known in particular because it has multiple actions of regulating blood sugar, it is also useful for the control of hypertension. Let’s find out better.

Description of the mushroom

In Japan Maitake means “mushroom of dance”, a legend has it that people danced when they found this mushroom in the forest.

Another story has it that the name derives from the shape of the fruiting body which appears as a cloud of dancing butterflies.

The name Grifola frondosa probably derives from the name “griffon” a mythological animal with the head and wings of an eagle and frondosa means “leaf-shaped. It grows in groups and is usually large and can reach 40-45cm in diameter almost a volleyball ball. The stems blend together at the base of oak, beech and other dead stumps.

Mushroom hunters in Japan jealously guarded the places where Maitake grew and kept them secret, these areas were called “treasure islands” and where they were was strictly secret. Many collectors kept this secret throughout their lives and revealed it to the eldest son in the will so that only he would know the “treasure road”.

Only in recent years has cultivation been developed for scholarly researchers and for those who use it.

The properties of the Maitake

This mushroom has 2 main fields of action: the immune area and the metabolic area.

The maitake has active ingredients capable of strengthening the body’s defenses, mainly represented by beta-glucans. More precisely, the intake of Grifola frondosa stimulates the activity of particular white blood cells, such as macrophages, T lymphocytes and NK (natural killer) cells, enhancing the immune response.

In recent years, science has evaluated the protective effects that the Maitake can also exert against some neoplastic pathologies with a metastatic tendency or with a high rate of relapse. Even more recently some research has investigated the efficacy of Maitake extracts in inducing apoptosis (programmed death) of prostate and breast cancer cells. It was also highlighted the contribution of this fungus in alleviating some unwanted consequences of chemotherapy, it seems in fact from subsequent studies that it can be used simultaneously with chemotherapy.

Maitake is useful in cell protection and antineoplastic prevention, slowing or inhibition of tumor growth and antimetastatic action. 

Furthermore, it plays a powerful action in the metabolic syndrome and blood sugar reduction, which all mushrooms have, but the Maitake in particular has multiple actions of blood sugar regulation.

One of the mechanisms of action for this mushroom is the inhibition of the alpha-glucosidase enzyme responsible for the digestion of starches and therefore for the absorption of sugars. This action is significantly increased by the simultaneous intake of two other mushrooms, Coprinus comatus and Cordyceps sinensis.

Its regular intake improves glucose tolerance and peripheral insulin sensitivity. It also has a hypotensive action and this can be useful for the control of hypertension which is one of the cardiovascular risk factors.

This mushroom works on weight control and has also been studied in cases of overweight and obesity. Another important action is that of inhibition of the synthesis of triglycerides and a reduction in blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

Finally, it can also be useful in the prevention and treatment of liver diseases.

When to use it

Metabolic syndrome, degenerative diseases with a tendency to metastasis, in case of obesity and overweight, strong action on the immune system.

The “signature doctrine” reminds us that this fungus looks like papillomatous proliferations of the bladder and, in fact, scientifically it has been found to be useful in the treatment of urothelial carcinomas of the bladder and above all in the prevention of relapses together with Polyporus umbellatus which has a similar shape and it has a diuretic action and therefore a washing action on the mucous membranes .

The combination of Maitake and Polyporus is very useful in the management of inflammatory and bacterial cystitis following bladder instillations with Bacillus Calmette Guerin or with other chemotherapeutic drugs. It should always be associated with the intake of vitamin C which enhances the fungus.

Its organotropism is the liver, pancreas, bladder, bones and brain.

Maitake in traditional Chinese medicine

It is the fungus of the Water and Metal Lodges, acts on the Lung and Kidney Meridians, has a refreshing effect with a toning action of the kidney Yin.


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