Maitake and shiitake mushrooms look like a good addition to stir fries, but they are packed with nutrients that reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, fight cancer cells and strengthen the immune system. These mushrooms prove their health benefits over and over again – so how can they help you too?
Health Benefits of Maitake Mushroom
Maitake is among the “super foods” whose health benefits are known for thousands of years. It is rich in antioxidants and contains components called polysaccharides that benefit the immune system, cardiovascular system and even help fight cancer.
The name maitake comes from Japanese and means “dancing mushroom”. The Japanese used to say that the lucky person who finds the mushroom will dance with joy, as its benefits are priceless. Due to its special shape there have been many other nicknames like hen-of-the-woods, ram’s head and sheep’s head.
Maitake and cancer
Most studies in this field were made using medical extraction of the mushroom, which was found to encourage the creation of immune cells that destroy cancer cells and fight tumor development. The anti-cancer ability of maitake is attributed to its unique polysaccharides.
In 1997 it was found that maitake has an impact on the efficiency of chemotherapy, as it works synergistically with chemotherapy drug called mitomycin. It was also found that maitake has beneficial effect on cancer patients even if they discontinued the chemotherapy due to the severe side effects. A relief was also found from symptoms in cancer patients who have suffered a loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea and hair loss.
In a study conducted at the Kobe University in Japan it was found that there is a linkbetween the consumption of the mushroom’s medical extract and the body’s ability to fight cancer.
The study included patients of various types of cancer in different stages of the disease. The surprising results of the study have shown that more than half of patients with lung, liver and breast cancer had a significant halt in the deterioration of the disease. Also in other cancers including brain, stomach and blood cancer there was an improvement, though smaller.
In a study done on humans in 2009 in Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center it was found that maitake has an effect on the immune system in cases of breast cancer. It was found that maitake stimulates immune cells called NK cells whose job is to destroy cancer cells.
Maitake and diabetes
Maitake holds a great promise for diabetes treatment. Studies at the Nishikyushu University in Japan have found that a menu rich in maitake positively affects insulin and blood sugar levels with no side effects.
However, diabetic patients treated with insulin or other medications to lower blood sugar levels need to be careful with this mushroom, in order not to get hypoglycemia.
Maitake and the immune system
Studies that have examined the link between maitake and the immune system found that on one hand it has the ability to prevent over reaction of the immune system, as in the case of allergy for example, but on the other hand it is capable of stimulating the immune system when it is weak.
In addition, regular consumption of maitake provides a nice amount of antioxidants, which together with the polysaccharides enhance the immune system.
Maitake and vascular and heart disease
Maitake also helps balance blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol levels. Alongside the ability to improve blood sugar levels, it is an ideal food for patients who suffer from metabolic syndrome.