Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is a large mushroom with small, fan-shaped caps that overlap each other and fuse together. Maitake is one of the most expensive and valuable mushrooms. The name literally means “dancing mushroom.” Native to the mountains of northeastern Japan, maitake are usually found in the wild growing tree roots or at the base of stumps. In recent times, Japanese farmers have found a way to cultivate them organically in numbers great enough to make them widely available. Maitake have been eaten for thousands of years in Japan as food, but scientists are coming to recognize that the mushroom has medicinal values as well.
Maitake has shown promising anti-cancer results in studies done in Japan, China and the United States. The mushroom boosts the immune system by stimulating the activity of macrophages, T cells and natural killer (NK) cells, all important types of immune cells. It also contains many polysaccharides which slow the formation and growth of tumors. The compound in maitake that fights cancer is commercially known as the maitake D-fraction. It has been shown to work by itself or in conjunction with conventional anti-cancer medications to boost their tumor-reducing power. In a study where the maitake D-fraction was used by itself and then with mitomycin, a chemotherapy drug, the maitake D-fraction reduced tumors by 80 percent on its own, jumping up to 98 percent when combined with mitomycin. Maitake also works to ease the side effects of some chemotherapy drugs, helping with nausea, pain, and hair loss, and other side effects.
Clinical studies have shown a number of anti-cancer benefits from using maitake. One Chinese study saw that the use of maitake reduced bladder cancer recurrence after surgery. In another study done on mice, tumor formation was reduced by 86 percent over a control group. A study done in the United States showed that the maitake D-fraction had a beneficial effect on colorectal and breast cancer. Several studies have shown that maitake works better to inhibit cancer than other types of medicinal mushrooms.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Maitake mushroom is considered an adaptogen, a product that assists the body in adapting to stress and resisting infections by stimulating the immune system. It also promotes absorption of micronutrients such as copper, which in turn boosts the body’s absorbtion of zinc. With chronic fatigue syndrome, zinc is not always easily available to the body, so maitake can boost the absorption of this nutrient.
Maitake extract promotes the activity of T cells, which boost the immune system. A sulfated version of the extract has been shown to stop T cell destruction caused by the HIV virus in laboratory tests. Maitake extract has also been shown to destroy the HIV virus.
Weight Loss and Cholesterol Reduction
Studies done on the effect of maitake mushrooms on weight loss show that the mushroom can inhibit the formation of fat deposits, changing how the body metabolizes fats. It also reduces the accumulation and elevation of lipids in the liver and blood.
Animal studies have shown that high doses of maitake caused a significantly higher rate of cholesterol elimination on rats eating a high cholesterol diet. This resulted in the rats losing weight and body fat, as well as having a lower level of cholesterol in their blood. Human studies showed a similar result. In one study, all patients given maitake lost weight over a two month period, on average losing 11-13 pounds with some losing as much as 26 pounds during that time.
Maitake can come in many forms, including capsules, tablets, or in liquid form. It also comes fresh or dried to eat or mix into a tea. The maitake D-fraction is the most effective form.