Maitake Mushroom

Maitake (Grifola frondrosa) is a type of medicinal mushroom native to northeastern Japan. Also known as “hen of the woods,” this feathered, frilly mushroom is often consumed as a food and the extract is available in dietary supplement form.

Health Benefits
Maitake mushrooms are said to offer a wide range of health benefits. A key component in maitake mushrooms is beta-glucan, a type of polysaccharide, a long molecule of carbohydrates found to affect the immune system.

Maitake is often said to boost immune function and, in turn, fight certain infections. Maitake is also touted as a natural remedy for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It’s even being researched as a potential cancer-fighter.1

Although maitake supplements are often marketed to enhance immune function, there’s currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effects of maitake in humans. Most of the studies have been laboratory studies. Here’s a look at some findings from the available research:

In laboratory research, scientists have found that maitake extracts may slow the growth of certain tumors. By spurring activity in immune cells (such as natural killer cells and T-cells), maitake is thought to help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. A component of beta-glucan known as the D-fraction has been found to have anti-tumor activity.2

However, researchers have yet to demonstrate that maitake offers any cancer-fighting benefits in controlled clinical trials.

Some animal studies suggest that maitake may reduce blood glucose levels. In a study published in 2015, for example, maitake was found to reduce glucose levels in rats.3 Another preliminary animal study found that maitake mushroom extract improved insulin resistance.4 A health condition known to raise your risk of type 2 diabetes (as well as heart disease), insulin resistance occurs when the body fails to respond properly to insulin (a hormone that plays a key role in using blood sugar for energy).

High Blood Pressure
Maitake may help lower blood pressure, according to animal-based research. For instance, a 2010 study on rats found that maitake helped protect against high blood pressure (in addition to enhancing insulin sensitivity and curbing some aspects of inflammation).5

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
A preliminary study shows promise for women with PCOS. In the study, 80 patients took either took clomiphene citrate or three tablets of a specific combination product containing maitake mushroom powder three times daily for three cycles. The researchers found that the mushroom treatment can improve ovulation cycle rates, but does not appear to be as effective as clomiphene in women with PCOS.6 However, there is potential for the treatment to be used when traditional treatments fail.