March 15, 2022 4 min read

The Maitake mushroom, also called the “Hen of the Woods” is often recognized for its adaptogenic benefits, but what’s that really mean?

According to many, Maitake benefits may include a powerful immune boost and digestive support that contribute to lifelong vitality, among a handful of other wellness advantages. Some are just hearsay, while other Maitake benefits are supported by research. Here’s what you need to know about the science-backed potential of the functional mushroom:

Key Benefits

Research is still limited, but some of the primary benefits of Maitake may include:

  • Nutritional support
  • Digestive support
  • Healthy weight management
  • Improved blood sugar regulation
  • Immune boosting benefits

Let’s dig into the research available. Here are 9 research-backed Maitake benefits you should know:

1. Maitake is a great nutritional supplement.

Maitake mushrooms can be eaten raw or cooked into meals, although many people prefer it as a powdered supplement or capsules. Either way, Maitake has some serious nutritional benefits to be aware of. It’s loaded with:

  • antioxidants
  • beta-glucans
  • vitamins B and C
  • copper
  • potassium
  • fiber
  • minerals
  • amino acids

Plus, Maitake mushrooms include some vitamins and minerals you can’t find in many other plant sources, like Vitamin D. Many of these compounds, especially the antioxidants and beta-glucans, may be responsible for many of the other potential benefits to follow:

A portion of maitake mushrooms that's cut, rinsed, and ready to be cooked.

2. It offers adaptogenic support.

We mentioned that Maitake is often classified as an adaptogen, but let’s talk about what that means. Adaptogens are compounds that adapt to the body’s needs to help provide immune balance and stress reduction. In general, adaptogens are as close to a one-size-fits-all wellness supplement as you will find in nature.

3. Maitake may help balance blood sugar.

A 2015 study found that mice that regularly consumed Maitake experienced lower glucose levels and a healthier insulin response. All in all, Maitake may have a positive impact on metabolic health, although more human studies are needed to draw any firm conclusions.

4. It could lower bad cholesterol.

Maitake mushrooms contain healthy fiber and other nutritional compounds that support health digestion. One animal study found that maitake was among one of several varieties of functional mushrooms that may help to lower bad cholesterol levels.

5. Maitake may support healthy gut flora.

Maitake’s fiber content offers a rich source of prebiotic fiber that may help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. This beneficial bacteria in the gut is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system.

6. It may boost the immune system in other ways, too.

Maitake contains polysaccharides called beta-glucans, or bioactive carbohydrates that may support the immune system. Researchsuggests that these polysaccharides may support cellular immunity to help prevent illness and infections.

7. Maitake could help you lose weight.

A person standing on the scale to check the progress of using Maitake for weight loss

Thanks to its diverse fiber content, prebiotic support, and benefits for digestion, maitake mushrooms may support healthy weight management and metabolism.

8. It offers a healthy dose of antioxidants.

Research shows that Maitake offers a significant dose of antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for protecting the body from free radical damage, or tissue damage caused by external toxins. Antioxidants can support a healthy aging process and are thought to potentially help prevent damage to the brain and other tissues as we age.

9. Maitake may have anti-cancer effects.

A 2012 study found that a Maitake extract was effective in killing human cancer cells and also increased the effectiveness of cancer-fighting proteins taken at the same time.

A 2013 study concluded that a Maitake extract may be able to prevent the growth and reproduction of cancerous cells, specifically that it may be useful for preventing or treating breast cancer.

Another 2013 animal study found that Maitake may help suppress tumor growth while boosting the immune response against the tumor. Mouse subjects were found to have a higher number of active immune cells fighting against tumor growth after taking regular Maitake doses.

Although the animal and in vitro studies look promising, more human trials are needed to understand the impact maitake may have on human cancer cells in the body.

Conclusion

Maitake can function as part of a healthy diet, but those who are serious about its therapeutic benefits often look for a Maitake supplement or Maitake extract. In fact, Maitake is a complete functional mushroom that’s often used alongside other adaptogens and nootropics to support overall wellbeing, boosted immunity, and improved energy.

Because Maitake supplements are not regulated as strictly as pharmaceuticals in the U.S., it’s important that you look for a high-quality Maitake supplement that’s well-made and lab tested. Taking the correct Maitake dosage and using a high quality supplement are the best ways to avoid any side effects that may be linked to Maitake mushrooms

Resources

  1. “Submerged-Culture Mycelia and Broth of the Maitake Medicinal Mushroom Grifola frondosa (Higher Basidiomycetes) Alleviate Type 2 Diabetes-Induced Alterations in Immunocytic Function” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26349512/
  2. “Cholesterol-lowering effects of maitake (Grifola frondosa) fiber, shiitake (Lentinus edodes) fiber, and enokitake (Flammulina velutipes) fiber in rats” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11520942/
  3. “Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202470/
  4. “Antioxidant properties and antioxidant compounds of various extracts from the edible basidiomycete Grifola frondosa (Maitake)” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21499220/
  5. “Abstract 3515: Maitake D-Fraction, a natural mushroom extract, synergizes with Interleukin-2 for increased lytic activity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells against various human tumor cell histologies” https://aacrjournals.org/cancerres/article/72/8_Supplement/3515/580445/Abstract-3515-Maitake-D-Fraction-a-natural
  6. “Genes Related to Suppression of Malignant Phenotype Induced by Maitake D-Fraction in Breast Cancer Cells” https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2012.0222
  7. “Oral administration of soluble β-glucans extracted from Grifola frondosa induces systemic antitumor immune response and decreases immunosuppression in tumor-bearing mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23280601/

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