February 22, 2022 7 min read

Medicinal mushrooms are quickly overtaking the modern wellness markets, but the massive variety can be overwhelming. Maitake mushrooms are one of the most popular, but what is Maitake? How is it used? And what benefits can it bring to your daily wellness routine?

To put it briefly, Maitake mushrooms boast an ancient history of medicinal use that predates most medicinal mushrooms. Because they are classified as an "adaptogen," they may provide a wide range of benefits for all consumers, but they're often singled out for their immune-strengthening properties that promote general wellness and longevity. Let's dig into the details:

Table of Contents
About Maitake
Maitake Benefits
Maitake Research
How to Use Maitake
Maitake Safety
Frequently Asked Questions
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Maitake is a functional mushroom that’s heavily touted for its immune-boosting potential.
  • Some sources also suggest that Maitake could have some potential for cancer prevention and treatment, but further research is needed.
  • Both human and animal trials have shown promising results for the use of Maitake for various therapeutic applications.
  • Maitake can be eaten on it’s own, but is most often found in powdered form. It has a sound safety profile when purchased from a high-quality manufacturer.
  • You can take Maitake on it’s own, but many people prefer to take a blend of functional mushrooms for increased benefits.

About Maitake

A close up of a maitake mushroom to depict its feather-like appearance earning it the nickname "hen of the woods."

The Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondrosa) has made a name for itself as a powerful medicinal mushroom that functions as an adaptogen. That means it may "adapt" to the body's needs in order to resolve imbalances that cause various mental and physical challenges.

Maitake is often called the "Hen of the Woods" mushroom thanks to it’s brown, feathered appearance. You can find the mushroom growing at the base of hardwood trees in parts of Asia and North America, and the edible mushroom has made its way into luxury cuisine in both areas.

Of course, to reap it's potential medicinal benefits, people look for Maitake in powdered or encapsulated form, a preparation that has a much longer shelf life than the fresh mushroom itself.

The Maitake mushroom has been used in ancient medicine for centuries, but has only recently become popularized in North America. Thanks to its newfound popularity, researchers have begun to dive more deeply into the mushroom's potential benefits, which may include powerful immune boosting properties that help improve overall wellness and vitality.

Let's take a deeper look:

Maitake Benefits

There is some research to back up Maitake’s potential health benefits, but before we dive into the specifics, let’s talk about the composition of the Maitake and what makes it such a powerful nutritional supplement.

Like all mushrooms, Maitake is made up mostly of polysaccharides, or complex carbohydrates that fuel the body. Additionally, the Maitake contains many essential nutritional and bioactive compounds, including:

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

Let’s break a couple of those down:

Beta-glucans are a type of polysaccharide that are much more bioactive than other carbohydrate. Because they are bioactive, they are often linked to the positive health effects of many mushrooms.

Terpenoids

Like other mushrooms, Maitake also contains many different terpenoids, a modified classification of terpenes. These are lipids that are believed to give various mushrooms their immunomodulatory benefits.

Maitake Research

Although Maitake has been used medicinally for thousands of years, modern research is still somewhat limited. For now, most of the research available focuses heavily on its potential benefits for cancer treatment and prevention and boosting the immune system.

Immunoregulation

Mushrooms have long been regarded as having immune-stimulating properties, and some research identifies Maitake as one of the most powerful functional mushrooms for boosting the immune system.

One study compared the immune boosting benefits of Shitake, Maitake, and a combination of the two. The research found that the combination extract was the most active in terms of stimulating the immune system defense response. On its own, maitake was second-most effective at stimulating immune reactions.

Cancer

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.

More research is needed to fully understand how different Maitake preparations can be used to manage cancer in humans, but the overall immune-boosting potential is promising.

Cholesterol

A 2013 study found that Maitake extract could be beneficial for lowering high cholesterol, though the study involved animal subjects. Of course, the study also linked Maitake to other nutritional benefits, like an increase in fatty acids that convert to energy, which may help to keep the circulatory system healthy.

Diabetes

A 2015 study investigated the potential benefits of Maitake mushrooms for rats with type 2 diabetes. Regularly consuming Maitake resulted in lower glucose levels. The authors believe that these results could translate to benefits in humans with diabetes, but more research is needed.

How to Use Maitake

If you think Maitake could bring benefits to your daily wellness routine, you now need to learn how to use Maitake correctly. Luckily, there are a few simple dosing options available that make it easy to add Maitake to your daily routine. Here’s what you need to consider:

Source and Quality Importance

The quality of your wellness supplements is incredibly important, especially since supplements are not regulated the same way as prescription medications. Ensure that the Maitake supplement you purchase comes from a trustworthy manufacturer. Look for a brand that uses a cGMP compliant manufacturing facility and third-party testing technique to ensure the quality of their products.

When Should I Take Maitake Mushrooms?

Most people prefer to take their maitake dose first thing in the morning, although you can incorporate it at any point in your day. You should try to take Maitake regularly, around the same time each day for the best effects.

How Much Maitake Should I Take Daily?

The amount of Maitake you should take daily depends on the form of Maitake you use. Doses range from 10 to 30 mg of the extract and from 200 to 2,500 mg of whole mushroom powder depending on the reason you’re taking Maitake and the total beta-glucan content of the powder. If you are taking Maitake with other functional mushrooms, you may need a smaller dose than you’d need if taking Maitake on it’s own.

In general, it’s best to start with a lower dose and increase slowly until you experience the desired effects.

Read "Maitake Dosage" to learn more. 

Maitake mushroom powder and the encapsulated supplements made from it

Maitake Mushroom Preparations

Maitake can be eaten raw, but supplements usually consist of dehydrated mushroom powder because they offer a better shelf life. You can find both Maitake extract and whole Maitake mushroom powder, each of which have different dosing thresholds. Many people combine Maitake with other functional mushrooms and take it as an encapsulated supplement or in powdered form in a morning beverage.

Maitake Safety

Maitake is widely considered a safe, delicious edible mushroom that can safely be eaten both raw and cooked. Maitake research involves both human and animal trials in which the supplement is generally well tolerated.

Still, there isn’t much information regarding the safety of different Maitake supplements. One rare side effect reported after taking Maitake is nausea. The most significant safety concern is in the quality of individual products and not the safety of the Maitake mushroom itself. In many cases, adverse effects could be linked to poor product quality.

It’s also important to discuss changes to your wellness routine with your doctor, especially if you already take other medications. Maitake may not be safe for anyone with a bleeding disorder or who suffers from certain blood pressure or blood sugar conditions.

Read "Maitake Side Effects" to learn more. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Maitake do for the body?

Maitake contains beta-glucans that may provide various benefits. Research is still limited, but benefits may include improving cardiovascular health, increasing longevity, and boosting the immune response.

Is Maitake a blood thinner?

Maitake mushroom may have a slight blood thinning effect for some people, so it should not be taken if you already take blood thinning medications.

Who shouldn’t take Maitake?

Maitake may have an effect on blood sugar, blood pressure, and can thin the blood. If you suffer from unstable blood sugar or blood pressure, or have a bleeding disorder, talk to your doctor before taking Maitake.

Can you eat maitake raw?

Yes! Maitake is a tender and delicious mushroom that can be consumed raw or cooked. For medicinal use, however, most people look for a Maitake powder because it has a longer shelf life.

How long does it take for Maitake to work?

While some people notice the benefits of Maitake after a single use, others experience gradually increasing effects over the first two weeks of dosing. In general, Maitake may need to build up in the body before you experience the full benefits.

Resources

  1. “Immunomodulatory Effects of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms and Their Bioactive Immunoregulatory Products” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346759543_Immunomodulatory_Effects_of_Edible_and_Medicinal_Mushrooms_and_Their_Bioactive_Immunoregulatory_Products
  2. “Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202470/
  3. “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
  4. “Genes Related to Suppression of Malignant Phenotype Induced by Maitake D-Fraction in Breast Cancer Cells” https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/jmf.2012.0222
  5. “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/
  6. “Effect of Dietary Maitake (Grifola frondosa) Mushrooms on Plasma Cholesterol and Hepatic Gene Expression in Cholesterol-Fed Mice” https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jos/62/12/62_1049/_article
  7. “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/

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