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Maitake is a medicinal mushroom used in Japan as a general promoter of robust health. As with Coriolus versicolor, shiitake, and reishi (all fungi), innumerable healing powers have been attributed to maitake, ranging from curing cancer to preventing heart disease. Unfortunately, there hasn't been enough reliable research yet to determine whether any of these ancient beliefs are really true.
Contemporary herbalists classify maitake as an adaptogen, a substance said to help the body adapt to stress and resist infection (see the article on Ginseng for further explanation about adaptogens). However, we lack definitive scientific evidence to show us that maitake (or any other purported adaptogen) really functions in this way.
Most investigation has focused on the polysaccharide constituents of maitake. This family of substances is known to affect the human immune system in complex ways, and one in particular, beta-D-glucan, has been studied for its potential benefit in treating cancer and HIV.1,2 Highly preliminary studies also suggest that maitake may be useful in treating diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and high cholesterol.3-4 However, there is no real evidence as yet that maitake is effective for these or any other illnesses.
Maitake is an edible mushroom that can be eaten as food or made into tea. A typical dosage of dried maitake in capsule or tablet form is 3 to 7 g daily.
Maitake is widely believed to be safe, although formal safety studies have not been performed. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
1. Yamada Y, Nanba H, Kuroda H. Antitumor effect of orally administered extracts from fruit body of Grifola frondosa (maitake). Chemotherapy. 1990;38:790-796.
2. Nanba H. Immunostimulant activity in vivo and anti-HIV activity in vitro of 3 branched b-1-6-glucans extracted from maitake mushrooms ( Grifola frondosa). Amsterdam: VIII International Conference on AIDS, 1992 [Abstract].
3. Kubo K, Nanba H. Anti-hyperliposis effect of maitake fruit body (Grifola frondosa). I. Biol Pharm Bull. 1997;20:781-785.
4. Kubo K, Aoki H, Nanba H. Anti-diabetic activity present in the fruit body of Grifola frondosa (Maitake). I. Biol Pharm Bull. 1994;17:1106-1110.
5. Konno S, Maitake SX-fraction: Possible hypoglycemi effect on diabetes mellitus. Altern Comp Ther. 2001;7:366-370
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 12/15/2015