Health Benefits

Maitake mushroom on a black background

History of Maitake Research

Beta Glucan

Maitake has demonstrated anticancer effects in laboratory studies. Research is underway to test its anticancer effects in humans. Maitake is a mushroom that traditionally has been used in Japan and China as part of the diet and to treat diabetes and hypertension. Like other medicinal mushrooms, it contains a complex sugar called beta-glucan. In laboratory and human studies, maitake extract was able to stimulate various cells and factors in the immune system. Studies in animals show that it slows the growth of certain tumors and lowers blood sugar levels. More studies are being conducted to determine if maitake has the same effects in humans.

Purported Uses

  • To prevent and treat cancer, Laboratory studies and small uncontrolled studies in humans show that maitake extracts slow the growth of tumors and stimulate certain immune cells.
  • To manage diabetes Maitake reduces blood glucose levels in rats.
  • To lower high cholesterol. (There is no data to back this claim).
  • To lower high blood pressure, however there are no studies to support this claim.
  • As an immune stimulant Maitake stimulates the activity of certain immune cells in laboratory studies and in mice. It has also been shown to stimulate immune function in a small group of cancer patients. Larger studies are needed.
  • To lose weight. (There is no data to back this claim).

Do Not Take If:

You are taking blood sugar-lowering medications: Maitake can increase their effects.

You are taking warfarin: Maitake may interact with warfarin resulting in an elevated international normalized ratio (INR).

Side Effects

An increased number of white blood cells which may indicate an allergic reaction.

For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name — Grifola frondosa

Clinical Summary

Maitake is an edible mushroom consumed widely in Asia as food and used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes and hypertension. Its extracts are commercially available as dietary supplements marketed to “enhance immune function” and to treat HIV and cancer. Beta 1,6-glucan, a protein bound polysaccharide, has been identified as the active constituent. Maitake extracts exhibited hypoglycemic effects in a few studies. Preliminary data suggests that they may be useful in inducing ovulation in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome.

In other studies, maitake demonstrated anti-tumor effects, enhanced bone marrow colony formation, reduced doxorubicin toxicity, and inhibited tumor metastasis in vitro. In a murine model, an orally administered extract promoted maturation of hematopoietic cells to functionally active myeloid cells and enhanced peripheral blood leukocyte recovery following chemo toxic bone marrow injury. A novel polysaccharide, MZF, was shown to induce dendritic cell maturation and enhanced antitumor response; a Selenium-enriched polysaccharide enhanced the antitumor activity of 5-Fu; and a combination of polysaccharides and vitamin C was reported to induce apoptosis and autophagy in human hepatoma cells. Maitake also enhanced interferon activity against bladder cancer cells and alleviated inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease; and a maitake fraction showed anti-leishmanial effects.

In a small non-controlled study, tumor regression or significant improvements in symptoms were observed in half of the subjects who took maitake extract. In a trial of postmenopausal breast cancer patients, oral administration of a maitake extract was shown to have immunomodulatory effects; and to enhance neutrophil and monocyte function in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome. More studies are underway to evaluate maitake’s anticancer potential.