Health Benefits

Maitake mushroom on a black background

Health Benefits

Mushrooms have been used for centuries in Asia for their nutritional properties and as traditional medicines. Modern research supports the medicinal value of several types of mushrooms, including maitake, and medicinal mushrooms are used in clinical practice in Japan and China to augment certain therapies, including cancer treatments 1,2.

Although the consumption of whole mushrooms provides health benefits, there is a growing market for the use of extracts of medicinal mushrooms as nutritional supplements with high therapeutic potential 3. Depending upon the mushroom species used as the source, the health benefits of mushroom extracts can include:

  • Antitumour and anticancer effects
  • Immunomodulation, including boosting the immune system
  • Reduction of cancer spread (metastasis)
  • Anti-oxidant effects
  • Anti-angiogenic effects
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels

The health benefits of medicinal mushrooms are achieved through various bioactive compounds, of which a group of polysaccharides called betaglucans are of particular value. A substantial body of research indicates that beta-glucans can boost the immune response against cancer cells, reduce tumour growth, and enhance the effects of other cancer treatments.

Maitake is certified by Health Canada as Natural Health Product

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is a mushroom belonging to the Polyporaceae family.They are natively grown in Japan, China, and North America, found at the base of oak, maple and elm trees.
The maitake mushroom can range in size, averaging 3-15 pounds but can grow to be 100 pounds. They also appear in a variety of colours from pure white, yellow, brown, and black, with black maitake having the highest quality and potency.
Maitake mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, beta-glucans, vitamins B and C, potassium, fiber, minerals, and amino acids.

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Beta Glucan

Beta-glucans (ß-glucans) are polysaccharides, which are carbohydrates consisting of long chains of sugars (saccharides). A variety of beta-glucans from medicinal mushrooms have been shown to have immuno-modulatory properties, that is, they can modify immune responses. Structure of beta-glucan (ß-glucan) from maitake. The complex structure of this ß-glucan includes branching side chains and ß-1,6 and ß-1,3 linkages between the saccharide units.

Reported effects (bioactivities) of various beta-glucans include:

  • Stimulation of macrophages, natural killer cells, T cells, and other white blood cells that are important in fighting cancer and infectious diseases;
  • Enhanced production of immune-signaling proteins such as cytokines from white blood cells;
  • Inhibition of tumour cells and reduction of tumour cell spread;
  • Enhanced sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy, among others

Additionally, clinical trials with beta-glucans from medicinal mushrooms report:

  • Increased stimulation of the immune system in patients with different types of cancers;
  • Reduction in side effects from chemotherapy;
  • Pain reduction;
  • Improvement in the quality of life and overall survival of cancer patients

Notably, several fungal beta-glucans have been approved as adjuvant cancer therapies in Japan, Korea, and China, including a drug based on maitake beta-glucan.

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

References

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