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Fungi 101, Immune System
Are you looking to level up your health and wellness? Medicinal mushrooms lay a strong foundation. While some mushrooms are found in the supplement aisle, you might have experienced maitakes at your local grocery store or farmer’s market without knowing just how beneficial they can be for your overall health.
A popular culinary mushroom, maitakes have long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to reduce fatigue, support immunity and more. Now, their traditional use has spurred a surge of research, allowing scientists to understand the chemical pathways that enable maitake’s impressive effects.
Read on for our guide to understanding maitake mushroom benefits and how you can incorporate them into your daily wellness regimen.
Maitake mushrooms get their name from the Japanese words for dance (mai) and mushroom (take), purportedly due to the joyful feeling one might get after finding a maitake in the forest. This is just one interpretation—maitakes could also carry this name because of their feathery appearance, which makes the wild mushroom rustle and dance in the wind.
Native to Asia and North America, maitakes are also known as “hen of the woods” and of course by their scientific name, Grifola frondosa. These light brown, many-eared mushrooms can be found growing towards the base of oak and maple trees in late summer. They have a unique, soft texture and an earthy flavor. They are often referred to as a gourmet culinary mushroom.
Due to their long history as medicinal mushrooms in Asian cultures, maitakes have been the subject of extensive research, first in Japan and now in the U.S.
Maitakes are thought to possess the following potential benefits:
Let’s take a closer look at the current research on maitakes.
In some countries, such as Japan and China, maitakes are used therapeutically to treat immunocompromised patients. However, ongoing research seeks to understand the chemical pathways that enable this edible mushroom’s potential immune-boosting effects.
Current research shows that maitakes can modulate immune system response.
The immune system is made up of diverse cells and organs, including the lymphatic system, the gastrointestinal tract, gut-lymphatic tissue and white blood cells. White blood cells are responsible for:
Immunocompromised patients’ immune systems may lag due to a lack of white blood cells. Maitakes seem to promote the growth and activity of these vital cells.
While most studies so far have focused on maitakes’ ability to help people with compromised immune systems, these results suggest these mushrooms could also boost immunity in healthy individuals.
Current tests show maitake is safely tolerated by most people. It is, after all, a popular ingredient in many dishes. As we await more clinical trials, you can try out maitake’s immune-boosting effects for yourself. Not convinced yet? Check out this guide to understanding mushrooms for immunity.
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is important for overall health. Harvard Health Publishing explains that high blood sugar can:
In addition, Dr. Niket Sonpal, gastroenterologist and internist, further explains in the Huffington Post that:
“Consuming too much sugar can affect the cells in your immune system that target bacteria... Sugar affects the way your white blood cells attack bacteria.”
With so many negative side effects associated with excess sugar, it’s clear that healthy blood sugar is essential to overall health and immune system response.
How can maitakes help? In a 2003 study, scientists injected diabetic rats with maitake extract and observed that it markedly lowered their glucose levels.
While further human studies are needed, it’s possible that maitakes can help you to maintain healthy blood sugar, especially when used in combination with a sensible diet that is low on added sweeteners.
As already noted, high blood sugar can lead to weight gain. By modulating blood sugar levels, maitakes may help avoid one of the side effects of high blood sugar: excess sugar consumption. Other studies further support maitakes’ ability to promote healthy weight maintenance.
A preliminary study on humans even found that maitakes led to weight loss, even with no changes to diet. Those who took a maitake supplement lost an average of 7-13 lbs, and one test subject lost 26 lbs.
Maitakes are naturally low in fat and high in fiber and nutrients. And maitake extracts may support healthy weight loss, especially if used in combination with exercise and a sensible diet.
As we learn more about the maitake mushroom, its beneficial effects are becoming clear. While the above uses are currently the subject of clinical study, further research may validate on the mushroom’s other traditional uses.
Maitakes’ history as a medicinal supplement can be traced back to 206BC. Ancient texts suggest the locations of wild-growing maitakes were so closely guarded that a father might only tell his son the location of his mushroom foraging while on his deathbed.
Accordingly, this highly-prized wild mushroom has amassed a long list of traditional uses. These include:
As more research is conducted, we’ll continue to discover more about this edible mushroom’s supportive effects.
Luckily, maitakes are no longer so rare and closely guarded. While you can still forage for maitakes, the mushroom is now farmed, making it widely available.
Now that you’ve read about maitake mushrooms, you’re likely eager to make them a part of your lifestyle. And unlike chagas, reishis and other medicinal mushrooms, maitakes are easy to find in the grocery store.
If you’re a mushroom lover, consider picking up “hen of the woods” on your next trip to the grocery store or farmer’s market. You could even buy your own growing kit and start a closet mushroom farm.
As a dense, feathery mushroom, maitakes can make a great meat substitute, whether you’re spending the afternoon grilling or preparing a curry. Try throwing the edible mushrooms into your favorite pasta dish, seasoned with spices for optimal flavor. Check out Bon Appetit's list of fresh maitake mushroom recipes for some inspiration.
Whether seared, sauteed as a base for soup or added to a salad, maitakes need to be thoroughly cooked to avoid chewiness. Don’t try to eat these mushrooms raw.
Not everyone is a mushroom lover. In addition, as tasty as maitakes are, it’s hard to incorporate them into each and every recipe you make.
The solution? Maitake immune supplements.
If you want to enjoy this mushroom’s benefits on a daily basis, try out Plant People’s Advanced Immune Power capsules, which combine maitakes with the following powerhouse mushrooms:
Along with these five potent mushrooms, this mushroom immune defense blend features potent astragalus benefits, as well as your daily dose of Vitamin C benefits. Taking a maitake supplement is an easy solution for those who are on the go and don't have time to make this edible mushroom into a culinary masterpiece.
Vegan, sustainably sourced and organic, this immune-boosting blend delivers the best of plant and fungi medicine in a daily capsule. This makes it easy to incorporate maitake mushrooms into your daily routine and take them with you, wherever you’re headed. Try out our Advanced Immune Power to experience the wonderful mushroom supplements benefits.
Are you looking for a high-quality source of maitake supplements? At Plant People, we’re plant and fungi experts, dedicated to connecting you with the highest quality natural remedies. We source our ingredients from organic, U.S. farms to maintain quality and consistency through the cultivating and capsulating process.
Our years of experience creating powerful blends of CBD tinctures and CBD capsules has made us leaders in herbal and botanical remedies. Now, our new Advanced Immune Power blend synthesizes ancient and contemporary research on mushrooms to deliver even more immune-boosting effects.
Are you ready to start feeling better? Try out Immune Power and embrace the difference fungi can make.
Written by Emily Spring
Emily Spring is the Director of Marketing at Plant People. A longtime proponent of balanced living, she has enjoyed over 8 years driving growth in the lifestyle, health and wellness sectors with deep experience in functional solutions for optimizing anyone's everyday life.
Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy
Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.
Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.
Alternative Medicine Review. Maitake Extracts and Their Therapeutic Potential. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11207456/
Bon Appetit. 6 ways to cook maitake mushrooms. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/how-to-cook-maitake-mushrooms
Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin. “Anti-hyperliposis Effect of Maitake Fruit Body (Grifola frondosa).” https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb1993/20/7/20_7_781/_article/-char/ja/
Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. “Maitake (Grifola frondosa) Improve Glucose Tolerance of Experimental Diabetic Rats.” https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jnsv1973/47/1/47_1_57/_article/-char/ja/
Huffington Post. “Eating Sugar Can Weaken Your Immune System.” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sugar-weaken-immune-system_l_5e74ca2cc5b6f5b7c542a3be
Harvard Health Publishing. The sweet danger of sugar. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar
International Journal of Cancer. “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/
Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. “Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa): Systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23280601/
Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology. “A Phase I/II Trial of a Polysaccharide Extract From Grifola Frondosa (Maitake Mushroom) in Breast Cancer Patients.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19253021/
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