The Top 6 Health Benefits Of Maitake Mushrooms

The Top 6 Health Benefits Of Maitake Mushrooms

In Japanese, maitake literally translates to dancing mushroom. Legend has it that this beneficial mushroom received its name because people danced with happiness after finding it in the wild. Maitakes are adaptogens that exhibit impressive healing properties. Researchers note that adaptogens help the body fight mental or physical difficulties, regulating systems in the body that are out of balance. 

What Are Maitake Mushrooms?

These edible mushrooms are native to China, but they also grow in Japan, Europe, North America, and other parts of Asia. You may also know maitake mushrooms as hen of the woods or sheep’s head mushrooms. They exhibit a tasty umami flavor, making it a sought after culinary ingredient, but they also offer an impressive nutritional profile. Maitakes are naturally rich in antioxidants, beta-glucans, potassium, fiber, vitamins B, C, and D, copper, amino acids, and other minerals. They are also low-calorie, low-sodium, fat-free, and cholesterol-free. 

Maitake mushrooms are of great interest to scientists because of their unique antioxidant profile. Existing research points to the fact that these mushrooms have a unique way of supporting overall health and fighting certain illnesses. They have many bioactive compounds, which likely contribute to their many medicinal properties. Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of maitake mushrooms. 

They Provide Cancer Support

According to research, the beta-glucans in maitake mushrooms have an anti-tumor immune response. Some scientific studies on mice found that maitakes blocked tumor growth. Additional research found that beta-glucans potentially enhanced the activity of certain immune cells, including natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages. These cells help to identify and destroy cancer cells. Maitake mushrooms also promote apoptosis, which is programmed cell death that eliminates abnormal (cancerous) or damaged cells. Some studies suggest that maitake mushroom extracts may induce apoptosis in breast cancer and bladder cancer cells. One such extract, which is available in supplement form, is maitake D-fraction. Vitamin C helps to enhance this extract’s function to make it more effective in the body. 

They May Support Healthy Blood Sugar

A study from 2015 found that maitake mushrooms had a positive effect on rats with type 2 diabetes. Over the course of the study, the rats consumed maitake mushrooms, which had a positive effect on blood glucose levels. Study authors were able to conclude that the bioactive compounds in maitake mushrooms helped improve glucose tolerance. A separate study on diabetic mice found that maitake mushroom powder exhibited anti-diabetic properties, improving the condition of the mice over four months. Human research is necessary, but initial studies on animals are promising. 

They Promote Fertility

Before we explain how maitake mushrooms promote fertility, it’s crucial to understand that research is limited. Additionally, the research was specifically focused on how they affected women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This is a condition that causes the ovaries to develop fluid-filled cysts around their outer edges. These cysts contain follicles, but don’t release eggs, resulting in infrequent periods, excess hair growth, and lack of ovulation. A Japanese study from 2010 monitored women with PCOS who either took a maitake mushroom extract or the clomiphene citrate drug. At the end of the study, the maitake extract induced ovulation in 77% of PCOS participants, showing a very similar result to the prescription drug. 

They May Reduce Blood Pressure

Earlier in the article, we discussed the D-fraction maitake extract, which can induce apoptosis. In an animal study, researchers gave that D-fraction extract to rats and found that it reduced age-related high blood pressure. The extract also improved insulin sensitivity, which could help explain why maitake can aid with cholesterol reduction. In an older study from 1989, researchers fed maitake mushrooms to rats for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the rats had lower blood pressure, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels. The ability to lower all of these markers suggests that maitake mushrooms may be able to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease. 

They Support Immune Function

The beta-glucans in maitake mushrooms work to encourage optimal immune function. The polysaccharides work to optimize immune response, enhancing the body’s overall resilience towards foreign invaders. The bioactive polysaccharides support humoral and cellular immunity, two actions that ward off pathogens. This is particularly useful whether a virus is going around the office, or you are stressed and have a weakened immune system. When compared to shiitake mushrooms in a 2014 animal study, maitake mushrooms stimulated a more intense immune response

They May Balance Cholesterol Levels

If you have higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, you have a higher risk of heart disease. Although high cholesterol can result from poor diet and genetics, health experts suggest that insulin resistance plays a role in cholesterol levels. As it turns out, the antioxidants in maitake mushrooms work to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. When inflammatory markers reduce, less cholesterol accumulates in the arteries. That ultimately helps protect you from heart disease.



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