Maitake Mushroom
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Botanical: Grifola frondosa
Family:  Basidiomycetes  (button mushroom) - Meripilaceae (a fungus from the polypore order)
Other common names:  Hen of the Woods, Sheep's Head

Described as the King of Mushrooms  in Japan, Maitake is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the finest immuno-stimulants known.  Used in Oriental medicine for over three thousand years, new scientific research in Japan and the United States has discovered some powerful compounds that have shown significant carcinogenesis prevention activity in tests.  Regarded as the most potent immune-enhancing of all the mushrooms, current studies are revealing some promising data that may provide hope for HIV patients.  Maitake Mushroom is easily absorbed and is as effective when taken as an oral supplement as it is when given intravenously.

The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Maitake Mushroom is a very large mushroom that has been used for over three thousand years in traditional Chinese and Japanese cooking and herbology, in which mushrooms have been used to maintain health, preserve youth and increase longevity.  Among the several types of mushrooms used in traditional medicine, Maitake is said to contain the most potent healing qualities.  In the late 1980s, Japanese scientists identified the Maitake to be more potent than lentinan, shiitake, suehirotake and kawaratake mushrooms, all used in traditional Asian medicine for immune function enhancement.  It is described as a cluster of dark fronds with a firm and supple texture at the base, becoming slightly brittle and crumbly at the edges and exuding a distinctive aroma and rich, woodsy taste.   In Japanese, Maitake means "dancing mushroom," because in ancient times, those who were fortunate enough to find them were said to dance with joy, since Maitakes could be exchanged for their weight in silver.  Because the Maitake had such a monetary value, it was offered to the Shogun, the military leaders of Japan, by local lords. The Maitake Mushroom grows wild in the deep mountainous regions of northeastern Japan and is difficult to cultivate because of its sensitivity to environmental conditions.  Members of this family all grow on rotting wood and tend to form very simple fruiting bodies.  Until cultivation techniques were devised in 1979, they were collected in the wild, but are now successfully grown for ever-expanding food and medicinal markets in Japan, as well as export to the West.  Today, traditional Oriental herbal medicine functions side-by-side with modern medical techniques in Japan, as witnessed by the frequent use of Maitake Mushrooms to treat conditions that are routinely treated in the West with synthetic drugs.  However, because of new scientific research, many promising benefits are emerging from the use of Maitake Mushroom in the area preventing carcinogenesis and HIV treatments, and many studies are now being conducted in the United States and Japan to substantiate these claims. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Maitake has been shown to enhance bone marrow colony formation and reduces doxorubicin toxicity in vitro, and in a small non-controlled study, tumor regression or significant symptom improvements were observed in half of the subjects using Maitake extract; thus, research is underway to test its anticancer effects and toxicity in humans.  Maitake Mushroom is very nutritious and includes vitamins C, D and B-2, potassium, magnesium and a very powerful polysaccharide called beta-1,6-glucan, which is thought to account for the mushroom's healing properties.

Beneficial Uses:
Maitake Mushroom is considered an adaptogen, an agent that increases resistance to stress and helps the body adapt to stressful conditions and normalize bodily functions when those functions have been altered.

Maitake is said to be the most powerful immuno-stimulant of all the mushrooms.  The most important compound, the polysaccharide beta-1,6-glucan, is said to stimulate immune function by enhancing the activity of key immune cells known as T-helper cells or CD4 cells.  T-cells play a key role in immunity by secreting interferon and interleukin-1 and 2, as well as activating B cells, so that they produce antibodies to ward off invading diseases.

In addition to its ability to stimulate the immune system, Maitake's potent polysaccharide compound has also been shown to prevent carcinogenesis in laboratory tests, and further studies are investigating the potential use of Maitake for malignant colorectal and breast disease.

The U.S.F.D.A. has approved clinical studies of Maitake on participants with advanced prostate cancer, skipping the usual first-phase toxicity study, going directly to phase-two human study.  There are also strong indications that Maitake may reduce pain, hair loss, nausea and other side effects usually associated with chemotherapy.

Penn State researchers found that all mushrooms are a rich source of the powerful antioxidant, ergothioneine, but the exotic mushrooms (such as Maitake) contain even more ergothioneine, which is a unique metabolite that is thought to provide cellular protection within the human body that can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.

Maitake Mushroom is also said to have an antiviral effect and has killed HIV virus in laboratory experiments.   Reports that Maitake extracts may help AIDS patients fight Kaposi's sarcoma and other symptoms are still preliminary and require further studies.  Further antiviral qualities are thought to be useful for chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic hepatitis.

Traditionally, mushrooms have been believed to prevent hypertension, and there are reports that Maitake can lower blood pressure.

New research claims that Maitake Mushroom may be useful for treating diabetes in patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes.  Another potent polysaccharide in Maitake may increase the body's ability to recognize glucose levels and improve insulin levels.

Some people may have allergic reactions to mushrooms.  People with MS should consult their physicians before taking Maitake Mushroom Herbal Supplement.

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