Maitake Mushrooms

Maitake or Grifola frondosa is also called as the “hen of the woods”. This name is in reference to the meaty texture of the flesh that greatly resembles that of chicken breast.

This mushroom is popular in Japan, Korea and China. The name maitake literally translates as “the dancing mushroom”. This is because mushroom hunters will literally dance for joy when they find maitake. Harvest can be quite a good haul when in season. Hunters can harvest about 100 pounds of maitake from just one base.

Other common names given to maitake include:

  • Sheep’s head
  • Mushikusa
  • Cloud mushroom or kumotake

What does Grifola frondosa look like?

A sclerotium is present in maitake. It grows downwards into the ground, much like a tuber. The sclerotium is about as big as a potato.

The fruiting body of Grifola frondosa can grow very large. It can reach to about 100 cm each. The fruiting bodies typically grow in clusters.

Maitake has several gray to brown-colored caps that overlap and are attached to a single base. The caps are often spoon-shaped or curled. The edges are wavy and broad (about 2-7 cm). This mushroom has no gills, like most other polyphores.

The stalk or stipe is milky white in color with a branching structure. It becomes tougher as the mushroom ages.

Where can Grifola frondosa be found?

Maitake can be found growing naturally at the base of trees like oak. It is also cultivated in artificial logs.

In the eastern portion of North America, maitake typically grows on oak trees. The mushroom grows off from the roots. The preference for this location is because of the nature of maitake’s nutrition. Maitake feeds off from the nutrients that the roots absorb from the soil. In a sense, maitake can be considered as a parasite of the tree. But it is a good kind of parasite because it will not compete with the tree for nutrients.

The best time for harvesting is during the fall season.

The natural habitat of maitake is in the temperate deciduous forests in the northern regions. It grows in Eastern Canada, Mid-Atlantic States, Northeastern states, and North America. It also naturally thrives in Japan’s northeastern areas and in the temperate regions of Europe and China.

Active Compounds of Grifola frondosa

The bioactive compounds in this mushroom include the following:

  • Alpha and beta glucans, which includes grifolan
  • Polysaccharides
  • Lipids and phospholipids
  • Ergosterol
  • Mannoxyloglucan
  • Mannogalactofucan
  • Xyloglucan
  • GFL (N-acetylgalactosamine-specific lectin)

Benefits of Grifola Frondosa

The Japanese and the Chinese have been using maitake as a curative herbal medicine for a very long time. Scientific research on the medicinal properties formally began in Japan in the 180s. The findings only confirmed what their society has known for a long time- it is effective for the following:

Cancer treatment

Bioactive compounds in maitake can slow down tumor growth. These compounds enhance lymphokines and interleukin production, which are vital in limiting tumor growth.

One study made in 2009 also found that maitake bioactive compounds can boost the function of the immune system of patients who suffer from breast cancer. This effect is helpful in slowing down the progress of breast cancer and improving prognosis.

Boost immune functions

The abundance of polysaccharides in maitake makes it a natural immune booster. In partnership with the abundant antioxidants in this mushroom, the polysaccharides work to remove free radicals in the body. This is part of the immune function that protects tissue integrity.

Free radicals can easily damage and create significant injuries if left alone. Maitake bioactive compounds boost the immune cells in order to effectively seek out free radicals and prevent damage.

Control cholesterol and blood sugar

The polysaccharides in Grifola frondosa are also effective in controlling and regulating cholesterol and blood sugar levels. This makes it a highly recommended addition to the dietary treatment for Type 2 diabetes.

This mushroom can help in problems related to diabetes. It can reduce the insulin resistance of the tissues and increase insulin sensitivity. This is a vital step towards improving Type 2 diabetes.

As the cells become more sensitive to the presence of insulin, more sugar in the blood are allowed to enter the cells. This will mean lower blood sugar levels. As glucose from the blood enters, more energy becomes available for the cells to use in their various cellular processes.

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