Shiitake (Lentinula Edodes) Top Health Benefits [2018 Update]

While we can’t teach you how to grow shiitaki mushrooms or even how to cook them (even though everyone knows they’re amazing with steak), we can help you learn more about the holistic health benefits!

Let’s dig right!

Basic Facts About Shiitaki Mushrooms

Also known as the shiitake mushroom, Lentinula edodes has been utilized as a medicinal food in Asian countries, particularly in Japan and China. The mushroom is believed to hold strong properties that serve to improve and modulate the immune system.

After the button mushroom, the shiitake mushroom is the world’s second most cultivated mushroom.

The famous edible mushroom from East Asia, particularly from Japan or China, is used for culinary purposes. Studies have been conducted on the shiitake mushroom and have found that it has positive health effects on humans. With the mushroom’s use dating back to the Ming Dynasty, it is no surprise that the shiitake mushroom continues to be popular today.

For years, shiitake used to be considered a forbidden or restricted plant in the United States, as the mushroom was confused with a Lentinula fungus strain that was destructive. In the 1970s, though, the U.S. Congress considered shiitake safe and welcomed it. Many countries thus started growing shiitake and now it can be cultivated with contemporary agricultural practices.

What do Shiitake mushrooms look like?

Lentinula edodes has a woody appearance. At emergence, the cap is dark brown and grows lighter with age. The shiitake mushrooms are colored dark brown and they are abundant in forests. Shiitake mushrooms grow well on elm and oak wood trees. They can also be sun-dried, thus preserving them. Dried and fresh varieties of the mushrooms are popular worldwide.

Where can Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) be found?

Lentinula edodes (shiitake) is native to Asia, specifically in China and Japan. The etymology is Japanese, wherein ‘shii’ is the tree that normally carries the mushroom. ‘Take’ means the mushroom. While it is widely found in Japan and China, shiitake can easily adapt and grow anywhere. For instance, in the United States, people grow shiitake in converted chicken houses, simple greenhouses, and under tree shades.

In a natural environment, the mushroom spores are released during autumn and spring. They then prepare to sprout when the temperature and moisture are right. The mushroom can sometimes sprout in fives or sixes in one night.

Active Compounds

ShitakeNaturally, Lentinula edodes has many vital contributions to human health and nutrition. Among them are proteins composed by 18 various amino acids (including essential amino acids), carbohydrates, lipids (linoleic acid), minerals, fiber, B vitamins (1, 2, 3, and 12), ergosterol, vitamin C, and the D2 provitamin.

Some of shiitake’s active important compounds include:

  • Lentinan (antitumor, antiviral, hepatoprotective)
  • Mannoglucan (immunomodulation)
  • Lentinamicin (antimicrobial)
  • LEM, lenthionine, ethylacetate and chloroform extracts (antibacterial)
  • Lentin (antifungal)
  • Lentysine, lentinacin, eritadenine (hypolipidemic and cardiovascular)
  • Lectin (hemaglutinating)
  • Water extracts and methanol (antioxidant)

Shiitake Mushrooms Benefits

Aside from its culinary uses in providing flavor to many kinds of food, Lentinula edodes (shiitake) also possesses some health benefits, including:

  • Antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties
  • Immunomodulatory effects and antitumor activity
  • Antioxidant activity

Antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties.

A 2011 UCL Eastman Dental Institute in London study tested the mushroom’s antimicrobial effects on gingivitis, which involves gum inflammation due to microbial film buildup at the gingival margin. Shiitake mushroom’s effectiveness was compared to an active component of a mouthwash for gingivitis.

After treatment, the total bacteria numbers in the oral community were investigated. It was found the shiitake mushroom extract lowered the number of some pathogens without affecting the organisms linked to dental and oral health.

Immunomodulatory effects and anti-tumor activity.

Shiitake can boost the immune system and fight various medical conditions by providing vital enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. These properties make it an immunomodulatory mushroom.

A 2015 Journal of the American College of Nutrition study determined if the mushroom could improve the immune function of humans. The results suggested that consuming shiitake mushrooms improved gut immunity and improved cell effector function. Due to mushroom consumption, there was also a decrease in inflammation.

Shiitake mushrooms can also help fight disease. The shiitake’s lentinan bioactive compound may help heal damage to chromosomes caused by antidisease therapies.

Antioxidant activity.

Shiitake mushrooms have been found to have L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant. In research presented at an American Chemical Society meeting in 2005, it was found that mushrooms have high levels of the compound as compared to two other dietary sources – wheat germ and chicken liver.

In fact, this published study found 62 elements in the fruiting body of shiitaki mushrooms.

What are the side effects of shiitake mushrooms?

As mentioned, shiitaki mushroom may cause the immune system to become more active. Hence, those with autoimmune diseases such as  rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), or other conditions might sense their symptoms increase. If you have one of these autoimmune conditions, it might be safest to completely avoid Lentinula edodes and other mushrooms and fungus that works in a similar way.

Similarly, don’t use shiitaki if you have an uncommon disorder called blood eosinophilia.

Normal amounts of shiitaki mushrooms taken with food are considered normally safe. However, at medicinal doses, problems like stomach discomfort, blood abnormalities, and skin swelling (inflammation) might be exhibited. You could potentially also suffer an increased sensitivity to the sun, allergic skin reactions, and breathing problems so it’s important to be careful when dosing.

Are shiitake mushrooms safe to eat raw?

Yes! Some worry that raw shiitaki mushrooms might be poisonous but in fact, they’re not only safe to eat raw, many find they taste better this way and they enjoy even more health benefits when the mushroom remains uncooked. The dried mushroom is likewise healthy and includes a variety of vitamins and minerals, thus making it popular among practitioners of alternative and herbal health.

How do you clean shiitake mushrooms?

Very simply rinse the mushrooms in water before you cook them. You may also choose to trim the stem where it attaches to the cap itself. The entire fruiting body of the shiitaki is healthy, including both the stem and cap, though the stem can be described as very fibrous, almost woody. Needless to say, most people don’t enjoy eating the stem of Lentinula Edodes.

What does a shiitake mushroom taste like?

Many say that shiitaki is very “meaty” quite like the portabello mushroom and can also be described as earthy and smoky. The taste can be enjoyed with steak, stir-fry, soups or pasta. How do you use it when cooking? Please let us know in the comment section below.

How big is a shiitake mushroom?

Dried they’re normally 1-1/2″ to 2″ and it takes about 10 of them to weigh just one ounce.

Conclusion

Lentinula edodes (shiitake) is one of the world’s most popular mushrooms and is especially valued in various world cuisines for its taste and nutrition.

One of its most important compounds is lentinan, which activates immune effector cells. Plus, shiitake has antioxidant activities that are amplified with the treatment of heat. Moreover, Lentinula Edodes polysaccharides can reduce LDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and serum total cholesterol.

With its health benefits, shiitake mushrooms may just become more popular than ever as a medicinal mushroom with amazing health benefits.

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