Summary of Research on Maitake Extract

Known for its high content of beta-glucans [71, 72], powerful immune-stimulating polysaccharides, the gourmet mushroom Maitake is one of the most commonly used medicinal mushrooms in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

The common English name for Maitake is Hen-of-the-woods, due to its occasional resemblance to the fluffed up tail feathers of a hen. It is one of the most easily recognizable edible mushrooms in North America, though it is only to be found in eastern Canada and U.S. down to the Mid-Atlantic States.

Maitake extract has been found to increase the so called tumor-necrosis-factor [73, 74, 75] as well as other cancer fighting mechanisms. [76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81] Specific cancer types studied include colorectal, prostate, liver, lung and breast. [82] FDA has approved a Phase II study of Maitake extract on breast and prostate cancer. [83]

Other Maitake research has focused on its ability to enhance the immune system, both in general [84, 85, 86] as well as in cancer patients. [87] The anti-viral potential of Maitake extract has been of particular interest. [88] Viruses are, after all, notoriously difficult to treat. Research on Maitake and HIV is being conducted. [89]

Of further interest is the well demonstrated blood sugar lowering effect of Maitake extract. One study on insulin-resistance found blood glucose drops of 25% average. [90, 91, 92]

In addition to research on Maitake extract, there are also many studies on the individual active compounds, in particular beta-glucans. A patent application exists on "Methods of using beta glucan as a radio-protective agent." The patent in question "relates to methods for treating and preventing radiation and/or chemotherapy related injury and/or afflictions, such as myelosuppression and decreased macrophage activity." [93] This protective effect against radiation poisoning and degradation of the immune system may be why NASA gives beta-glucans to astronauts.

Other therapeutic effects of Maitake extract that have been researched include: anti-fungal (Candida albicans) and anti-bacterial, blood pressure moderator, nerve tonic, respiratory conditions, and stress reduction. [25]

Medicinal mushroom expert Paul Stamets, in his book Mycelium Running, also lists Maitake extract as showing some positive effect on leukemia. [134]

Note: The statements on this page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult a licensed medical practitioner before using any herb (or mushroom) for medicinal purposes.

Credit: Thank you to Paul Stamets for source material.