Hen of the wood mushrooms: Benefits and side effects

Know in one minute about Hen of the wood mushrooms

  • Hen of the wood is an edible feathered, frilly mushroom with excellent earthy, and spicy taste.
  • This mushroom is brown, has a large fleshy fruiting body with wavy edges, soft overlapping caps.
  • It is not only used as a food ingredient, but also as a food-flavoring substance in dishes.
  • Rich in protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin D2, and low in fat and caloric value.
  • Nutritional value is higher than Shiitake or other mushrooms
  • Beta-glucan from this mushroom increases immunity, reduces stress and fatigue.
  • Treat diabetes, depression, obesity, and lower cholesterol levels.
  • Full of antioxidants that slow the progression of the disease and promote health.
  • Protects the body from allergy, ultraviolet-A (UVA) radiation, and enhances bone formation.


Hen of the wood (Grifola frondosa) is a popular, edible, and autumn mushroom that belongs to the family of Meripilaceae.
This mushroom grows around the stumps of broadleaf trees or trunks like oaks, beech, chestnut, elm, and maple. Grows year after year in dense clusters, spreads through submerged, rotting roots, by underground mycelium, and as it ages.
It has a large fleshy fruiting body and overlapping caps that are smooth, velvety, and soft with wavy edges. These caps are smoky brown and are organized like clusters of rosettes arising from a single, branched stem. Becomes fleshy dark grayish brown after maturing; however, the color gradually becomes lighter gray with age (1).
This mushroom has a pleasant smell and appreciates its woodsy, earthy, and peppery taste. Due to its delicious and special taste, it is not only used as a food ingredient, but also as a food-flavoring substance in dried powder form (2).

Common names

  • Sheep’s head/Ram’s head/ laboring (Germany)
  • Hen of the wood (North America)
  • Gray tree flower (China)
  • Maitake/ /kumotake (Japan)
  • Polypore en touffe (France)
  • Korallkjuke (Norway)
  • Eikhaas (Holland)
  • Grib-Baran (Russia)
  • King of mushrooms
  • Cloud mushroom
  • Champignon maitake
  • Hongo and Shelf fungi
  • Hui Shu Hua or Wu Gu


It grows in Asia, North America, and Europe. Meanwhile, it is a common mushroom in the United States and Canada.


Kingdom- Fungi

Division- Basidiomycota

Class– Agaricomycetes

Family: Meripilaceae

Nutritional value of Hen of the wood

It is an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), and minerals. Has low fat and caloric value and its nutritional value is higher than Shiitake or other mushrooms. This mushroom has a sweet and umami taste due to its high trehalose, glutamic and aspartic amino acid (3).

Hen of the wood mushroom benefits

1. Boosts immunity

The presence of beta-glucan in mushrooms increases immunity, builds endurance, reduces stress and fatigue. It fights against foreign pathogens and protects the body from infectious diseases (4).

2. Manage diabetes

This mushroom contains bioactive compounds like ergosterol peroxide (sterol) and glycoprotein. These compounds repair the damaged cells by reducing cell inflammation and increase glucose absorption (5). Thus, this mushroom lowers the serum glucose levels in type 2 diabetic patients and improves their diabetic conditions (6).

3. Slows down the progression of cancer

Polysaccharides, glycoprotein, and ergosterol found in the mushroom protect healthy cells prevent tumor metastasis, and inhibit their growth. This mushroom is effective against breast, liver, lung, colon, and gastric cancers (7).

4. Antimicrobial properties

It fights against viral infections such as hepatitis B virus, enterovirus, herpes simplex virus, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (8). The polysaccharides of this mushroom also inhibit the growth of bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Bacillus megaterium (9).

5. Antioxidant properties
Hen of the wood contains polysaccharides, proteins, fatty acid, ascorbic acid, αlpha-tocopherol, phenols, and flavonoids that show antioxidant activities (10). These compounds remove harmful radicals, fight against infections and prevent age-related neurological diseases (11).

Other benefits
Intake of this mushroom is also good for weight loss and prevents heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure (12). This mushroom enhances new bone formation, regulates intestinal microflora, and treats depression (13). It also protects the body from allergy and ultraviolet-A (UVA) radiation (14).

Hen of the wood mushroom side effects

  • Fresh mushrooms easily deteriorate because of their high moisture content and rich nutrient content. Thus it is necessary to store it in a fridge but is best consumed within the first three days.
  • Intake of this mushroom is well tolerated and no dose-limiting toxicity is experienced up to 10 mg/kg per day. However, in some people, it may cause nausea, joint swelling, or allergic reaction (rash and pruritus).

Moreover, ingestion of this mushroom every day is complex; it may depress as well as enhance immune function (15).

1. Risk of hypersensitivity pneumonitis

It may cause allergic pneumonitis to the person due to work on a mushroom farm. It may be caused by spores inhalation with respiratory symptoms. Thus, precautions like wearing masks should be needed (16).

2. Avoid during pregnancy and lactation

Pregnant or lactating women should avoid or use very less amount of this mushroom because of lack of available evidence.

Hen of the wood recipes

Eaten as a side dish by roasting or used in the main dish in the following ways.

1. Seared and stir-fried

Sauté mushroom with garlic, add pepper and salt to develop a crispy texture as well as delicious flavor.

2. Soba noodles

Add mushroom in sesame oil with onion, ginger, and garlic in a soya broth. Then add boiled soba noodles to make a quick meal.

3. Pizza

Scatter mushroom, garlic, and mozzarella on a dough with salt and pepper for a flavor kick.

4. Ramen

Add mushroom with a bok choy, noodles, and a soft-boiled egg in a big bowl. Sprinkle green onions and sesame seeds in this mushroom ramen.

5. Smoothie

Put mushroom powder into the banana or pineapple with honey to make a low-calorie, fat-free smoothie.

6. Omelets

Throw mushrooms in olive oil with sausages, salt, and pepper then add beaten egg or scrambled eggs.


1. How to cook hen of the wood mushrooms?

It can be used in different cooking techniques like sautéing, roasting, broiling, pan-searing, grilling, steaming, and stir-frying.
Due to its delicate and feathery texture, simply use your hand to pull them into slices, instead of the knife. For cooking, sesame or olive oil is best along with savory and salty flavors to offset its spicy taste.
This mushroom works well in a salad, risotto, stew, pasta, pizza, omelets, or soup and coffee. Due to its feathery look, it gets soggy and breaks down easily when they’re cooked too long.
Thus, it’s recommended not to cook the mushrooms for longer than ten minutes.

2. How to blanch the hen of the wood?

Blanching is a mild form of cooking just for 30-60 seconds to the boiling water. After that move them and dip them into the ice water quickly to stop the cooking process and then freeze.
Like another mushroom, this mushroom does not need blanching or pretreatment before freezing. It can be frozen raw by simple cleaning, drying, slicing, and placing in a zip lock or vacuum seal bags.

3. How to clean the hen of the wood mushroom?

This mushroom has a delicate feathery appearance, wiped out with a paper towel or damp cloth. It can also be cleaned gently by brush or rinsed off quickly and spread out to dry. Don’t soak them in water for a long time, it becomes soggy and reduces the flavor.

4. What does a hen of the wood liquid culture look like?

The liquid culture of this mushroom has a dark yellow color, more efficient, providing higher mycelial productivity in a shorter time.
Moreover, this liquid culture requires smaller plant space and allows for more effective product quality control (4).


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