Maitake mushrooms benefits and side effects

Maitake mushrooms benefits

Know in one minute about Maitake mushroom

Maitake mushrooms are known as Hen of woods. Most valuable and expensive mushrooms because of excellent texture, taste, and nutrition.

Health benefits of Maitake mushrooms

  1. Immune booster due to rich polysaccharides and glucans.
  2. Dried and fresh mushrooms lower cholesterol and diabetes.
  3. Antiviral and antioxidant nature.
  4. Anti-allergic due to ergosterol compounds in them.
  5. Detoxify mercury from the body
  6. Anti-aging property and protects the liver.

Name: Maitake mushroom

Scientific name: Grifola frondosa; family Polyporaceae

Common name: Hen of the woods, Ram’s Head, Sheep’s head

Cultivated in: Asia, China, Japan, Korea, USA, Canada, Australia, and some countries in Europe.

Maitake mushrooms are the most valuable, expensive, and medicinal mushrooms. Mainly consumed by Chinese and Japanese people for hundreds of years because of their excellent taste, texture, and nutrition. Maitake is a heavy mass (20 inches in diameter and weighs up to 100 pounds) at the base of stumps and on the roots of oaks, elms, beech, chestnut, maple persimmons, and other trees (1).

Interesting History of Maitake mushroom

Grifola frondosa name derived from the beast from Greek mythology known as the griffin. Frondosa, meaning leaf-like. Whereas Maitake in Japan is derived from two words  “mai” which means dance and “take” which means mushroom. Therefore it is also known in the name of “dancing mushroom.” 

The name dancing mushrooms of Maitake is also because of its appearance and its vulnerability in the wild. The large fruiting body characterized by overlapping caps like butterflies in a wild dance, or because mushroom seekers who were lucky enough to come upon maitake in the wild would dance for joy (2).

Nutritional value of Maitake mushroom

Maitake mushrooms are highly nutritious and offer a good source of polysaccharides, proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, trace elements, and other components as follows (3, 4).

Compound                                          Amounts per 100g.
Water 90.37 g
Energy                                                 31 kcal
Protein 1.94 g
Total lipid (  Fat)s 0.19 g
Carbohydrates 6.97 g
Dietary Fiber 2.7 g
Sugar 2.07 g
Calcium 1 mg
Iron 0.30 mg
Magnesium 10 mg
Phosphorus 74 mg
Potassium 204 mg
Sodium 1 mg
Zinc 0.75 mg
Folates 21 µg
Niacin 6.58 mg
Riboflavin 0.242 mg
Thiamin 0.146 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.056 mg
Vitamin B-12 0 mg
Vitamin E 0.01 mg
Vitamin D (D2+D3) 28.1  µg
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.030 g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 0.030 g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 0.090 g


Health benefits of Maitake mushrooms

Maitake mushroom benefits are due to immense biological activities such as anti-cancer, antiviral, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol properties. It also helps in lowering blood pressure and protect the liver (5).

1. Maitake mushroom an immune booster

Polysaccharides in mushrooms such as glucans and D-fraction stimulate strong cellular and humoral immunity. Therefore Maitake mushroom helps in protecting the body against foreign pathogens (6 & 7).

2. Eating Maitake mushrooms helps in lowering the cholesterol level

Maitake mushrooms act as an antihyperlipidemic agent which lowers serum cholesterol levels. The cholesterol gets converted into bile acid and increases the fecal cholesterol excretion (8).

Dried maitake powder inhibits lipid accumulation in the body and improves lipid metabolism which further increased by the ingestion of a high-fat diet (9).

3. Antidiabetic properties of Maitake mushrooms

Maitake mushroom’s polysaccharides help in lowering the blood glucose level by activating insulin receptors to overcome insulin resistance. Thus reduces weight and improves glycaemic control. Therefore, beneficial for the hypoglycaemic effect on Type 2 diabetic patients (10). Furthermore, α-glucan oleic acid and linoleic acid present in maitake mushroom, reduce body weight and levels of fasting plasma glucose, inhibit starch digestion and α-glucosidase activity thus its protective effect of pancreatic β-cells (11,12).

4. Protect from herpes simplex virus

A novel antiviral protein obtained from Maitake mushroom inhibits the growth and replication of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Thus intake of this mushroom directly inactivates HSV-1 while simultaneously inhibiting HSV-1 penetration into the cells (13).

5. Presence of antioxidants in Maitake mushrooms

Total phenols, flavonoids, ascorbic acid, and α-tocopherol are the major antioxidant components present in maitake mushrooms which display potent antioxidative properties. Includes free radical scavengers, the iron-chelating capacity which reduces lipid peroxidation. Thus this mushroom may be the potential scavenger of superoxide anions to prevent lipid oxidation (14).

6. Maitake mushrooms help in reducing body weight

Maitake mushrooms act as an anti-obesity agent that prevents body weight gain and reduces fat accumulation. Moreover maitake mushroom increases the expression of genes related to fatty acid oxidation in skeletal muscles and ameliorated glucose intolerance thus obesity and diabetes (15).

7. Anti-allergic properties of Maitake mushrooms

Ergosterol (50 mg/100 g)  found in Maitake mushrooms possesses anti-allergic effects. This compound helps in the inhibition of allergic inflammation caused by mast cells (antigen-induced) with immediate symptoms of IgE-mediated allergic diseases, including allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma, food allergy, and anaphylaxis. Therefore, this mushroom ergosterol and its derivatives as active compounds may be beneficial in the prevention or treatment of mast cell-dependent allergic diseases (16).

8. Treat hypertension

Maitake mushroom powder rich source of natural bioactive compounds which reduce blood pressure, total cholesterol level and prevent hypertension thus prevent blood pressure increase in hypertension and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (17).

9. Protect the gastrointestinal tract

Maitake mushroom polyphenols have the ability to prevent intestinal inflammation caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Thus this mushroom may be used as an alternative medicine for IBD (18).

10. Antibacterial properties of Maitake mushrooms

Polysaccharides present in Maitake mushrooms are responsible for protection against different bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Bacillus megaterium (19).

11. Radioprotective properties due to exopolysaccharides 

Maitake mushrooms are a good source of exopolysaccharide which is made up of proteoglycan (85.6% carbohydrates and 7.3% proteins) that restore hemoglobin, white blood cell counts, and red blood cell counts and showed 50% survival post-irradiation. Thus polysaccharide from maitake fungus possesses the desirable properties of an ideal radioprotector from ultraviolet-A (UVA) light (20).

12. Protects liver

A continuing inflammatory response can cause the development of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), in which lipid abnormal metabolism occurs in the liver. However, intake of Maitake mushroom reduces lipid accumulation and reactive oxygen species production thus reduces inflammatory responses and ameliorating NASH, and show hepatoprotective effects (21).

13. Treat Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) 

MDS is a clonal bone marrow stem cell disorder characterized by a low amount of blood cells and/or dysfunctional blood cell lines, risk of infection, and progression to acute myelogenous leukemia. 

Therefore consumption of Maitake mushroom stimulates hematopoietic progenitor cell differentiation, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor production, and recovery of peripheral blood leukocytes after bone marrow injury, improvement in granulocyte and monocyte function, and enhance immune responses in MDS patient (22).

14. Treat polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder in reproductive women, in which different problems include menstrual dysfunction, hyperandrogenism, and metabolic complications is occur. However, the presence of water-soluble glycoprotein is useful as a monotherapy for the induction of ovulation in women with PCOS disease (23).

15. Detoxify mercury from the body because of polysaccharide-peptide in Maitake

As we know that mercury is a global pollutant that is dangerous because when mercury enters the body, it will be distributed all over the body and accumulate in the brain, kidney, and liver.  Research study supported that Maitake mushroom (7.44 g dried or 74.4 g fresh) contains polysaccharide-peptide that possesses mercury adsorption capacity which accelerates the decline of blood mercury level and promoted the elimination of the burden of mercury in the liver and kidneys (24).

16. Anti-aging properties of Maitake mushrooms

Aging mainly caused by neurological impairment, decreased activity of antioxidant enzymes, and poor immune responses as a sign of senescent manifestation, such as low body weight, hair pull-off, slow behavior, and lassitude. MT-α-glucan found in maitake mushroom act as an anti-aging agent which delays senescence and improves antioxidation or immunomodulation (25).

17. Treat HIV infection 

β-glucan obtained from Maitake mushrooms enhanced the activities of immunocompetent cells such as macrophages, cytotoxic T cells, or helper T cells which kill or suppress the multiplication of HIV. Thus maitake mushrooms may be beneficial in the treatment of HIV infection (26).

18. Anti-stress properties of Maitake mushrooms

Now a day’s stress is a common problem that reduces the ability of the immune system to fight infections. Therefore glucan-rich Maitake mushroom with Ashwagandha may stimulation phagocytic activity and block corticosterone production due to stress further strengthen the immune system and reduce stress (27).

19. Treat age-related neurodegenerative disorders

Maitake mushrooms are a good source of natural bioactive compounds that stimulate neurite outgrowth. Therefore, regular consumption of mushrooms promotes nerve and brain health by improvement in the cognitive abilities of the aged (28).

20. Anti cancerous properties of Maitake mushrooms

Polysaccharides, α-glucan, and glycoprotein complexes which possess immune-stimulatory capacity like decrease cell viability, increases cell adhesion, and reduces the migration and invasion of tumor cells such as breast, hepatoma, melanoma, colon, bladder cancer cells, and monocytic cells (29).

Studies suggested that 5 mg/kg per day of Maitake mushroom beta‐glucan is able to block more than 60% of breast cancer development, increases the overall survival from 10 to 75%, block tumor invasiveness, reduce angiogenesis, and increase overall survival (30)

Therefore Maitake mushroom may act as a cytotoxic agent not only to alleviate various side effects and improve the quality of life of patients under chemotherapy but also have a possible chemosensitizing effect to improve the efficacy of chemotherapy. 

Side effects of Maitake mushroom

1. All the studies done on the health benefits of Maitake mushrooms are mainly animal-based research. No human trials have been done so far. Therefore Maitake mushrooms consumption 

2. Risk of hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis caused by maitake mushroom spores inhalation with respiratory symptoms occurs after 3 months of work on a mushroom farm. However treatment also available but precautions like wearing masks should be needed (31)

Edited By: Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati