Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) has an earthy aroma and a wholesome taste. Rich in vitamin D, it helps everything from cancer support to bone health. Its distinctive shape has earned it the nickname “hen-of-the-woods.” It’s also known as sheep head and king of the mushrooms, with its most common name — maitake — meaning “dancing mushroom.”
Maitake has a circular cluster of wavy caps and grows in shelf-like formations at the base of hardwood and softwood trees. It tends to favor oaks.
Resembling a fan-like hen tail, maitake has gray-brown caps and white-cream undersides containing one to three pores. It belongs to the polypore group of mushrooms with their large fruiting bodies.
These attractive fungi have an earthy aroma, crunchy texture, and taste similar to hearty game meat. They grow up to three feet wide and can weigh as much as 50 pounds, although most maitake average about 10 pounds. Like other mushrooms, maitake offers beneficial compounds that can improve your health.
Maitake mushroom is rich in bioactive polysaccharides, especially D-fraction, MD-fraction, and SX-fraction. These protein polysaccharides have well-documented immune-protecting and antitumor properties.
In addition, maitake can provide health benefits such as:
Beta glucan in maitake can help reduce your cholesterol, improving artery functionality and overall cardiovascular health to lower your risk for heart disease. The polysaccharides in maitake can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol without affecting your triglyceride or HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Immune System Support
Along with supporting heart health, beta glucan can help improve your immune system.
D-fraction in maitake mushroom has a strong effect on the immune system. It boosts production of lymphokines (protein mediators) and interleukins (secreted proteins) that improve your immune response.
Beta glucan may be especially helpful in targeting and destroying cancerous cells. Several studies show its ability to attack tumors for different types of cancer.
Other studies have shown enhanced abilities when D-fraction and MD-fraction are combined with vitamin C for cancer treatments.
Another beta glucan, SX-fraction, has been shown in clinical trials to lower blood glucose levels. It helps to activate insulin receptors, while reducing insulin resistance in diabetes management.