Maitake mushrooms are a delicacy that originated in China but are now also cultivated in Japan and the United States. They are also known as hen of the woods or Grifola frondosa.
They cluster at the trunks of maple, oak, and elm trees and can weigh over a hundred pounds, earning them the title of “king of the mushrooms.”
The maitake mushroom has been used for centuries in Japan as both a food and a medicine. Its Japanese name, maitake, literally means “dancing mushroom.” It has been said that, upon learning of the mushroom’s existence, people would celebrate by dancing in celebration of the discovery of a cure for many illnesses.
This healthy ingredient has a frilly, unusual appearance, a soft texture, and an earthy flavour that complement a wide range of foods and cooking styles. Grifola frondosa is widely regarded as a staple in Japanese cuisine, but it has also been gaining popularity elsewhere in the world in recent years.
In addition, these medicinal mushrooms have been linked to a plethora of health benefits, such as stabilising blood sugar and reducing cholesterol. They have potent properties that can help restore and balance the body naturally, promoting better health, and thus are classified as adaptogens.
Intensely earthy and peppery in flavour, the maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) is a popular edible mushroom. The pale brown, frilly clusters that form at the base of oak, elm, and maple trees have been likened to chicken feathers, hence the common name “hen of the woods.”
The maitake mushroom, which is native to North America, Europe, and China, has been consumed for centuries in Japan and China but has only recently gained popularity in the United States. Maitake translates to “dancing mushroom” in Japanese because its discovery was supposedly met with such jubilation that people literally got up and danced.
Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine has long held that maitake has curative properties; new scientific research lends credence to these claims. Although further testing is required, preliminary findings are encouraging because this fascinating fungus has only recently attracted the attention of modern science.
The following are some of the possible health benefits of maitake mushrooms:
Immune system booster
To boost your immune system, try eating some maitake, which is loaded with beta-glucans, one of which is known as D-fraction. In order to boost your immune response, D-fraction promotes the production of lymphokines and interleukins, both of which are secreted proteins.
Possible benefits to heart health
Maitake mushrooms have shown promise in reducing ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol without affecting ‘good’ HDL, according to research. This is attributed, in part, to the protective effects of beta-glucans against cardiovascular disease.
aids in controlling type 2 diabetes
SX-fraction, a different type of beta glucan found in maitake, has shown promise in animal studies for helping people with type 2 diabetes control their condition. By stimulating insulin receptors, SX-fraction may improve glucose utilisation and reduce the risk of hyperglycemia.
The use of any substance that affects blood sugar should be preceded by discussion with your doctor, especially if you are diabetic and considering taking maitake or maitake extract.
When eaten raw, maitake has a reputation for being difficult to digest and has even been linked to the occasional stomachache. Allergic reactions can happen, but they are extremely uncommon. If you’ve never tried maitake before, you might want to start with a tiny serving and wait a day before diving in headfirst.
The best method for identifying them
Although maitake mushrooms are most commonly associated with the temperate regions of Europe and the southeastern and northwestern United States, you can also find them in places like Japan and China. Foraging for maitake is an option if you happen to live in one of these regions, but as is the case with any kind of mushroom, you need to know what you’re looking for.
Hardwood forests, especially those with abundant oak trees, are ideal locations for finding them. They thrive in the cool, wet weather of late autumn and early winter, so a search a few days after a storm is likely to yield positive results. They thrive near tree trunks and are often disguised by fallen foliage.
From a distance, a maitake looks like a light brown cauliflower or a fluffy chicken perched on its nest because it grows in large, frilly clusters. The size of a cluster may range from 4 inches to more than 36 inches in diameter. When cut open, they reveal a white core and a branched structure that gives rise to many lobes, again reminiscent of a cauliflower.
The frilled lobes should be sturdy but pliable. They come in a wide variety of colours, from dark brown to light grey, and have cream-colored underbellies riddled with tiny holes.
The best way to tell a maitake mushroom from the rest is to look at lots of pictures of them. A maitake can be difficult to identify, so it’s best to look up a picture of one and eat it only if you’re positive. If you are fortunate enough to find a maitake, you can return to the same spot the following year and pick up right where you left off.
Advantages of Maitake Mushrooms
(1) Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Maintaining unhealthy levels of blood sugar can have devastating effects on a person’s health. High blood sugar can lead to diabetes, but it can also cause other symptoms, such as fatigue, hunger, thirst, and blurred vision.
Some of the complications of diabetes include nerve damage and kidney issues, both of which can worsen over time.
Maitake mushrooms, when included in a healthy, balanced diet, may help stabilise blood sugar levels, reducing or eliminating the need for medication or dietary changes to control these symptoms. Research on diabetic rats found that when given Grifola frondosa, both glucose tolerance and blood glucose levels improved after treatment. This research was conducted by the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Nishikyushu University’s Faculty of Home Economics in Japan.
Findings from another animal study corroborated those of the first, showing that the fruit of the maitake mushroom has potent anti-diabetic properties in diabetic mice.
Potentially Lethal to Cancer Cells 2
Several promising studies have investigated the possible link between the maitake mushroom and cancer in recent years. Maitake grifola may contain potent cancer-fighting properties, making the fungi a worthy addition to any diet, though research is still limited to animal models and in vitro studies.
The International Journal of Cancer reported on a mouse model in which tumour growth was inhibited by giving the animals a Grifola frondosa extract.
To a similar extent, maitake mushroom extract may be useful in inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells, according to an in vitro study published in 2013.
(3) Decreases Blood Cholesterol
Maintaining a healthy heart requires strict adherence to a low-cholesterol diet. When cholesterol accumulates inside the arteries, it can harden and narrow them, reducing blood flow and increasing the workload placed on the heart.
Some research suggests maitake mushrooms may help naturally reduce cholesterol levels, which would be beneficial for heart health; however, more study is needed to confirm this. For instance, maitake mushroom supplementation was found to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels in a mouse model published in the Journal of Oleo Science.
Fourth, it improves the body’s defences.
Maintaining a strong immune system is critical to staying healthy in general. It’s your body’s natural defence system, keeping you safe from harm like infections and injuries.
Maitake contains the polysaccharide beta glucan, which is only found in fungi but has been shown to have a number of health benefits, including promoting a healthy immune system.
Grifola frondosa may help strengthen the immune system and protect against illness if you add it to your diet. Research conducted in vitro and published in the Annals of Translational Medicine found that maitake grifola mushrooms stimulated immune responses, and when combined with shiitake mushrooms, the effect was enhanced.
In fact, a team of scientists from the University of Louisville’s Department of Pathology came to the following conclusion: “Short-term oral application of natural immunomodulating glucans from Maitake and Shiitake mushrooms strongly stimulated both the cellular and humoral branch of immune reactions.”
Contributes to Fertility
Overproduction of male hormones by the ovaries leads to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition characterised by small cysts on the ovaries and symptoms like acne, weight gain, and infertility.
Maitake mushrooms have shown promise as a treatment for PCOS, and they may also be useful in addressing other common health problems like infertility. Maitake extract, for instance, was found to induce ovulation in 77% of PCOS participants in a 2010 study conducted at the J.T. Chen Clinic’s Department of Gynecology in Tokyo, and was nearly as effective as some conventional medications used to treat PCOS.
Lowers blood pressure(6).
The prevalence of high blood pressure is staggering, with an estimated 34% of all adult Americans suffering from it. Having an abnormally high arterial blood pressure causes undue stress on the heart, eventually leading to its failure.
Consuming maitake on a regular basis can help reduce blood pressure and thereby prevent the symptoms of high blood pressure. Giving rats an extract of Grifola frondosa has been shown to reduce age-related hypertension in an animal model, according to a study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences.
Similar results were seen in another animal study from the Department of Food Chemistry at Tohoku University in Japan, which found that feeding rats maitake mushroom for eight weeks reduced blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol.
In spite of their low calorie count, maitake mushrooms are a good source of protein and fibre, as well as B vitamins like niacin and riboflavin, and the beneficial beta glucan that has immune-boosting effects.
About how many calories are in a cup of cooked maitake mushrooms (70 grammes)
- Approximately 22 calories
- Carbohydrates: 4.9% of Daily Value
- Approximately 1.4 g of protein
- 1.9 grammes of fibre and 0.1 grammes of fat
- Niacin, 4.6 mg (23 percent DV)
- Riboflavin: 0.20 mcg (10 percent DV)
- Copper content of 0.2 mcg (9 percent DV)
- Thiamine, 0.1% (mg) (7 percent DV)
- Folate, 20 micrograms’ worth (5 percent DV)
- Specifically, there were 51.8% more phosphorus calories and (5 percent DV)
- Potassium 143 mEq/L (4 percent DV)
Some maitake grifola also has trace amounts of zinc, manganese, selenium, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6 in addition to the nutrients already mentioned.
Mushroom powder is a multipurpose superfood that can be used in a variety of ways.
Compare and Contrast: Maitake vs. Other Mushrooms
Both reishi and shiitake mushrooms, like maitake, have been lauded for centuries for their powerful medicinal properties. Some medicinal mushrooms, like the reishi, have been shown to have beneficial effects against cancer and cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
On the other hand, shiitake mushrooms have been associated with a decreased risk of obesity, enhanced immune function, and decreased inflammation.
Both shiitake and maitake mushrooms are more commonly used in cooking than reishi mushrooms, which are typically found in supplement form.
Like the portobello mushroom, the shiitake is a popular meat alternative due to its meaty texture and earthy flavour. Maitake and shiitake mushrooms are frequently combined with meat in dishes like burgers, stir-fries, soups, and pastas.
The nutritional profiles of shiitake and maitake are very close. When compared to shiitakes, maitakes have fewer calories and more protein, fibre, niacin, and riboflavin per gramme.
In contrast, shiitake has a higher concentration of nutrients like copper, selenium, and pantothenic acid. Each has unique nutritional benefits and can be added to a healthy, varied diet.
Procedure for Use
Grifola frondosa, which can be found at the bases of oak, maple, and elm trees, is in season from the end of August to the beginning of November. Pick the ones that are the firmest and youngest, and always give them a good scrub before eating.
If you aren’t as experienced in mushroom foraging and are looking for maitake, you might have to look further afield than your regular supermarket. You can find these delicious mushrooms at specialty stores or on the websites of online merchants. Supplements containing maitake D fraction extract can be bought from a variety of sources, including health food stores and pharmacies.
Grifola frondosa may look similar to Laetiporus sulphureus, the chicken of the woods mushroom; therefore, it is important to read the label carefully. There are many differences in flavour and texture between these two mushrooms despite their superficial similarities in name and appearance.
Many people find the maitake to have a robust and earthy taste. You can enjoy these mushrooms in a variety of dishes, from burgers to noodle bowls to pasta.
To make a simple but tasty side dish, some people like to roast them until crisp with just a hint of grass-fed butter and a dash of seasoning. Stuffed, sautéed, or steeped into a tea, maitake mushrooms can be prepared in the same ways as other types of mushrooms, such as cremini mushrooms.
The beneficial effects of these tasty mushrooms can be experienced in a variety of ways. You can use them in place of mushrooms in any dish, whether it’s a main or a side.
For starters, try out these dishes featuring Grifola frondosa:
Sheepshead with Maitake Mushrooms and a Burger Bun Ganoderma lucidum, or Maitake Mushrooms
Tossed Maitake Noodles
Mushrooms marinated in Thai flavours and grilled
Effects and Dangers of Eating Maitake Bacon
Most people can consume maitake mushrooms without worrying about negative effects. While most people can safely consume maitake mushrooms, some have reported adverse reactions.
Stop using Grifola frondosa and see a doctor if you develop hives, swelling, or redness after eating it.
If you are currently taking medication to control your blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels, you should talk to your doctor before beginning to take maitake mushrooms to avoid any negative interactions or side effects.
As the effects of maitake mushrooms (particularly maitake D fraction drops) have not yet been studied in pregnant or breastfeeding women, it is prudent to err on the side of caution and reduce intake to avoid any unwanted side effects.
Grifola frondosa is a popular edible fungus in China, Japan, and the United States.
Maitake mushrooms are well-known for their therapeutic benefits, which include regulating blood sugar levels, improving immune system function, treating high cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and increasing fertility. They might even be able to fight cancer.
Additionally low in calories, Grifola frondosa is a good source of protein, fibre, niacin, and riboflavin. The flavour of maitake is said to be robust and earthy.
Markets usually stock maitakes, so you should be able to find some. There are many creative ways to prepare this healthy mushroom, including stuffing, sautéing, and roasting.