By Lelia Lyon, Certified Herbalist
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
Shitake (Lentinula edodes)
Fungus (the whole mushroom)
Like most mushrooms, Maitake is high in beta-glucans, plant compounds that have a powerful effect on the immune system. Research shows that Maitake enhance the function of immune cell macrophages, increases T cells and also increases the activity of natural killer cells. This makes Maitake an important ally for those with low immune function, chronically ill or who are immuno-compromised. In addition to all the attributes listed above, Maitake also has an effect on balancing blood sugar, supporting healthy levels of cholesterol and blood pressure.
You may have already eaten this rich smoky herb in Asian cuisine, as it's often added to broths and soups. The effects of Shitake are very similar to Maitake; additionally Shitake is valued for its direct anti-viral effect, anti-parasite and anti-bacterial activity. As a food Shitake is prized by vegans and vegetarians for the amount of amino acids it contains.
It's important to note that people undergoing chemotherapy or other immuno-suppressing drug treatments should discuss with their health care practitioner before using these mushrooms medicinally.
Preparations & Applications
Both Maitake and Shitake are sold dry or fresh and can be eaten whole. If purchasing the dry, be sure to hydrate in warm water for at least 2-4 hours; once hydrated the mushrooms can be added to broths, soups and stir fries.
Medicinal Mushrooms by Christopher Hobbs
Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman