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Maitake

What You Need to Know

By

Updated April 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Maitake is a type of medicinal mushroom said to offer a wide range of health benefits. For instance, maitake is often used to boost the immune system and, in turn, fight off cancer and certain infections (such as hepatitis and HIV). Maitake is also touted as a natural remedy for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In addition, maitake is sometimes marketed for its supposed benefits as a weight-loss aid.

The Science Behind Maitake's Health Benefits

In lab research, scientists have found that maitake contains beta-glucan (a substance shown to stimulate the immune system). By spurring activity in immune cells (such as natural killer cells and T-cells), beta-glucan is thought to help combat cancer. However, researchers have yet to demonstrate that maitake offers any cancer-fighting benefits for humans.

Here's a look at maitake's other potential health benefits:

1) High Blood Pressure

Maitake may help lower blood pressure, according to animal-based research. For instance, a 2010 study on rats found that maitake helped protect against high blood pressure (in addition to enhancing insulin sensitivity and curbing some aspects of inflammation).

2) Diabetes

Some animal studies suggest that maitake may defend against diabetes. In two reports published in 2002, for example, maitake was found to reduce insulin resistance in rats. A health condition known to raise your risk of type 2 diabetes (as well as heart disease), insulin resistance occurs when the body fails to respond properly to insulin (a hormone that plays a key role in using blood sugar for energy).

Is Maitake Safe?

Available in capsules, liquid extracts, and teas, maitake is generally considered safe. However, there's some evidence that maitake may interact with certain medicines (such as hypoglycemic medications and blood-thinning drugs).

Should You Use Maitake for Health Purposes?

If you're considering the use of maitake supplements, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Given the lack of science behind maitake's health benefits, the mushroom cannot currently be recommended for treatment or prevention of any health condition.

Sources:

Mayell M. "Maitake extracts and their therapeutic potential." Altern Med Rev. 2001 Feb;6(1):48-60.

Preuss HG, Echard B, Bagchi D, Perricone NV. "Maitake mushroom extracts ameliorate progressive hypertension and other chronic metabolic perturbations in aging female rats." Int J Med Sci. 2010 Jun 7;7(4):169-80.

Talpur N, Echard B, Dadgar A, Aggarwal S, Zhuang C, Bagchi D, Preuss HG. "Effects of Maitake mushroom fractions on blood pressure of Zucker fatty rats." Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol. 2002;112(1-4):68-82.

Talpur NA, Echard BW, Fan AY, Jaffari O, Bagchi D, Preuss HG. "Antihypertensive and metabolic effects of whole Maitake mushroom powder and its fractions in two rat strains." Mol Cell Biochem. 2002 Aug;237(1-2):129-36.

Ulbricht C, Weissner W, Basch E, Giese N, Hammerness P, Rusie-Seamon E, Varghese M, Woods J. "Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa): systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration." J Soc Integr Oncol. 2009 Spring;7(2):66-72.

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