Maitake Mushroom – An Overview
Maitake is a mushroom and adaptogen that highly regarded in Eastern traditional medicine for its health benefits.
It may also have some nootropic qualities that can help boost mood and cognition.
Some of the reported benefits of maitake include:
- Improved mood and decreased anxiety
- Boosted immune system
- Lower inflammation
- Improved insulin resistance and cholesterol
- Better gut health
This polypore mushroom grows at the base of trees in China, Japan, Europe, and Northwestern America.
It is a major culinary mushroom used in many Chinese and Japanese dishes, with a strong earthy flavor.
In Japanese, “maitake” translates to “dancing mushroom.” It may have gotten this name because finding this mushroom in the wild would cause foragers to dance with joy!
What Does Maitake Mushroom Do?
Maitake as Nootropic
Although most of the research on maitake focuses on its physical benefits, there is a growing body of literature that points to its potential nootropic effects.
One study found that this fungus could improve cognition in elderly patients in cognitive decline, possibly through increasing neurite growth.1Vikineswary Sabaratnam, et al. Neuronal health – can culinary and medicinal mushrooms help? J Tradit Complement Med. 2013
Although a promising initial finding, it remains to be seen whether or not this could carry over to healthy, young individuals.
Another trial, this one with dogs, also found some brain-boosting effects, most likely through increasing Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
They report that “as to Grifola frondosa, an improvement in cognitive abilities in aged dogs was observed…through a stimulation of the BDNF synthesis”2Sara Sechi, et al. An Antioxidant Dietary Supplement Improves Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Levels in Serum of Aged Dogs: Preliminary Results J Vet Med. 2015
However, this study was also investigating other cognition-boosting supplements at the same time, so it is unclear if how responsible maitake might be for this effect.
Maitake for Mood
There is some evidence from animal studies that maitake may have some mood-boosting and antidepressant effects. 3Hongkun Bao, et al. Griflola frondosa (GF) produces significant antidepressant effects involving AMPA receptor activation in mice Pharm Biol. 2017
Researchers suspect this may be due to its action on the brain’s AMPA receptors, which are implicated in many crucial cognitive functions, including emotional regulation.
Maitake is also a rich source of beta-glucans, which are a class of organic compounds known to have an anti-depressant effect.4Khawaja Muhammad Imran Bashir, et al. Clinical and Physiological Perspectives of β-Glucans: The Past, Present, and FutureInt J Mol Sci. 2017
This medicinal fungus is also considered an adaptogen, meaning that it may help the body regulate stress and anxiety, especially under difficult circumstances.
One trial saw that a combination of maitake and ashwagandha (another known adaptogen) could significantly decrease the body’s stress response in mice. 5Vaclav Vetvicka, et al. Immune enhancing effects of WB365, a novel combination of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Maitake (Grifola frondosa) extracts N Am J Med Sci. 2011
Researchers found that this combination decreased cortisol production, a key factor in stress-response.
Maitake for the Immune System
One of maitake’s most powerful effects is on the immune system. It has been used to ward off disease for millennia, and now modern medicine is starting to reveal just how this medicinal mushroom works.
There is ample evidence that maitake can enhance the cellular immune system, making the body less susceptible to viral and bacterial infection.
It seems that the glucan content in maitake can increase phagocyte production. Phagocytes are the body’s “killer cells” that destroy and clean up foreign infections.6Vaclav Vetvicka, et al. Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts Ann Transl Med. 2014 7Vaclav Vetvicka, et al. Glucan supplementation enhances the immune response against an influenza challenge in mice Ann Transl Med. 2015
Researchers are particularly interested in how maitake could be used in cancer treatments.
This mushroom displays powerful anti-tumor and anti-metastatic properties in human and animal trials, making it one of the most promising potential adjunct treatment for some cancers. 8Yuki Masuda, et al. Oral administration of soluble β-glucans extracted from Grifola frondosa induces systemic antitumor immune response and decreases immunosuppression in tumor-bearing mice Int J Cancer. 2013 9Eliana Noelia Alonso, et al. Genes Related to Suppression of Malignant Phenotype Induced by Maitake D-Fraction in Breast Cancer Cells Journal of Medicinal Food. 2013 10Yuki Masuda, et al. Antitumor activity of orally administered maitake α-glucan by stimulating antitumor immune response in murine tumor PLOS One. 2017 11Eliana Noelia Alonso, et al. Antitumoral and antimetastatic activity of Maitake D-Fraction in triple-negative breast cancer cells Oncotarget. 2018
A unique compound called “d-fraction,” found only in maitake, seems to be a major factor in its anti-tumor properties.
Maitake for Inflammation/Gut health
Maitake has been shown to lower intestinal inflammation and improve gut health.12Jong Suk Lee, et al. Grifola frondosa water extract alleviates intestinal inflammation by suppressing TNF-α production and its signaling Exp Mol Med. 2010
It seems to positively regulate the microbiota in the intestines, which can have a big downstream effect on physical and mental health. 13Xin Li,, et al. The Positive Effects of Grifola frondosa Heteropolysaccharide on NAFLD and Regulation of the Gut Microbiota Int J Mol Sci. 2019
This could be particularly useful in treating IBS and related conditions.
Maitake may have the ability to inhibit the accumulation of lipids in the liver, which could lead to a decrease in so-called “bad-cholesterol.” 14M Fukushima, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of maitake (Grifola frondosa) fiber, shiitake (Lentinus edodes) fiber, and enokitake (Flammulina velutipes) fiber in rats xp Biol Med (Maywood). 200115Kubo K, Nanba H. The effect of maitake mushrooms on liver and serum lipids Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 1996 16Mayumi Sato, et al. Effect of Dietary Maitake (Grifola frondosa) Mushrooms on Plasma Cholesterol and Hepatic Gene Expression in Cholesterol-Fed Mice Journal of Oleo Science. 2013
It remains to be seen whether or not this ability to alter metabolism carries over to humans.
Maitake for Diabetes
Maitake may be able to regulate blood sugar levels. Its beta-glucan content seems to have an antihypertensive and insulin-regulating effect.17ANadeem A Talpur, et al. Antihypertensive and metabolic effects of whole Maitake mushroom powder and its fractions in two rat strains Mol Cell Biochem. 2002 18Ya-Hui Chen, et al. Submerged-Culture Mycelia and Broth of the Maitake Medicinal Mushroom Grifola frondosa (Higher Basidiomycetes) Alleviate Type 2 Diabetes-Induced Alterations in Immunocytic Function Int J Med Mushrooms. 2015 19Harry G Preuss, et al. Enhanced insulin-hypoglycemic activity in rats consuming a specific glycoprotein extracted from maitake mushroom Mol Cell Biochem. 2007
This could make it a valuable holistic therapy for diabetes, alongside traditional treatment.
It could lower blood pressure as well. 20Harry G. Preuss, et al. Maitake Mushroom Extracts Ameliorate Progressive Hypertension and Other Chronic Metabolic Perturbations in Aging Female Rats Int J Med Sci. 2010
Although all of the studies so far have been on animals, it does seem possible that this mushroom may also be able to lower blood glucose levels in humans.
Hopefully, we will see more research on this in the near future.
How Maitake Mushroom Works In The Brain
Maitake seems to operate on a few different therapeutic pathways.
Preliminary research suggests that the organic compound proteo-β-glucan is the active ingredient in maitake with a nootropic effect.
This glucan interacts with the receptor Decan-1 in a way that potentiates activity in the AMPA pathway. 21Hongkun Bao, et al. The Prefrontal Dectin-1/AMPA Receptor Signaling Pathway Mediates The Robust and Prolonged Antidepressant Effect of Proteo-β-Glucan from Maitake Sci Rep. 2016
AMPA receptors are one of the most abundant in the nervous system and mediate many of the excitatory processes in the brain.
In other words, AMPA helps your brain “go.” By influencing this system, maitake could regulate mood and other cognitive processes.
Maitake and Neuroplasticity
Maitake can also increase brain power by maintaining the health of neurons. This seems to be a common property among other popular medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi lion’s mane cordyceps and Chaga. 22Chia-Wei Phan, et al. Neurite outgrowth stimulatory effects of culinary-medicinal mushrooms and their toxicity assessment using differentiating Neuro-2a and embryonic fibroblast BALB/3T3 BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013
It does this by boosting Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain and CNS. NGF is a neuropeptide responsible for growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival of neurons. 23Syntyche Ling-Sing Seow, et al. Potentiation of neuritogenic activity of medicinal mushrooms in rat pheochromocytoma cells BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013
This is particularly important as you age. Keeping NGF levels up can be an important factor in preventing neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s
Another unique substance in this medicinal mushroom is a compound called D-fraction.
D-fraction is likely the source of maitake’s immune-boosting and anti-tumor benefits.
It seems that this substance can stimulate more cytolytic activity in the body, which is a process that defends against malignant formations. 24Derek M. Johnson, et al. Abstract 3515: Maitake D-Fraction, a natural mushroom extract, synergizes with Interleukin-2 for increased lytic activity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells against various human tumor cell histologies AACR 103rd Annual Meeting. 2012
Blood Sugar/Blood Pressure Regulation
Multiple compounds, including trehalose and fraction SX could be responsible for maitake’s positive regulation of blood sugar and blood pressure. 25Hideyuki Matsuur, et al. Alpha-glucosidase inhibitor from the seeds of balsam pear (Momordica charantia) and the fruit bodies of Grifola frondosa Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2002 26Harry G Preuss, et al. Fraction SX of maitake mushroom favorably influences blood glucose levels and blood pressure in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats J Med Food. 2012
How Much Maitake Mushroom Should I Take?
In the extract powder form, the recommended dosage is 500-1000 mg per day.
You can also cook and eat whole maitake mushrooms as part of a meal. It is prized for its delicate flavor as well as its medicinal properties.
Maitake Mushroom Potential Side Effects
Maitake affects blood sugar, and should not be taken by diabetics without first consulting a doctor. It may cause blood glucose levels to dip too low, especially when taken with diabetic medication.
Overall, this nootropic supplement seems to be well-tolerated.
Maitake Mushroom Amazon Reviews
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