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You Might Want This Medicinal Mushroom for the Next Pandemic

By James Odell, OMD, ND, Lac

maitake mushroom

In Japanese, mai means dance, and take means mushroom, thus “dancing mushroom”. Although maitake mushrooms have been used in Japan and China for thousands of years, it has only gained popularity in the United States over the last twenty years. Ancient traditional Chinese texts record that it can boost qi and fortify the spleen, moisten the lungs and protect the liver. People are praising this mushroom for its promises of health, vitality, and longevity.

Taxonomical Classification of Maitake Mushrooms

Grifola frondosa (Maitake) is a culinary—medicinal mushroom found in some parts of Europe, North America, and Asia. Grifola frondosa (G. frondosa) is a Basidiomycetes fungus that belongs to the family of Grifolaceae and the order of Polyporales that grows in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks. The mushroom is commonly known among English speakers as “Hen-of-the-Woods,” “Ram's Head,” and in Japan, as “Maitake,”.

Physical Characteristics of Maitake Mushrooms

Fruiting bodies typically range from 4 to 24 inches (10 to 60 cm.) wide and 3 to 16 inches (7.5 to 40 cm) tall. Typical specimens range in weight from 3 to 15 lbs. (1 1/3 to 4.5 kg), but specimens weighing over 100 pounds (45.5 kg.) have occurred. The individual caps range from ¾ to 3 inches (2 to 7.5 cm.) wide, and 2 to 10 inches (5 to 25 cm.) long (including the lateral stalk). The short to rudimentary, white, central stalk is ¾ to 3 inches (2 to 7.5 cm.) wide, and 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10 cm.) tall, and split into many branches. The pores are white and decurrent (running down the stalk). The pores are quite small and round when young, becoming angular and larger with age. The spore print is white.

Maitake Mushroom Cultivation

Before 1980, maitake mushroom was foraged but could not be cultivated in medium.

However, now this mushroom is commercially cultivated in Japan and elsewhere.

Thus, since the mid-1980s, the development of successful cultivation methods has led

to its availability in large-scale production and extensive research.  G. frondosa is one of

the most widely explored fungal species for nutraceutical and therapeutic compounds.

Nutritional Profile of Maitake Mushrooms

The fungal biomass of G. frondosa displays a high content of proteins and carbohydrates and a relatively low content of fat compared with other commonly cultivated mushrooms. 

Grifola frondosa is rich in many important minerals, B vitamins, vitamin D2, and nutritious proteins. Due to its delicious and special taste, G. frondosa is not only used as a food ingredient, but also as a food-flavoring substance in dried powder form.

Pharmacological Effects of Maitake Mushrooms

Apart from its high nutraceutical value, G. fondosa is reported to possess a wide range of pharmacological effects. Maitake is considered a medicinal mushroom, it has been subjected to scientific research studies extensively for nearly 30 years. As time advances, researchers have revealed several medicinal properties that could provide remarkable health benefits. G. frondosa was first discovered to have immune-enhancing and antitumor activity in the 1980s from hot water extracts of the G. frondosa fruiting body. 1, 2 The major bioactive components were found to be β-glucans. 3, 4, 5 The D-fraction, a β-glucan complex with about 30% protein, was first discovered by Nanba’s group in the late 1980s. 6

Bioactive Components of Maitake Mushrooms

Since then, the D-fraction has been widely studied and gradually developed into commercially available complementary medicines and healthcare products. In addition to the D-fraction, many other bioactive polysaccharide fractions are obtained from G. frondosa, such as the MD-fraction, X-fraction, Grifolan, MZ-fraction and MT-α-glucan. 7, 8, 9, 10

Therapeutic Effects of Maitake Mushrooms

The different polysaccharide fractions isolated from G. frondosa possess various bioactive effects such as immunomodulation, antitumor, antivirus, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammation. Additionally, an increasing number of studies have attributed or linked the health and therapeutic effects of G. frondosa polysaccharides to their capacity for modifying gut microbiota, microorganisms that play an important role in human health and diseases. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 In particular, gut microbiota play a role in maintaining immune homeostasis, which may have a connection to the antitumor effects of polysaccharides. The regulation of gut microbiota composition by G. frondosa polysaccharides has also been suggested to contribute to the treatment of metabolic disorders such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) 16 , and diabetes 17 , indicating their potential for preventing or treating hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia.

Apart from polysaccharides, other molecular fractions isolated from G. frondosa fruiting bodies or mycelial biomass have shown promising medicinal values as well. For instance, the protein components of G. frondosa, including glycoprotein, have shown anti-tumor 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 , immune-enhancing 23, 24, 25 , anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive, anti hyperlipidemic 26 , and anti-viral effects. 27, 28, 29, 30 Moreover, preclinica and clinical studies have demonstrated that maitake’s D-fraction works by modulating the immune system. Preclinical studies have observed that maitake increases the activation of T cells, specifically CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, and enhances the secretion of immunostimulatory cytokines (i.e., IL-2, IL-12, TNF-α, and IFN-γ). Moreover, other small biomolecules in G. frondosa have been found to possess health benefits such as anti-inflammation, hypoglycemia, antitumor, and antioxidation. 31, 32, 33, 34

The most successful and valuable health products from this fungal species are represented by the polysaccharide fractions and polysaccharide-protein complexes, including the D-fraction or the MD-fraction and Grifolan, which have been approved for human use in immunotherapy and complementary treatment of cancers with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Dosage and Availability of Maitake Mushrooms

Because of its limited availability in the wild, Grifola frondosa has begun to be cultivated

for use as a dietary supplement. It may be the most versatile and promising medicinal mushroom supplement, though currently less well-known than Ganoderma lucidum. Grifola frondosa is available as a freeze-dried mushroom, as a concentrated liquid extract, or as an extract in capsules.

Recommended treatment doses usually range from 3 to 9 grams daily of a powdered

extract. However, dosage varies for individuals depending on the condition and GI


Note: Since Grifola frondosa extracts have been reported to exert their antitumor effect

by enhancing the immune system through activation of macrophages, T cells, and natural killer (NK) cells, measurement of NK cell activity may be a useful clinical parameter in monitoring disease progression during and following immunotherapy with Grifola frondosa, as well as with other mushroom immunotherapy.


1. Miyazaki T., Yadomae T., Suzuki I., Nishijima M., Yui S., Oikawa S., Sato K. Antitumor

activity of fruiting bodies of cultured Grifola frondosa. Jpn. J. Med Mycol. 1982;23:261–263.

doi: 10.3314/jjmm1960.23.261. 

2. Ohno N., Suzuki I., Oikawa S., Sato K., Miyazaki T., Yadomae T. Antitumor activity and

structural characterization of glucans extracted from cultured fruit bodies of Grifola

frondosa. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1984;32:1142–1151. doi: 10.1248/cpb.32.1142. 

3. Iino K., Ohno N., Suzuki I., Miyazaki T., Yadomae T., Oikawa S., Sato K. Structural

characterisation of a neutral antitumour β-d-glucan extracted with hot sodium hydroxide

from cultured fruit bodies of Grifola frondosa. Carbohydr. Res. 1985;141:111–119.

doi: 10.1016/S0008-6215(00)90760-2. 

4. Ohno N., Adachi Y., Suzuki I., Sato K., Oikawa S., Yadomae T. Characterization of the

antitumor glucan obtained from liquid-cultured Grifola frondosa. Chem. Pharm.

Bull. 1986;34:1709–1715. doi: 10.1248/cpb.34.1709. 

5. Nanba H., Hamaguchi A., Kuroda H. The chemical structure of an antitumor polysaccharide

in fruit bodies of Grifola frondosa (Maitake) Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1987;35:1162–1168.

doi: 10.1248/cpb.35.1162. 

6. Nanba H., Kubo K. Antitumor Substance Extracted from Grifola. 5,854,404. U.S.

Patent. 1998 Dec 29;

7. Kubo K., Aoki H., Nanba H. Anti-diabetic activity present in the fruit body of Grifola

frondosa (Maitake). I. Biol. Pharm. Bull. 1994;17:1106–1110. doi: 10.1248/bpb.17.1106. 

8. Adachi Y., Okazaki M., Ohno N., Yadomae T. Enhancement of cytokine production by

macrophages stimulated with (1→3)-β-D-glucan, grifolan (GRN), isolated from Grifola

frondosa. Biol. Pharm. Bull. 1994;17:1554–1560. doi: 10.1248/bpb.17.1554. 

9. Masuda Y., Kodama N., Nanba H. Macrophage J774. 1 cell is activated by MZ-Fraction

(Klasma-MZ) polysaccharide in Grifola frondosa. Mycoscience. 2006;47:360–366.

doi: 10.1007/S10267-006-0315-7.

10. Lei H., Ma X., Wu W. Anti-diabetic effect of an α-glucan from fruit body of maitake (Grifola

frondosa) on KK-Ay mice. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 2007;59:575–582. doi: 10.1211/jpp.59.4.0013. 

11. Liu L., Li M., Yu M., Shen M., Wang Q., Yu Y., Xie J. Natural polysaccharides exhibit anti-

tumor activity by targeting gut microbiota. Int. J. Biol. Macromol. 2019;121:743–751.

doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.10.083.

12. Chen, Yuqing, Dan Liu, Dingyi Wang, Shanshan Lai, Ruting Zhong, Yuanyuan Liu,

Chengfeng Yang, Bin Liu, Moklesur Rahman Sarker, and Chao Zhao. "Hypoglycemic activity

and gut microbiota regulation of a novel polysaccharide from Grifola frondosa in type 2

diabetic mice." Food and Chemical Toxicology 126 (2019): 295-302.

13. Li, Xin, Feng Zeng, Yifan Huang, and Bin Liu. "The positive effects of Grifola frondosa

heteropolysaccharide on NAFLD and regulation of the gut microbiota." International journal of

molecular sciences 20, no. 21 (2019): 5302.

14. Gao, Xiaoxiang, Dan Liu, Luying Gao, Yuezhen Ouyang, Yuxi Wen, Chao Ai, Yuqing Chen,

and Chao Zhao. "Health benefits of Grifola frondosa polysaccharide on intestinal

microbiota in type 2 diabetic mice." Food Science and Human Wellness 11, no. 1 (2022): 68-73.

15. Li, Lu, Wei-Ling Guo, Wen Zhang, Jia-Xin Xu, Min Qian, Wei-Dong Bai, Yan-Yan Zhang,

Ping-Fan Rao, Li Ni, and Xu-Cong Lv. "Grifola frondosa polysaccharides ameliorate lipid

metabolic disorders and gut microbiota dysbiosis in high-fat diet fed rats." Food &

Function 10, no. 5 (2019): 2560-2572.

16. Li X., Zeng F., Huang Y., Liu B. The positive effects of Grifola frondosa heteropolysaccharide

on NAFLD and regulation of the gut microbiota. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019;20:5302.

doi: 10.3390/ijms20215302. 

17. Chen Y., Liu D., Wang D., Lai S., Zhong R., Liu Y., Yang C., Liu B., Sarker M.R., Zhao C.

Hypoglycemic activity and gut microbiota regulation of a novel polysaccharide from Grifola

frondosa in type 2 diabetic mice. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2019;126:295–302.

doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2019.02.034. 

18. Cui F., Zan X., Li Y., Yang Y., Sun W., Zhou Q., Yu S., Dong Y. Purification and partial

characterization of a novel anti-tumor glycoprotein from cultured mycelia of Grifola

frondosa. Int. J. Biol. Macromol. 2013;62:684–690. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2013.10.025.

19. Hishida, Ikuko, Hiroaki Nanba, and Hisatora Kuroda. "Antitumor activity exhibited by orally

administered extract from fruit body of Grifola frondosa (maitake)." Chemical and

pharmaceutical bulletin 36, no. 5 (1988): 1819-1827.

20. Zhao, Fei, Zhong Guo, Zhong-Ren Ma, Ling-Li Ma, and Jin Zhao. "Antitumor activities of

Grifola frondosa (Maitake) polysaccharide: A meta-analysis based on preclinical evidence and

quality assessment." Journal of ethnopharmacology 280 (2021): 114395.

21. Masuda, Yuki, Akihisa Matsumoto, Toshihiko Toida, Tadao Oikawa, Koichi Ito, and Hiroaki

Nanba. "Characterization and antitumor effect of a novel polysaccharide from Grifola

frondosa." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 57, no. 21 (2009): 10143-10149.

22. Suzuki, Iwao, Teru Itani, Naohito Ohno, Shozo Oikawa, Kichiro Sato, Toshio Miyazaki, and

Toshiro Yadomae. "Antitumor activity of a polysaccharide fraction extracted from cultured

fruiting bodies of Grifola frondosa." Journal of Pharmacobio-dynamics 7, no. 7 (1984): 492-500.

23. Tsao Y.-W., Kuan Y.-C., Wang J.-L., Sheu F. Characterization of a novel maitake (Grifola

frondosa) protein that activates natural killer and dendritic cells and enhances antitumor

immunity in mice. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2013;61:9828–9838. doi: 10.1021/jf4031184. 

24. Kodama, Noriko, Yukihito Murata, and Hiroaki Nanba. "Administration of a polysaccharide

from Grifola frondosa stimulates immune function of normal mice." Journal of medicinal food 7,

no. 2 (2004): 141-145.

25. Wu, Ming-Jiuan, Tso-Lin Cheng, Su-Yun Cheng, Tzi-Wei Lian, Lisu Wang, and Shu-Yuan

Chiou. "Immunomodulatory properties of Grifola frondosa in submerged culture." Journal of

agricultural and food chemistry 54, no. 8 (2006): 2906-2914.

26. Zhuang C., Kawagishi H., Preuss H.G. Glycoprotein with Antidiabetic, Antihypertensive,

Antiobesity and Antihyperlipidemic Effects from Grifola frondosa, and a Method for

Preparing Same. 7,214,778. U.S. Patent. 2007 May 8;

27. Gu C.-Q., Li J.-W., Chao F., Jin M., Wang X.-W., Shen Z.-Q. Isolation, identification and

function of a novel anti-HSV-1 protein from Grifola frondosa. Antivir. Res. 2007;75:250–257.

doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2007.03.011. 

28. Zhao, Chao, Luying Gao, Chunyang Wang, Bin Liu, Yu Jin, and Zheng Xing. "Structural

characterization and antiviral activity of a novel heteropolysaccharide isolated from Grifola

frondosa against enterovirus 71." Carbohydrate polymers 144 (2016): 382-389.

29. Xiong, Wenyu, Xiaoqin Jiang, Junqiang He, Yue Zhong, Xiaodong Ge, Bin Liu, and Feng

Zeng. "Isolation and identification of active components from Grifola frondosa and its

anti‐EV71 virus effect." Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (2024).

30. He, Junqiang, Wenyu Xiong, Lina Zhao, Bin Liu, and Ying Huang. "Anti-α-glucosidase, anti-

proliferative and anti-enterovirus 71 activity of secondary metabolites identified from Grifola

frondosa." Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 78, no. 4 (2023): 783-789.

31. Han C., Cui B. Pharmacological and pharmacokinetic studies with agaricoglycerides,

extracted from Grifola frondosa, in animal models of pain and

inflammation. Inflammation. 2012;35:1269–1275. doi: 10.1007/s10753-012-9438-5. 

32. Chen S., Yong T., Xiao C., Su J., Zhang Y., Jiao C., Xie Y. Pyrrole alkaloids and ergosterols

from Grifola frondosa exert anti-α-glucosidase and anti-proliferative activities. J. Funct.

Foods. 2018;43:196–205. doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2018.02.007. 

33. Lin J.-T., Liu W.-H. ο-Orsellinaldehyde from the submerged culture of the edible

mushroom Grifola frondosa exhibits selective cytotoxic effect against Hep 3B cells through

apoptosis. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2006;54:7564–7569. doi: 10.1021/jf0616762. 

34. Yeh J.-Y., Hsieh L.-H., Wu K.-T., Tsai C.-F. Antioxidant properties and antioxidant

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1 則留言

Beverly Powell
Beverly Powell
20 hours ago

I was very surprised to learn that this special mushroom is rich in many important minerals, vitamin B, vitamin D2 and nutritious protein. With their diverse effects on health and as ingredients and food flavoring agents in dry powder form. geometry dash subzero

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