What is Shiitake Mushroom?
This wonderful fungus is native to East Asia but is now grown and consumed around the world. Its current binomial (genus and species) taxonomic designation is Lentinula edodes. An interesting bit of trivia is that it went through 12 different scientific names between 1878 and 1941. The Japanese name, Shiitake, comes from “shii”, for the tree that provides the dead logs it is typically grown on in Japan, and “take”, which is mushroom in Japanese. The Latin species name, edodes, means edible.
It also commonly known as black forest mushroom, golden oak mushroom, or oakwood mushroom. Shiitake grows in groups on deciduous trees like oak, chestnut, maple, beech, poplar, and mulberry, which is one of the reasons why it can be successfully cultivated worldwide. Its worldwide distribution, however, is a relatively new development, beginning with a 1982 article in a forest products journal.
Shiitake now account for fully 25% of the mushrooms cultivated worldwide.
What is it good for, and can Shiitake Mushroom help my immune system?
Shiitake mushroom has been studied to see if it improves human immune function. One study determined that consuming Shiitake for four weeks increased the proliferation of killer T-cells, improved gut immunity, decreased inflammation, and increased interleukin and tumor necrosis factor levels.
In an animal study, researchers found that Shiitake mushroom rejuvenated the immunity and gut microbiomes in aging mice. This effect was thought to be the result of the polysaccharides found in Shiitake reversing the age-altered composition of the bacteria within the gut by increasing cytokine levels in the bloodstream.
Shiitake mushrooms are also thought to improve heart health. They contain eritadenine, sterols, and beta glucans, all of which have a direct effect on cholesterol, lowering it by either inhibiting its production in the body, or blocking its absorption in the gut.
The polysaccharides in Shiitake mushrooms are also believed to have anti-cancer effects. The polysaccharides isolated from Shiitake have been described as “the most potent antitumor and immunomodulating substance” in this species. Specifically, the polysaccharide lentinan, extracted from Shiitake, has been shown to inhibit the spread of leukemia cells. In China and Japan, refined lentinan is used alongside chemotherapy to improve immune function in cancer patients.
Scientists have also noted that several compounds found in Shiitake fight bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. In addition to improving immune function, these compounds also have antimicrobial properties, attacking and suppressing these pathogens directly.
Who should not take Shiitake?
Shiitake is a fungus, and that means that people with mushroom or mold allergies should not use it as a dietary supplement. Because there is no research on the safety of Shiitake for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the safest option for those women is to avoid use.
Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Shiitake:
1 Cultivation of shiitake, the Japanese forest mushroom, on logs: a potential industry for the United States; Forest Products Journal. 32 (8): 29–35, Leatham, GF.
2 Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults; J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87, Xiaoshuang Dai, Joy M Stanilka, Cheryl A Rowe, Elizabethe A Esteves, Carmelo Nieves Jr, Samuel J Spaiser, Mary C Christman, Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, Susan S Percival.
3 Lentinula edodes-derived polysaccharide rejuvenates mice in terms of immune responses and gut microbiota; Food Funct. 2015 Aug;6(8):2653-63, Xiaofei Xu, Jiguo Yang, Zhengxiang Ning, Xuewu Zhang
4 Vitamin D and sterol composition of 10 types of mushrooms from retail suppliers in the United States; J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Jul 27;59(14):7841-53; Katherine M Phillips, David M Ruggio, Ronald L Horst, Bart Minor, Ryan R Simon, Mary Jo Feeney, William C Byrdwell, David B Haytowitz
5 Determination of Glucan Contents in the Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia of Lentinula edodes Cultivars; Mycobiology. 2014 Sep;42(3):301-4, Won Chull Bak, Ji Heon Park, Young Ae Park, Kang Hyeon Ka
6 Edible mushrooms: Role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases; Fitoterapia Volume 81, Issue 7, October 2010, Pages 715-72, Eva Guillamón, Ana García-Lafuente, Miguel Lozano, Matilde D´Arrigo, Mauricio A. Rostagno, Ana Villares, José Alfredo Martínez
7 Polysaccharides in Lentinus edodes: isolation, structure, immunomodulating activity and future prospective; Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(4):474-87, Xiaofei Xu, Huidan Yan, Jian Tang, Jian Chen, Xuewu Zhang
8 Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review; 3 Biotech. 2012 Mar; 2(1): 1–15, Seema Patel and Arun Goyal
9 The Pharmacological Potential of Mushrooms; Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005 Sep; 2(3): 285–299, Ulrike Lindequist, Timo H. J. Niedermeyer, and Wolf-Dieter Jülich