- King of mushrooms
- Dancing mushroom
- Cloud mushroom
- Hen of woods
For Patients & Caregivers
Maitake demonstrated anticancer effects in laboratory studies. Research is underway to test its anticancer effects in humans.
Maitake is a mushroom that traditionally has been used in Japan and China as part of the diet and to treat diabetes and hypertension. Like other medicinal mushrooms, maitake contains a complex sugar called beta-glucan. In laboratory and human studies, maitake extract was able to stimulate various cells and factors in the immune system. Studies in animals show that it slows the growth of certain tumors and lowers blood glucose (sugar) levels. More studies are being conducted to determine if maitake has the same effects in humans.
- To prevent and treat cancer
Laboratory studies and small uncontrolled studies in humans show that maitake extracts slow the growth of tumors and stimulate certain immune cells.
- To manage diabetes
Maitake reduces blood glucose levels in rats.
- To lower high cholesterol
No scientific evidence supports this use.
- To lower high blood pressure
There are no studies to support this claim.
- As an immune stimulant
Maitake stimulates the activity of certain immune cells in laboratory studies and in mice. It has also been shown to stimulate immune function in a small group of cancer patients.
- To lose weight
This claim is not backed by research.
To improve immune function in some cancer patients
In a pilot study, 21 patients with low- and intermediate-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) were enrolled to receive oral maitake extract twice daily for 12 weeks. The purpose was to determine what effects maitake might have on the immune system. Specific tests were used to detect immune activity both before and after treatment with maitake, and also in comparison to age-matched healthy controls who did not have the disease. In 18 patients who completed the study, maitake significantly increased functioning in various types of white blood cells called neutrophils and monocytes. This occurred both after treatment and in comparison to the healthy controls. Maitake was well tolerated, but an increase in the number of white blood cells occurred in 4 patients which was not accompanied by other symptoms. Researchers determined that the enhanced functioning of white blood cells in MDS patients indicate that maitake could have immune benefits for this patient population. More study is warranted.
For Healthcare Professionals
Maitake mushroom is an edible mushroom consumed widely in Asia as food and used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes and hypertension. Maitake extracts are commercially available as dietary supplements marketed to “enhance immune function” and to treat HIV and cancer. Beta 1,6-glucan, a protein bound polysaccharide, has been identified as the active constituent.
Maitake extracts exhibited hypoglycemic effects in a few studies (9)(12). Preliminary data suggest that maitake may be useful in inducing ovulation in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (22).
Maitake demonstrated antitumor effects (16), enhanced bone marrow colony formation, reduced doxorubicin toxicity (11), and inhibited tumor metastasis in vitro (13). In a study done in mice, oral maitake extract promoted maturation of hematopoietic cells to functionally active myeloid cells and enhanced peripheral blood leukocyte recovery following chemotoxic bone marrow injury (17). A novel polysaccharide, MZF, was shown to induce dendritic cell maturation and enhanced antitumor response (20). Maitake also enhanced interferon activity against bladder cancer cells (18) and alleviated inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease (19).
In a small non-controlled study, tumor regression or significant improvements in symptoms were observed in half of the subjects using Maitake extract (5). In another study of postmenopausal breast cancer patients, oral administration of maitake extract was shown to have immunomodulatory effects (14). Oral maitake also enhances neutrophil and monocyte function in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (25). More studies are underway to establish maitake’s anticancer potential.
- Polysaccharides: 1,3 and 1,6 beta-glucans appear to be the most active ingredients. Alpha glucan is also present.
- Lipids: Octadecanoic and octadecadienoic acids
- Phospholipids: Phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylinositol, phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid
- Ergosterol (vitamin D2)
Maitake is thought to exert its effects through its ability to activate various effector cells, such as macrophages, natural killer cells, and T cells, as well as interleukin-1 and superoxide anions (2)(3)(4)(13). Studies also suggest possible hypoglycemic activity (9). The anti-diabetic effect of alpha-glucan may be due to its effects on insulin receptors by increasing insulin sensitivity and ameliorating insulin resistance of peripheral target tissues (12).
Maitake extract enhanced the growth and differentiation of mouse bone marrow cells treated with doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic agent (11). In addition, maitake extract may modulate antigen presentation as evidenced by protection of mice against tumor implantation following transfer of dendritic cells from tumor-bearing mice that were treated with maitake extract (15).
Maitake D fraction demonstrated antitumor activity by upregulating expression of a proapoptotic gene, BAK-1 (23). In another study the beta glucan GFPBW1 also showed antitumor effects thought partially due to activation of macrophages via the Dectin-1/Syk/NF-κB signaling pathway (24).
In this phase II study, patients with low- and intermediate-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) received oral maitake extract, 3 mg/kg twice daily for 12 weeks. Primary endpoints included neutrophil count and function compared with age-matched healthy controls (HC), and were tested as endogenous or stimulated neutrophil production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) using Escherichia coli, phorbol ester, and N-formylmethionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLP) as ROS activators. Complete blood counts, chemistry panels, iron studies, and monocyte function were also evaluated.
In 18 evaluable patients who completed the study, maitake increased endogenous (basal) neutrophil (p=0.005) and monocyte function (p=0.021). Pre-treatment monocyte response to E. coli was reduced in MDS patients compared with HC (p=0.002) and increased (p=0.0004) post-treatment. fMLP-stimulated ROS production response also increased (p=0.03). Maitake was well tolerated, although asymptomatic eosinophilia occurred in 4 patients (p=0.014). Post-treatment in vitro enhancement of neutrophil and monocyte function demonstrate that maitake has beneficial immunomodulatory potential in MDS and that further study is warranted.