Maitake, known in the UK as Hen of the Woods, and the closely related Umbrella Polypore (Polyporus umbellatus) are both delicious gourmet mushrooms, as well as being highly regarded for their health benefits. Indeed, the name ‘Maitake’ means ‘Dancing Mushroom’ in Japanese, indicating people’s joy at finding it!
Traditional use– Most traditional sources do not mention Maitake and it appears that it was often not differentiated from Umbrella Polypore (also known as Grifola umbellata), of which it is said that ‘long term use makes one feel happy and vigorous and look younger’.
Cancer– Impressive results have been reported from the use of Maitake polysaccharide extracts, or combinations of polysaccharide extracts and fruiting body with one study using 40-100mg MD-fraction and 4-6g powdered fruiting body reporting cancer regression or significant symptom improvement in 58% of liver cancer patients, 68% of breast cancer patients and 62% of lung cancer patients.
Similar results have been reported using combinations of D-fraction and powdered fruiting body and improvements in immune-competent cell activities have also been reported when taken in conjunction with chemotherapy 3,4.
Polysaccharide extracts of Umbrella Polypore are also licensed as anti-cancer agents in China, with improved treatment outcomes and quality of life indicators in a number of cancers, including: lung, liver, leukemia, bladder, nose and throat 5.
Diabetes– Several studies report significant improvement in blood sugar levels in type II diabetes patients from using purified Maitake polysaccharides. Positive results have also been reported from inclusion of crude Maitake powder in the diet of diabetic animal models (20% of food, or 1g/day in a mouse model) 6,7.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – In the majority of cases, PCOS is associated with some level of insulin resistance and Maitake polysaccharide extracts also show promise as agents for helping address this condition 8.
In one Japanese study, ovulation was observed in 20 of the 26 women given a Maitake polysaccharide extract and 6 of 8 women who failed to ovulate after being treated with clomiphene citrate did so after being given the polysaccharide extract. In addition, all 3 women who expressed an interest in becoming pregnant were able to do so 9.
Polysaccharides are the principal active components in Maitake, with several fractions, including: D-fraction and MD-fraction, showing strong immunological activity 1,2.
Polysaccharide extracts or combinations of extract and fruiting body have been favoured clinically at doses of 3-6 grams per day.
1. Maitake extracts and their therapeutic potential – A review. Mayell M. Alt Med Rev, 2001;6(1).
2. Grifola frondosa (Dicks.: Fr.) S.F. Gray (Maitake Mushroom): medicinal properties, active compounds, and biotechnological cultivation. Boh B, Berovic M.M. Int J Med Mushr. 2007;9(2):10.
3. Maitake D-fraction: healing and preventive potential for cancer. Nanba H. J Orthomolecular Med. 1997;12:43-49.
4. Can Maitake MD-fraction aid cancer patients? Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H. Alt Med Rev. 2002;(7)3:236-9.
5. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Chen J.K, Chen T.T. 2001:386. Pub. Art of Medicine Press.
6. Anti-diabetic activity present in the fruit body of Grifola frondosa (Maitake). Kubo K, Aoki H, Nanba H. Biol Pharm Bull. 1994;17:1106-1110. 7. A possible hypoglycemic effect of maitake mushroom on type 2 diabetic patients. Konno, S. et al. Diabetic Med. 2001 Dec;18(12):1010.
8. Polycystic ovary syndrome: a complex condition with psychological, reproductive and metabolic manifestations that impacts on health across the lifespan. H Teede, A Deeks and L Moran. BMC Medicine 2010, 8:41.
9. Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa) Extract Induces Ovulation in Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Possible Monotherapy and a Combination Therapy After Failure with First-Line Clomiphene Citrate. Chen, J. et al. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 16, No. 12, 2010, pp. 1295-1299.