Shiitake mushroom properties


Photo of shiitake

Photo of shiitake

What is shiitake mushroom?

Shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes = Lentinus edodes) is a fungus of the Marasmiaceae family . It is a fungus native to eastern Asia.

It grows in their home on a Japanese tree called Shii (Catanopsis cuspidata). “Take” in Japanese means “mushroom” So “shiitake” in Japanese literally mean “mushroom Shii”. In the East it is commonly known as “fragrant mushroom”.

It is characterized by forming mushrooms with dark brown to golden brown cap, sometimes dark gray mottled, very aromatic with a typical diameter of 7.5 to 15 cm but sometimes reaching till 25 cm. The foot is very hard and has a lighter color.

The importance of this fungus in Japanese cuisine is vital, constituting together with maitake, one of the most prized fungi. Among cultivated mushrooms, it is the second fungus grown in the world, after the common mushrooms.

Shiitake mushroom traditional properties

Shiitake mushroom, along with reishi and maitake mushrooms have been traditionally used by Eastern medicine to strengthen the immune system and to prolong life. Since ancient times, it was observed in Japan and China that people who included these fungi in their diet had fewer diseases which lived many more years than those who did not use them.

The first written references to the cultivation of this fungus dates back to Song Dynasty (960-1127), although it was widely used before. The first medical references are mentioned during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when doctors describe as food and as an ideal folk remedy for curing liver, respiratory and circulatory diseases, as well as a remedy to give energy and cure fatigue or lack of strength.

How is shiitake mushroom eaten?

In Oriental cuisine shiitake is eaten fresh or dried. With the dried shiitake mushrooms, they generally prepare broths. It is often added a couple of tablespoons of dried mushrooms per dish.

When eaten fresh, it can be cooked with other vegetables or meats at a rate of a couple of mushrooms per person daily (More information about “Shiitake in the kitchen“)

Shiitake, an adaptogenic medicinal mushroom

Today, products able to increase vitality or general welfare are known as adaptogens. Adaptogens have the ability to help the body adapt to stressful environmental and personal conditions. To achieve its function, adaptogens strengthen the body systems such as the endocrine, nervous system or the immune system. Among the most recognized adaptogens, we have ginseng (Panax ginseng) or licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra).

Many medicinal mushrooms serve the function of adaptogens. Reishi, shitake and maitake are the most important ones.



Among the many medicinal properties of this mushroom we can mention the following:

Shiitake mushroom for cancer Treatment

One of the main applications of this mushroom is its ability to assist in the treatment of cancer. Japanese cancer patients use a combination of maitake, shiitake and reishi to increase our defenses. In this way, they can reduce the doses of chemicals in the treatment with chemotherapy while they protect our cells from damage caused by this treatment.

It has been observed that the negative symptoms of chemotherapy such as vomiting, nausea or physical exhaustion decrease after taking these preparations.

This property is mainly due to the action exerted by the lentinan polysaccharide Beta-D-glucan on the immune system. This complex carbonate has the ability to raise the level of interferon, a protein that inhibits the growth of viruses and tumors, while encourages action of macrophages, T cells and NK cells. Thus, the defense system is mostly able to distinguish those foreign elements, virus-infected cells or tumor cells and destroy them before they cause tumors or possible diseases.

Recent experiments carried out seem to place great hope in the management of prostate cancer.

(The usual way to treat any type of cancer is by ingestion of supplements. Check with your doctor or oncologist about the possibility of taking a combination of supplements with maitake, shiitake and reishi)

Similarly shiitake mushroom is useful not only for people who are sick with cancer but also helps protect healthy people preventing the development of cancerous tumors. In this case, we would not need the use of such intensive treatment. It would suffice to include this food from time to time in our usual diet to benefit from this property.

Shiitake mushrooms for the treatment of respiratory diseases

By means of increasing our defenses, shiitake protects us against the spread of respiratory diseases like flu or colds. (Eat shiitake mushrooms in the diet or take supplements according to the patient’s leaflet)

Shiitake mushrooms for the treatment of circulatory diseases

Shiitake has lenthionine that provides with antiplatelet properties so it helps prevents clots formation, responsible for many cardiovascular diseases in which a bad blood circulation is involved as the occurrence of thrombosis, hypertension or heart attacks. (Eat shiitake mushrooms in the diet or take supplements according to the patient’s leaflet)

Shiitake mushrooms for cholesterol treatment

It is believed that to eat shiitake mushrooms or take preparations made with this mushroom can help people reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

The anticholesterolimic properties of this mushroom are granted him by its content in lentinacine and chitin. Studies conducted in animals have shown that cholesterol levels remained low even eating very fatty foods. (Eat shiitake mushrooms in the diet or take supplements according to the patient’s leaflet)

Shiitake mushrooms for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome

The tonic properties of this fungus, along with its ability to stabilize sugar levels in the blood, becomes an aid in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. (Take supplements of maitake and shiitake or combine both according to the patient’s leaflet)

Shiitake mushrooms for diabetes treatment

Shiitake’s ability to maintain constant levels of blood sugar or decrease them when they are high is of interest to people suffering from diabetes. (Take supplements of shiitake according to the the patient’s leaflet)

Contraindications and side effects of Shiitake

– The use of shiitake can cause diarrhea to some people.

– Pregnant or nursing women should not take these preparations except when authorized by the doctor.

– Those who are taking anticoagulants should not take these preparations because they may thin blood too much.

– It is not good for people with lupus erythematosus.

Food properties of shiitake

Its properties are similar to the properties of other food mushrooms. (See benefits of mushrooms)

Where to buy shiitake mushrooms

You can get this mushroom in many oriental food stores (Chinese, Japanese, etc.) or health food stores.

Shiitake supplements can be bought in pharmacies, herbalist’s and natural stores.

punto rojo More information on other medicinal mushrooms.

This article was endorsed by Vicente Martínez Centelles - Founder of the web and director. Teacher of natural sciences, expert in plants, natural remedies and botanical photography.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

12 May, 2021

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