Maitake is a delicious culinary mushroom but is also valued for its medicinal properties. Traditionally, maitake was used in Japan as a tonic to boost the immune system and increase vitality, and the mushroom was purported to prevent cancer and high blood pressure.
- Name: Latin name, Grifola frondosa: Grifola is the name of a fungus found in Italy; frondosa means “leaflike.” Maitake means “dancing mushroom” in Japanese; also known as “Hen of the Woods” and “Sheep’s Head.”
- Description: Grows in clusters; the caps, which are typically 4–5 inches across, overlap to form a sort of clump. A typical maitake cluster is the size of a volleyball.
- Habitat: Maitake grows at the base of oak trees, beeches, and other dead or dying hardwoods. Favors temperate northern forests; indigenous to northeast Japan, Europe, Asia, and the eastern side of the North American continent.
- Active ingredients: Beta-glucans, fractions D and MD; Grifon-D
- Uses: Helps control diabetes; helps lose weight; lowers HDL (“bad”) cholesterol; anti-HIV; helps control high blood pressure; anti-prostate and bladder cancer; protects the liver; immunomodulator.