|Maitake, Grifola frondosa, is a mushroom found growing wild in Japan and in forests in the eastern part of North America, where it grows on dying or already dead hardwood trees. Maitake mushroom is also known as "king of mushrooms", "dancing mushroom", "monkey's bench" and "shelf fungi". Maitake is classed as a polypore, a mushroom without the common feature of a singular cap
and gills. Maitake mushroom grows in heavy clumps at the base of stumps and on the roots of trees. Maitake forms large fan-shaped mushroom heads that often fuse together in masses at the base or on the roots of broadleaf trees.
The maitake mushroom contains polysaccharides and polysaccharide-protein complexes which have significant anti-cancer activity. The human body uses these high-molecular-weight polysaccharides to enhance its immune system. The polysaccharide beta glucan is a unique compound believed to provide powerful support for a healthy defense system. It may activate immune modulators such as macrophages and cytokines, promoting important immune system activity. As a polysaccharide, this glucan activates the white blood cells, called macrophages, which in turn devour microorganisms that produce disease, as well as tumors. Other fractions from maitake exhibit immunological enhancement together with properties of anti-HIV, antihypertension, antidiabetic, and antiobesity.
Maitake is predominately an immune booster. Maitake mushrooms have strong immune stimulating properties. These properties make maitake useful in treating a wide range of common health problems including chronic fatigue syndrome, high blood pressure or hypertension, weight loss, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, hepatitis, high cholesterol, constipation, cancer, tumors, HIV and AIDS. Maitake extracts stimulate the activity of several types of immune cells which in turn trigger production of interleukins and other lymphokines.
Maitake is known as an adaptogenic and tonic, and as such it aids healthy people to keep their levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight normal. Maitake mushroom extract has been used historically as an adaptogen and has the potential to support healthy glucose and lipid metabolism and immune function. Polysaccharide fractions of maitake mushroom have been shown to have chemoprotective effects, delay or halt tumor growth, and help block the spread of cancer.