Maitake Mushroom

Maitake Mushroom
Monograph: Maitake Mushroom

Botanical Scientific Name: Grifola Frondosa

Common Names: Maitake (Dancing Mushroom), King of Mushrooms, Kumotake (Cloud Mushroom), Hen of the Woods, The Dancing Butterfly Mushroom, Signorina Mushroom, Gray Free Flower, Laubporling (Ram’s Head)

Chinese Names: Wu Rong, Hui Shu Hua

Japanese Names: Maitake, Kumotake

In ancient times the Maitake mushroom was considered a high-quality edible mushroom, tasty, rare and in great demand by the nobility in Japan. In the period of Feudal Japan, Japanese tribes that were trusted to collect the mushroom, would keep their stock secretly hidden.  When it was possible to bring a nobleman a Maitake mushroom, this was thought to be a gesture showing respect and admiration.  When a farmer or mushroom gatherer would find Maitake, he would dance with happiness, as the payment for it was the mushroom’s weight in silver.  This is the origin of the name in Japanese “Wu Rong”, which means “Dancing mushroom”.  According to an ancient Japanese legend, a group of Buddhist nuns and tree cutters met on a mountainous path where they discovered the fruiting body of the Maitake mushroom rising from the forest ground.  They decided to taste the mushroom, and to demonstrate their great happiness on finding this delicious mushroom, they began to dance to celebrate their discovery.

Its Chinese name Hui Shu Hua, meaning flower of the lime tree, describes its origin as a parasitic mushroom that grows on this type of tree.  In Italy and to all Italian Americans in North East America, the mushroom is known as “Seniorina”, or “unmarried woman”.  Among English speakers the mushroom is called “Hen of the Woods”, as its flowers look like disintegrating feathers on a chicken.

The Maitake mushroom grows in forests where there are cold temperatures, primarily in the forests of North East America, Northern Japan, China, and Asia.  The mushrooms can be found at the base of trees, especially at the base of oak and elm trees and sometimes on maple trees, along the coast on dead tree trunks.  A mushroom can weigh as much as 45 kg, which is why it is also called “King of Mushrooms”.

Maitake grows wild in North East Japan and in North America.  It is the principle edible mushroom in Japanese cuisine, (in addition to Shiitake, Shimeji and Enoki), with continual expanding popularity in western cuisine.

Studies have found that the mycelium of the maitake mushroom contains a wider variety of polysaccharides per lower molecular weight than any other mushroom.  These molecules are known to have the ability to activate an immune response in our bodies and improve the capacity of type NK immune cells (natural killer cells) that fight cancer cells.

As this is a very important and desirable mushroom, at the end of the 1970s, the Maitake mushroom began to be grown commercially.  Traditionally the mushroom is used for food and for healing and its qualities have extensively been researched over the years.

Parts of the mushroom for use:

All parts of the mushroom:

Fruiting Body

Route of Administration:


TCM Characteristics:

Temperature: Cool

Moisture: Neutral

Taste: sweet, bitter

Meridians: Heart, kidneys, liver

Bioactive Ingredients:





Phenolic Compounds:

Malic acid
Acetic acid




Vitamins from the B-complex family



Fatty Acids:

Oleic acid
Linoleic acid
Palmitic acid
Palmitoleic acid
Stearic acid
Myristic acid


Phosphatic acid

Amino Acids:

Aspartic acid
Cysteic acid
γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Glutamic acid

Unique Proteins:


Organic Acids:

Octadecanoic acid
Octadecadienoic acid

Studied Activities:

Adaptogenic, immunomodulatory (immune system balance), anticancer, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, hypotensive (balances blood pressure), and hepatoprotective (protection of the liver).

Uses supported by clinical research:

Immune weakness, cancer, AIDS, viral infections, candida, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), type II diabetes, insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia (excess blood lipids), high blood pressure, and liver injury.

Traditional uses that have yet to be supported by clinical evidence:

Hot flashes, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular periods (Oligomenorrhea), absence of menstruation (Amenorrhea), period pain (Dysmenorrhea), diabetes during pregnancy, and obesity.

Effects according to Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Strengthens and nourishes the Qi in the blood and the heart, fortifies and stimulates the blood, cultivates Yin of the kidneys and maintains the essence (Jing), and boosts the protective Qi (Wei Qi).

Strengthens the Qi of the heart, nourishes and boosts the blood, and assists in cases of anemia.

Nourishes the Yin of the kidneys and maintains the essence (Jing).

Calms the Shen.

Manners of use and recommended dosage according to the literature:

Liquid extract (tincture): at a concentration of 1:3, 45% alcohol, 5-15 ml per day.

Dry extract: standardized extract at a concentration of 30% polysaccharides, 200-1,000 mg per day.

Decoction: 3-10 grams per day.

As part of a formula: 20-30%

Safety, Toxicity, Interactions, and Side Effects:

The Maitake mushroom is safe to use.

People allergic to mushrooms should avoid eating the mushroom or consuming the mushroom as a food supplement.

Due to its immunostimulant activity, transplant patients should not use the mushroom.

Due to its hypoglycemic activity, it is recommended to insulin users to monitor their sugar levels while consuming the mushroom.

There is lack of data to support the safety of use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Stop use if hypersensitivity/allergy occurs.


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