by Cliff Harvey PhD

What is Shiitake?

Shiitake mushroom or Lentinus edodes and similar species; also known in China as Xiang gu, or the "fragrant mushroom", is the second most commonly cultivated edible mushroom worldwide. It is commonly used in East Asian cuisine and is now becoming increasingly popular in Western cooking.

Like most mushrooms, it contains a huge array of active compounds, (including various polysaccharides and beta-glucans) and in particular in shiitake, a (1-6,1-3)-beta-glucan known as lentinan.

Why Shiitake?

There are currently few studies in humans, but shiitake shows immune-supporting, antitumor, antiviral, and cholesterol-regulating actions.

  •  Polysaccharides from shiitake have been isolated and have exhibited anti-tumour effects (in vitro) (1, 2)
  •  Shiitake reduces oxidation in vitro (3, 4)
  •  Likely to support immunity (by stimulating macrophage activity and other immune cells) (5, 6)
  •  May improve performance and glycogen storage (7)

Is Shiitake safe?

Based on both existing research and the long history of common use, shiitake is
considered safe for consumption as a food and as powder or extract from both the fruiting bodies and mycelium. (8)

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1. Sasaki T, Takasuka N. Further study of the structure of lentinan, an anti-tumor
polysaccharide from Lentinus edodes. Carbohydrate Research. 1976;47(1):99-104.
2. LIU C-f, TIAN G-h, NIE F, LAI P-h. Study on biologic activities of active components obtained from the root of Lentinus edodes [J]. Science and Technology of Food Industry. 2008;1.
3. Li-hua L. Study on Antioxidantant Activity of Ethanoic Extracts from Different
Parts of Lentinus edodes [J]. Food and Fermentation Industries. 2010;10.
4. You R, Wang K, Liu J, Liu M, Luo L, Zhang Y. A comparison study between
different molecular weight polysaccharides derived from Lentinus edodes and their antioxidant activities in vivo. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2011;49(12):1298-305.
5. Lee HH, Lee JS, Cho JY, Kim YE, Hong EK. Study on immunostimulating activity of macrophage treated with purified polysaccharides from liquid culture and fruiting body of Lentinus edodes. Journal of microbiology and biotechnology. 2009;19(6):566-72.
6. Gaullier J-M, Sleboda J, Ofjord ES, Ulvestad E, Nurminiemi M, Moe C, et al.
Supplementation with a Soluble Beta-Glucan Exported from Shiitake Medicinal
Mushroom, <i>Lentinus edodes</i> (Berk.) Singer Mycelium: a Crossover, Placebo-Controlled Study in Healthy Elderly. 2011;13(4):319-26.
7. Yang J, Wu M, Zhang S, Liang G. Study on the antifatigue effects of protein-bond polysaccharide from Lentinus edodes. [Ying yang xue bao] Acta nutrimenta Sinica. 2001;23(4):350-3.
8. Hobbs C. Medicinal Value of <i>Lentinus edodes</i> (Berk.) Sing.
(Agaricomycetideae). A Literature Review. 2000;2(4):16.


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