The shiitake mushroom is known as the king of medicinal mushrooms. Because it is at the top of the world’s most effective medicinal mushrooms due to its impressive healing effects. In China and Japan, shiitake has been an integral part of medicine cabinets for thousands of years.
Shiitake Mushrooms – The Healing Effects
The Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is not only an excellent edible mushroom but also a medicinal mushroom with extremely helpful healing effects.
His name reveals where he likes to hang out because while “take” means mushroom, the Japanese word “shii” stands for the pasania tree, the mock chestnut native to Asia.
The shiitake likes to grow on its trunk. However, it is now grown on the wood of many different trees.
The shiitake is originally native to the forests of China and Japan and has been one of the most important medicinal mushrooms there for more than 2,000 years with great healing effects.
Healing effects in TCM and in Japanese medicine
The Shiitake is characterized by a particularly wide range of effects.
While in Japan z. B. is recommended for high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, gout, constipation, neuralgia, and cancer, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) arteriosclerosis, liver diseases (e.g. hepatitis), diabetes, measles, and anti-aging are among the typical areas of application.
The shiitake can provide wonderful services both preventively and with existing ailments.
Since the shiitake is not native to Europe, it naturally took some time before it was able to gain a foothold in our latitudes. And yet the first cultivation attempts were made in Germany as early as 1909.
However, it was to take more than 60 years before Shiitake gained recognition in Europe and North America.
Since then, its popularity has increased steadily and more and more people – including many researchers – are interested in its nutrients and healing substances. Let’s start with the nutrients in the shiitake mushroom.
Shiitake Mushroom: High-quality protein supplier
The shiitake provides around 2.2 grams of protein per 100 grams. It is interesting that its protein contains all the essential amino acids (e.g. leucine and lysine) in a similar ratio to milk or meat and is therefore a high-quality source of protein.
A Japanese study with male adults also showed that the protein in shiitake is characterized by a particularly high digestibility – also in comparison to other mushrooms.
Shiitake mushrooms contain a lot of copper
In terms of trace elements, the Shiitake shines in particular because of its high copper content. Copper is essential to life as certain enzymes would not function without copper.
For example, copper is B. involved in the formation of connective tissue and blood and in the function of the nervous system.
The recommended daily requirement of copper is approx. 1 to 2.5 milligrams, so around 70 grams of cooked shiitake mushrooms are sufficient to cover 72 percent of the daily requirement.
Shiitake mushrooms contain a lot of vitamin B for nerves and metabolism
In addition to vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and vitamin B6, the shiitake contains a particularly large amount of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and thus a lot of power for a healthy metabolism and healthy nerves.
The daily requirement of vitamin B5 is 6 milligrams, a quarter of which you can cover with just 5 shiitake mushrooms (approx. 65 g).
Shiitake Mushrooms: Healing Effects on Intestinal Disorders
People who are struggling with an intestinal disease or chronic inflammation can benefit particularly well from the healing effects of shiitake.
They often suffer from an undersupply of vital substances and should therefore include shiitake in their diet more often. In addition, the shiitake stimulates digestion and also has a positive influence on intestinal flora.
A study showed that the medicinal mushroom promotes the growth of the probiotic bacteria that are important for the intestines and, due to its antibacterial properties, also protects against harmful pathogens such as e.g. B. Candida albicans acts.
Shiitake mushrooms: An interesting source of vitamin D
In central and northern Europe, many people suffer from an undersupply of vitamin D. The vitamin is mainly formed in the skin under the influence of sunlight.
In northern regions, when there is little sunshine, there is often a vitamin D deficiency, which persists even if one spends little time outdoors, even in summer.
However, low vitamin D levels promote almost every chronic disease and – if one already exists – prevent it from healing.
Food contains almost no vitamin D and can therefore not be used to cover the requirement.
Exceptions, however, confirm the rule here as well: In addition to some types of fish and fish liver (cod liver oil), mushrooms can also become vitamin D suppliers, but only if they come from the field and have been exposed to the sun.
A study by Finnish researchers found that many mushrooms — including shiitake — have remarkable levels of ergosterol, which means they can be important sources of vitamin D.
Because ergosterol acts as a provitamin for the formation of vitamin D.
The daily requirement for vitamin D is officially given as 600-800 IU, unofficially as 4,000 to 8,000 IU. Studies have now shown that 100 grams of shiitake mushrooms, which initially contained only 100 IU (2.5 µg) of vitamin D, contain a full 46,000 IE exhibited after being in the sun (i.e. being dried there) for 2 days for 6 hours each.
Thus, 2 to 10 grams of shiitake mushrooms would be enough to cover the daily vitamin D requirement, of course only if the mushroom was in the sun.
Since shiitake mushrooms can also be grown in dim light, you don’t know whether the mushroom contains vitamin D or not when you buy it.
But of course, you can still put the mushrooms in the sun after you buy them, where they then turn into a source of vitamin D. Although you then have more or less dried mushrooms, you also have vitamin D.
And a healthy vitamin D level leads to a strong immune system at the same time.
Shiitake mushrooms strengthen the immune system
In China and Japan, shiitake is now always used when diseases are triggered or intensified as a result of a weakened immune system, e.g. B. at
- AIDS or HIV
The healing effect of shiitake seems to be based in particular on stimulating the immune system. In this way, fungi, parasites, bacteria, and viruses can be fought by the body’s own defense mechanisms.
In addition, the shiitake should also inhibit the spread and settlement of the organisms mentioned in a very direct way, which of course increases its effectiveness.
The polysaccharides in shiitake play a particularly important role. This includes the beta-glucan lentinan, which is found in the fruiting body and the mycelium of the shiitake.
According to American and Asian scientists, lentinan is one of the most effective activators of the immune system. Yes, it is so effective that it is even used in the case of immune deficiency AIDS.
Shiitake mushrooms help HIV patients
In a clinical study, HIV patients were treated with a combination therapy consisting of the AIDS drug didanosine and the shiitake drug lentinan.
In the case of an infection with the HI virus, the number of so-called CD4-positive cells (immune cells) decreases after a certain period of time. Increasing the number of these cells is therefore an important goal of any HIV therapy.
While in the study mentioned, the increase in these cells was only significant for up to 14 weeks due to the sole administration of didanosine, the high level of immune cells with the combination therapy persisted for up to 38 weeks.
Various series of tests have also shown that the lentinan from the shiitake can also promote the formation of many other specialized immune cells in the organism, such as e.g. B. killer cells, T helper cells, and scavenger cells.
In addition, the release of endogenous messenger substances is stimulated, which act against viruses and tumor cells – which brings us to another special area of the Shiitake mushroom: cancer.
The Shiitake Mushroom and its Curative Effects on Cancer
In 1969, researchers at the National Cancer Center Research Institute in Tokyo conducted relevant scientific studies with the shiitake for the first time.
The results of the mushroom’s healing effects on cancer were so groundbreaking that Shiitake is now the 8th most commonly used drug in Japan to treat cancer.
On the one hand, the ingredient lentinan can help the body to locate and destroy cancer cells more quickly. On the other hand, the pressed juice from the shiitake should inhibit the uncontrolled growth of tumor cell lines.
The press juice can commercially z. B. in the form of tablets or drinking ampoules. In addition, it was observed that the number of metastases was lower and the effect of radiotherapy and antibody therapy was increased.
In Japan, lentinan is usually injected in cancer therapy. The active ingredient can also be taken orally if the fresh mushroom is eaten but to a lesser extent.
Stomach cancer: Shiitake mushroom prolongs the life
If gastric cancer is already in an advanced stage and the tumor has spread to adjacent organs, unfortunately only a few of those affected can expect a cure.
This is z. B. because some advanced tumors are considered inoperable. Even if the chances of recovery are very low, conventional medicine often recommends a combined treatment of radiation and chemotherapy.
In a clinical study of 89 patients with inoperable gastric cancer, one group was treated with chemotherapy alone, while the other group was also injected with shiitake lentinan.
The investigations showed that the survival time could be significantly increased with the help of lentinan. Further studies also showed in relation to breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer that lentinan can prolong life even with a poor prognosis.
In addition to lentinan, there are of course numerous other active ingredients in the shiitake mushroom such as B. the cholesterol-lowering eritadenine or the alpha-glucan AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound), which also has antitumor properties, which has proven particularly useful in cervical cancer.
Shiitake Mushroom: Curative effect on cervical cancer
Scientists from the University of Texas have studied the healing effects of shiitake on cervical cancer and found that the AHCC contained in the mushroom promotes the formation of natural killer cells, phagocytes, and immune messengers.
AHCC is a unique mixture of polysaccharides, amino acids, and minerals, which can increase the power of the body’s own killer cells by up to 900 (!) percent in a very short time.
AHCC is also able to kill viruses directly. Since cervical cancer is most likely caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), shiitake can prove to be very helpful in this area in two ways.
Shiitake mushrooms: what should be considered when using them?
The fresh shiitake is z. B. available at weekly markets or in the supermarket. You can also use dried mushrooms, which before preparation must be placed in water until they swell.
The mushroom powder, on the other hand, is good for preparing tea or for flavoring soups and stews. Shiitake preparations are also offered as capsules or tablets.
So e.g. B. the mushroom extract, which is also known as “LEM” (Lentinula edodes mycelium) is usually taken in capsule form.
It is controversial whether dried mushrooms, extracts, or mushroom powder are better suited for medication. However, it is certain that the main active ingredients in the shiitake extract are concentrated around 20 times and that extracts have been used in almost all relevant scientific studies.
On the other hand, dried mushrooms or mushroom powder from the whole fruiting body are characterized by the fact that they contain an entire spectrum of vital substances.
That is why it is often recommended to focus on taking extracts and combining them with dried mushroom powder. In this way, it is possible to use the positive properties of both raw material qualities.
Shiitake mushrooms: How to dose correctly
Since shiitake has not yet been classified as a medicinal product in Europe and is therefore only available as a dietary supplement, there is a wide variety of information regarding the dosage.
The mycologist Professor Jan Ivan Lelley, who incidentally coined the term “mycotherapy” and is a luminary in this field, recommends e.g. B. 6 to 16 grams of dried mushrooms per day.
The dosage depends on whether the shiitake is to be used preventively or in the treatment of diseases.
The extract is mainly used in initial therapy against cancer. The initial daily dose is increased from 1 gram to 3 grams.
If the mushroom powder is used, the recommendations are a daily dose of 3 grams at the beginning, which is then increased up to 5 grams. If the shiitake is to be used for serious illnesses, the dosage should definitely be discussed with a well-versed naturopath.
Shiitake mushrooms in combination therapy
Many experts believe that the effectiveness can be increased by combining different medicinal mushrooms. Here z. B. the Cordyceps, the Reishi, or the Chaga mushroom in question. You can read details about the effect and application of the individual medicinal mushrooms in the respective links.
For general migraine therapy, for example, taking a combination of shiitake and reishi is recommended, as both medicinal mushrooms improve blood circulation in the brain.
According to the Society for Medicinal Mushrooms, when using two or more medicinal mushrooms, the maximum amount of 5 grams per mushroom should not be exceeded.
Tip: If you combine the shiitake with vitamin C – preferably in the form of a natural vitamin C source (e.g. acerola cherry powder) – the absorption of the fungus-specific active ingredients can be improved.
Medicinal effects of Shiitake mushrooms in the kitchen
Even if the extracts of the shiitake mushroom are usually used in the therapy of diseases, the whole mushroom – if eaten regularly – can also bring certain healing effects with it, e.g. B. a continuous strengthening of the immune system.
In terms of cervical cancer prevention, the shiitake mushroom should be consumed together with folate-rich foods – as we have already described in the text.