Maitake Mushroom: Cancer Fighter, and More?

Posted on by Paula Gallagher

Maitake mushroom may best be known for its cancer-fighting properties. It contains grifolan, an important beta-glucan polysaccharide. Grifolan has been shown to activate macrophages, a type of cell considered the " heavy artillery" of the immune system, according to Larry A. Walker, Ph.D., R.D., author of "Natural products update" (published in Drug Topics, June 1997). D-fraction, one of the polysaccharides in maitake mushroom, also energized the cellular immune system. The evidence confirming maitake's therapeutic value is impressive. Laboratory studies have shown that maitake extract can block the growth of cancer tumors and boost the immune function of mice with cancer. Haroaki Nanba reported the following findings of the study, "Maitake D-fraction: healing and preventing potentials for cancer" (published in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, February/March 1996). In a non-randomized clinical study, 165 individuals with advanced cancer used maitake D-fraction. Patients received either maitake D-fraction alone or with chemotherapy. Maitake mushroom was found effective against leukemia and stomach and bone cancers. Responses were further improved when maitake D-fraction and chemotherapy were used together. Individuals receiving maitake D-fraction also experienced relief from the side effects of chemotherapy, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, hair loss, and deficiency of white blood cells. Bu there are other other benefits of this fungus. According to researchers Hiroaki Nanba and Keiko Kubo, authors of "Mushroom biology and mushroom products," it may also help diabetics. Researchers investigated a specific, high-molecular polysaccharide in maitake called the X-fraction. They found that mice given maitake had an increased ability to recognize glucose, and the control group had higher blood glucose levels. The researchers suggested that maitake mushroom can reduce insulin resistance, thereby increasing insulin sensitivity. The X-fraction appears to be the active compound with anti-diabetic properties.