Shiitake Mushrooms

Lentinus edodes commonly known as shiitake are one of my favorite medicinal mushrooms due to their vast array of medicinal and culinary uses.

The shiitake is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, which is cultivated and consumed in many Asian countries. It is considered a medicinal mushroom in some forms of traditional medicine and has always been an integral, delicious part of Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines. They also offer unique health benefits: research indicates compounds in shiitakes may aid in weight loss, lower cholesterol, enhance depressed immune function (including HIV), bronchial inflammation, heart disease, hyperlipidemia (including high blood cholesterol), hypertension, infectious disease, diabetes, hepatitis and regulating urinary inconsistencies. and reduce the risk of several kinds of cancer.

Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of copper, zinc and manganese, they are high in selenium and many B vitamins like, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (folate), choline and they serve as a food source of vitamin D. They also contain a small amount of dietary fiber.

Mushrooms in the Kitchen

The best way to clean mushrooms without sacrificing their texture and taste is to clean them using minimal water, if any.  You can  moisten a paper towel and wipe them down if they must be cleaned. Mushrooms are very porous, when they are exposed to too much water they will quickly absorb it and become soggy. I either grow my own or buy them from a mushroom house that grows them in a controlled environment so I don’t wash mine with anything before cooking.

This feature also makes it possible for you to rehydrate fresh mushrooms that became dry, just soak them in water for thirty minutes before cooking.

Remember to always cook your mushrooms at high temperatures, mushrooms are not meant to be eaten raw, many edible mushrooms, contain various hydrazines, a group of chemical compounds generally considered carcinogenic and can be readily expunged by heating them at high temperatures or by fermenting them for at least a week. Fungal cell walls are much more complex than plant cellulose walls, making raw mushrooms difficult to digest and many contain trace amounts of toxins. I stay away from portabella, baby Bella and white button mushrooms. Many leading experts believe these mushrooms to be highly carcinogenic.

The newsletter of the Mycological Society of San Francisco Featured in Mycena News the article “On Eating Raw Mushrooms,” published in the November 2008, mushroom expert David Campbell wrote that “The kicker with Agaricus species, including the buttons, is that one of their primary hydrazine components, along with gyromitrin, is “agaritine,” a substance somewhat resistant to cooking heat, with a significant percentage (25–75%) of agaratine material typically remaining after being subjected to various methods of cooking. So, the question as far as avoiding hydrazines in Agaricus is concerned, actually becomes whether to eat members of this genus at all.” Portabella and button mushrooms are part of the Agarius family and are often promoted by the mushroom industry to be safe to eat raw.

According to an article on
Shiitake mushrooms have an extensive track record as an anti-inflammatory food and now new research shows that a relatively small daily amount of dried shiitake mushroom (5 grams of dried mushroom, which is the equivalent of 1-ounce fresh mushrooms) can provide measurable anti-inflammatory benefits. One cup of chopped fresh mushrooms is about 3 ounces worth. a very moderate and achievable intake amount. Consumption of these small amounts of shiitake mushroom by 50 study participants lowered blood levels of the inflammatory messaging molecule MIP-1alpha (macrophage inflammatory protein 1alpha) and increased blood levels of anti-inflammatory molecules including interleukins 4, 10, and 1alpha (IL-4, IL-10, and IL-1a).

“Just as mycelium helps to support the immune system of humans, it also supports the health and immunity of the natural habitats where it grows. Mushroom mycelium is a cellular bridge connecting bees, trees, bears, plants and humans to the ecosystems in which they live. Our work is to build a healthier world with the power of mushrooms.”
~Paul Stamets D.Sc (Hon)

Shiitake Extracts for Medicinal Uses

When purchasing mushroom extract be aware of who grew them, that they were certified and organically grown and that they have been used in Western clinical studies (which typically have more stringent parameters).  It is important to know what extraction process was used, how they are stored and encapsulated to avoid recieving mushroom extracts that are oxidized with little to no nutritional value left by the time you recieve them. You always want to look for a double extraction, from both the mushroom myceluim and fruitbodies. Most companies use only hot-water extraction which leaves out many valuable constituents.

I get my shiitake and other medicinal mushroom extracts from Host Defense. The power of Host Defense comes from the discovery that the mycelium is the immune system of the mushroomHost Defense extracts utilize Paul Stamets’ comprehensive Double and Triple Extraction Methods.

This next section may get a little scientific for some,  I just find the documented proof of the health benefits of mushrooms fascinating and wanted to share, I could go on and on about the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms and the extracts for days so expect more blogs in the future. Mushroom extract make a great edition to your supplement cabinet as preventative care and for their immune boosting capabilities I consider them an essential nutrient in my diet.

Multiple studies have linked broad antioxidant and free-radical scavenging activity with intake of shiitake extract. AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) is a mixture of Basidiomycete mushrooms that include shiitakes and boletes. AHCC works as an immunotherapy, which is a treatment that uses a body’s own immune system to help fight disease. AHCC activates Natural Killer (NK) cells, dendritic cells, and cytokines, which enable the body to effectively respond to infections and block the proliferation of tumors.

In a study using mice, AHCC led to the eradication of HPV within 90 days.This study, initiated in 2008, shows that by itself AHCC has the potential to treat the HPV infection.

In earlier Japanese studies, mice with tumors that received beta-glucans, including lentinan, experienced a rapid decrease in the number of tumor cells as well as a notable increase in neutrophils in solid tumors. In detailed studies of the biological effects of these mushrooms, in particular, their anticancer action, beta-glucans were again found to be the main cause of nonspecific immunomodulation

Glucans are polysaccharides (structures comprised of linked sugars) that are found in many different foods. However, shiitake mushrooms are unusual in containing not only a large amount of total glucans but also a large amount of one specific glucan called beta-glucan.

The fact that glucans elicit strong and positive immune responses is well-established. Since the 1980s, we know that glucans stimulate hematopoiesis and are useful before and during radio- and chemotherapy and during intoxication with heavy metals*

These glucans cannot be broken down by enzymes in our digestive tract, they pass undigested all the way through to our large intestine where they help support growth of healthy bacteria. This result earns shiitake mushrooms the right to be called a functional food. But perhaps more importantly, beta-glucans also provide support for a wide variety of body systems, including our immune system, endocrine system and antioxidant system. Because beta-glucans can bind onto certain receptors on our immune cells, they can help support immune system function. These polysaccharides can also function as antioxidants and have been shown to have free radical scavenging activity.


Refrences and Resources:

*Sima P, Vannucci L, Vetvicka V. Effects of glucan on bone marrow. Ann Transl Med 2014; 2 (2): 18

*Sima P, Vannucci L, Vetvicka V. Glucans and Cancer: Historical Perspective. Cancer Transl Med 2015;1:209-14

The effects of beta-glucan on human immune and cancer cells.  Department of Paediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.   PMID: 19515245 PMCID: PMC2704234 DOI: 10.1186/1756-8722-2-25

Nutr Rev. 2009 Nov;67(11):624-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00230.x.
Rop O1Mlcek JJurikova T.   PMID: 19906249 DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00230.x  Department of Food Engineering, Faculty of Technology, Tomas Bata University in Zlin, 762 72 Zlin, Czech Republic.


Can Mushrooms Help the Immune Systen Fight Cancer? Interview with Paul Stamets – TEDMED, Huffington Post

Paul Stamets, Is The World Ready for a medicinal Mushroom Tour? TEDMED

Disclaimer: The strategies, suggestions and techniques expressed here are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The Author, Kira Miller, is not rendering medical advice nor is she trying to diagnose, prescribe or treat any disease, condition, illness or injury.

If you are under the care of a physician it is imperative that you consult their advice before beginning any new exercise or nutrition program.

Kira Miller claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss or damage alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application or interpretation of the material presented here.




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