Shiitake mushroom is a fungus. An extract made from this mushroom is used as medicine. Shiitake mushroom is used for boosting the immune system, lowering blood cholesterol levels, treating prostate cancer, and as an anti-aging agent. Shiitake mushrooms are high in B vitamins, and they serve as a food source of vitamin D. Some shiitake health benefits include its ability to aid weight loss, support cardiovascular health, fight cancer cells, improve energy levels and brain function, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system.
Shiitakes may also help strengthen your immune system.
A 2015 study had people eat around two dried shiitakes daily for a month. Overall, their immune markers improved. They also had less inflammation than before the study began.
This immune effect might be due in part to one of the polysaccharides found in shiitake mushroom..
Additionally, your immune system gets weaker with age. However, a mouse study found that a supplement derived from shiitakes helped reverse some of the age-related decline in immune function .
Polysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms may also have an anti-cancer effect.
For example, the polysaccharide lentinan helps fight tumors by activating the immune system.
Lentinan has been shown to inhibit the growth and spread of leukemia cells.
In China and Japan, an injectable form of lentinan is used alongside chemotherapy and other major cancer treatments to improve immune function and quality of life in people with gastric cancer .
However, there's not enough evidence to say whether actually eating shiitake mushrooms has any effect on cancer.
We are seeing an increasing level of research interest in one unique alkaloid found in shiitake mushrooms, namely, eritadenine. When compared to commonly eaten mushrooms like crimini and reishi, shiitake mushrooms appears to contain significantly higher amounts of eritadenine. Much of the interest in this phytonutrient has been focused on its ability to inhibit activity of an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). Because ACE activity results in a constricting of our blood vessels, inhibition of ACE can help prevent unwanted blood vessel constriction. By preventing unwanted constriction, our blood vessels can keep a wider diameter and this wider diameter allows the pressure on our blood to stay within a normal range. In short: what we are looking at here is a unique nutrient in shiitake mushrooms that appears to increase our chances for better blood pressure regulation.
A variety of different studies on the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms have converged on a special group of carbohydrate-related molecules called glucans. 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. Because 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 desirable bacteria in our digestive tract. This result earns shiitake mushrooms the right to be called a health-supportive food. But perhaps more importantly, beta-glucans also provide support for a wide variety of body systems, including our immune system, antioxidant system, and our endocrine 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. In addition, beta-glucan intake has been linked to better regulation of our blood sugar and insulin levels. What we are left with here is a category of nutrient intake—polysaccharides—that we don't usually associate with such a wide range of potential health benefits. But research on shiitake mushrooms is convincing us to pay more attention to this carb-related group in shiitake and other mushrooms.
Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits from Shiitake Mushrooms
If we look only at conventional nutrients found in shiitake mushrooms, we can see impressive antioxidant benefits. As mentioned earlier, shiitake are our 4th best source of the antioxidant mineral copper at WHFoods. They are also our 4th best source of another antioxidant mineral—zinc. And this list of antioxidant minerals does not stop with zinc. Shiitake are also our 7th best source of the antioxidant mineral selenium. While you could get a higher-ranked source of selenium by choosing many of our fish, these foods drop down below shiitake mushrooms on our list of high-ranked zinc sources. Similarly, you could get a higher-ranked source of zinc by choosing beef from our WHFoods, but beef is far below shiitake mushrooms on our list of copper sources. So it makes sense to think about shiitake mushrooms as a quite unusual source of multiple antioxidant minerals.
It's the more unusual nutrients in shiitake mushrooms, however, that provide this food with its antioxidant "claim to fame." For example, multiple studies have linked broad antioxidant and free-radical scavenging activity with intake of shiitake mushrooms due to their high beta-glucan content. Also interesting in this context are studies that have found a greater degree of antioxidant activity to be associated with polysaccharides from shiitake mushrooms that contain disproportionally high amounts of the sugars rhamnose and mannose. Alongside of their glucan content, shiitake mushrooms are known to provide us with phenolic antioxidants (like ferulic and capolic acid), and terpene-related antoxidants like carvacrol.
On the anti-inflammatory front, a growing number of studies have shown reduction in inflammation-related events following intake of shiitake mushrooms. As mentioned earlier in this profile, consumption of shiitake mushrooms in one recent study was determined not only to lower blood levels of the inflammatory messaging molecule MIP-1alpha (macrophage inflammatory protein 1alpha), but also to raise blood levels of anti-inflammatory molecules including interleukin-4 and -10, and interleukin 1alpha (IL-4, IL-10, and IL-1a). Additionally, many of the phenolic acids provided by shiitake mushrooms have been determined to provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
I drink mine with just 1 mushroom and a tiny few grains of pink salt, you can decide how you would prefer to drink yours. The Mushroom can also be added to gravy, soups or foods. It has quite a strong flavour that might appeal to many.
Shiitake Mushroom Tea
1 Dried shiitake mushroom
1 Cup water, plus water for soaking
1-2 drops shoyu
Soak the shiitake mushroom in water for 15-20 minutes to reconstitute
Discard the soaking water and remove the stem from the mushroom
Slice the mushroom cap into strips and place in a pot with the water