• Maitake

    Grifola frondosa

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    Maitake is a widespread edible and delicious fungus of the Northern Hemisphere, which is known around the world by many names. In English, it is called hen of the woods. The Chinese name translates to “grey tree flower” which is a perfect descriptor. The polypore grows in elegant clusters like a rosette, at the base of dead/dying hardwoods (including oaks, elms, maples, chestnuts, etc.), often perennially - meaning it often grows in the same place for several years in succession!


    It seems the powerful medicinal effects of this fungus have long been treasured. Traditional use in Asia is documented as far back as the Han Dynasty (206-210 CE), in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica). It was utilised to boost Qi, calm the mind and nerves, and improve the health of the spleen, stomach, liver and lungs.


    Maitake contains a broad range of chemical constituents with potential clinical value including coumarins, terpene lactones, flavonoids, organic acids, alkaloids, steroids, and triterpenes. However, most studies are only focused on the polysaccharide components of Maitake. Hopefully, future research will reveal more about the beneficial effects of this mushroom’s complex chemistry, just like we have with Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Cordyceps.


    Maitake does produce a remarkably complex array of pure and protein bound polysaccharides, predominately composed of glucose, but also galactose, mannose, fucose, trehalose and ribose. Some of these are unique to Maitake.


    In 1955 Japanese researchers identified Grifola frondosa polysaccharide (GFP) or the D-fraction (as it is commonly referred to) as the main biologically active constituent, found in both fruiting bodies and mycelia. The D-fraction is a protein-bound polysaccharide, consisting of a few types of β-glucans (the technical names and structures of these β-glucans can be a bit confusing, so I’ve deliberately kept it simple). To date there are at least 47 bioactive polysaccharides discovered in Maitake. Various techniques are utilised to separate out and purify other active polysaccharide fractions for medicinal use and ongoing research, such as MD-fraction, MZ-fraction, SX-fraction and Grifolans.



    Key Actions:

    • Anti-cancer (adjuvant)
    • Anti-hyperglycaemic
    • Anti-obesogenic
    • Antioxidant
    • Anti-inflammatiry
    • Immunomodulatory
    • Hepatoprotective
    • Lipid-modulatory
    • Ovulatory stimulant
    • Neuroprotective
    • Prebiotic

    Key Indications:

    • Cancer adjuvant therapy
    • Common cold/influenza
    • Diabetes and hyperglycemia
    • Dysbiosis
    • Immune system suppression
    • Hyperlipidemia
    • Infections (bacterial, viral)
    • Mercury or metal toxicity
    • Metabolic syndrome
    • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
    • Neurodegenerative diseases
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    Key active compounds:


    Polysaccharides - over 47 biactive polysaccharides have been isolated from Maitake, the most important medically being the Grifola Frondosa polysaccharide




    Hot water extraction is necessary to unlock the full therapeutic potential:

  • Maitake history


    In Japan and China, Matiake has been highly valued not only as a culinary delicacy but also for its medicinal properties for more than 3000 years. Traditionally, it was used in Eastern medicine to enhance the immune system, lower blood pressure, and support overall health.


    Maitake is the Japanese name, which translates literally as “dancing mushroom”. It is named thus for the celebration that would traditionally ensue upon finding a specimen, for Maitake were once worth their weight in silver! During Japan's feudal era, maitake was used as currency; the daimyo, or provincial nobles, would exchange maitake for its weight in silver from the shogun, the military ruler of Japan.


    Maikate has only been cultivated commercially since the early 1980s, before which it was laboriously harvested by hand in the wild. Today, it is one of the most widely used mushrooms in Japanese cuisine due to its pleasant aroma, but it is also important as a vital mushroom in Asia.


    Modern scientific research has confirmed many of its health benefits, making it a popular supplement in contemporary herbal medicine and a sought-after ingredient in gourmet cuisine worldwide.

    Geographic location

    Native to China, northeastern Japan, North America and parts of Europe, Maitake mushrooms grow in temperate hardwood forests where they feed upon the dead roots of older trees, in particular oaks but also elms and occasionally maples. They are polypore mushrooms, meaning they have pores or tubes on the underside, as opposed to gills.

    Maitake grows as masses of small brownish-grey, fan-shaped caps fused onto a single, branching stalk. In Europe, Maitake is almost impossible to find in the wild, partly because its substrate has become so rare, because old oaks have also become a rarity in Europe.



    When cooked, maitake mushrooms exhibit a rich, earthy, and savoury flavour with a hint of umami. Their taste has been described as a delightful fusion of woodsy and meaty notes, with a subtle sweetness.

    In addition to their unique flavour, maitake mushrooms also possess a remarkable texture that further enhances their culinary appeal. When cooked, they develop a tender yet slightly chewy consistency with a satisfying, meaty mouthfeel. This textural quality makes them an ideal addition to a wide range of dishes, including soups, stews, stir-fries, and even as a topping for pizzas or flatbreads.


  • Research articles