Since its application range is so versatile and as it was one of the first medicinal mushrooms used as such in our culture, Shiitake is also known as "the king of medicinal mushrooms".

The name "Shiitake" is derived from two Japanese words: "Shiia",meaning mushroom which grows on the Shii tree (a hardwood tree), and "Take", which means mushroom. In China, it is also called Shiang Gu, which can be interpreted as "scented mushroom".

Due to its valuable ingredients, Shiitake has been considered the king of all mushrooms in Asia for millenia. Even during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), it was highly valued as medicinal food and used in the treatment of various disorders. According to Asian folk medicine, the mushroom is a tonic that serves to regulate the vital Qi energy, harmonising Yin and Yang and activating the blood.

Several ingredients of the Shiitake mushroom have been proven to be pharmacologically effective.

Shiitake contains eritadenine, a derivative of the purine base adenine. Eritadenine has anti-aggregative effects on thrombocytes and is thus anti-thrombotic. It influences the hepatic phospholipid metabolism and thus reduces blood fats, especially serum cholesterol. In the process, the cholesterol-biosynthesis is not suppressed; the excretion of cholesterol is accelerated.

Moreover, Shiitake has been found to shift the lipoprotein ratio towards HDL. This enables an increased removal of cholesterol from the vessels and an accelerated breakdown of cholesterol in the liver. The protective effects of HDL are its ability to remove cholesterol from tissue and macrophages, and because HDL is accompanied by enzymes that are capable of decomposing oxidized lipids. The anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-regulating properties of Shiitake reduce the risk of foam cell deposits on arterial walls and thus of arteriosclerosis. Similarly, hypertension (high blood pressure) caused by vascular plaque can be counteracted. To a certain extent, the blood pressure-lowering properties are also owed to the tyrosinase enzyme, which studies have verified to be a Shiitake ingredient.

Another active substance contained by Shiitake is the high-molecular polysaccharide lentinan. It is mainly clinically administered as an immune-therapeutic medicine for tumour patients since it activates the immune response functions and inhibits tumour growth. Highly-malignant cells have a protective mechanism: they block the synthesis of type TH 1 cytokines. Lentinan deploys an alternative approach to activate the complement system by stimulating the macrophages and activating the TH 1 cells. The released IL-2 subsequently suppresses the tumour growth. Shiitake is thus a great help for all cancer patients who are not yet in orthodox treatment, and it is not surprising that Japan has long since approved lentinan as a cancer medication.

Apart from lentinan, Shiitake contains other polysaccharides with anti-carcinogenic and immune-regulating properties. The ß-glycans (polysaccharides) contained in Shiitake are capable of activating inherent antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase or glutathione peroxidase. This is highly significant for detoxification and in order to provide protection from cellular damage and inflammations.

Western mycotherapy mainly administers the Shiitake medicinal mushroom in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and circulatory disorders. Since Shiitake is able to regulate the blood circulation by influencing vascular tone, it is also successfully used to treat migraines and tinnitus.

Shiitake is furthermore supportive in conditions caused by metabolic disorders that result in articular (joint) swelling and pain. Positive experiences using Reishi and Shiitake medicinal mushrooms have also been reported for treating arthritis, gout and rheumatism. In these cases, pain and mobility restrictions can be reduced.

We should furthermore mention Shiitake’s hepato-protective properties. Consuming this medicinal mushroom protects liver cells and improves the hepatic (liver) function.

The production of antibodies has been found to be stimulated by hepatitis B. Moreover, the lentinan contained in Shiitake has been found to regulate the SGPT and GPT levels by toxic hepatitis.

Shiitake is a generally reinforcing and strengthening mushroom that - also due to the B vitamins it contains - is recommended for exhaustion, work-related stress and chronic fatigue syndrome. Thanks to its ergosterol content (a preliminary vitamin D which is primarily contained in meat) it is also a valuable menu alternative for vegetarians and vegans.

Verified effects from research

    • the cholesterol level is lowered through the transformation of the hepatic (liver) phospholipid metabolism.

    • the ingredient tyrosinase serves to reduce excessive blood pressure.

Application in Traditional Chinese Medicine

    • Properties: sweet, neutral

    • spleen, stomach, lung

    • regulates the Qi and blood for void but not for blockages

    • releases mucus

    • reinforces the centre and Qi

    • enables rashes to break through

    • counteracts anorexia and weakness

    • counteracts frequent urination

    • counteracts rachitis

    • counteracts gastric and uterine carcinomes

    • counteracts hyperlipidaemia