Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), translated to “Tree Mushroom” in Japanese, is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, which is cultivated and consumed in many Asian countries. In nature, these mushrooms grow in groups on the decaying wood of deciduous trees. Its natural distribution includes warm and moist climates in southeast Asia. Famous for their rich texture and smoky flavor, they’re the second most commonly cultivated edible mushrooms, readily available on market shelves worldwide.
Shiitake has also long been considered a medicinal mushroom in some forms of traditional medicine. This is because these mushrooms have powerful immune-enhancing and antiviral properties, contributing to lower cholesterol while exhibiting virus-inhibiting effects. Shiitake can be eaten fresh or dried (raw or cooked), and/or supplemented with liquid mushroom extract, tea, capsules, and skin cream.
These mushrooms contain lentinan which not only strengthens the immune system, but, according to the American Cancer Society, is believed to slow tumor growth. This fungus is also a good source of iron and antioxidants, which help reduce the damage from free radicals.
Another study found that the spores of shiitake mushrooms can have protective abilities on the liver, suppress inflammation, and even have cancer-preventive properties for patients with chronic hepatitis. Certain components of the tree mushroom even have hypolipidaemic (fat-reducing) effects.
Scientists have now proven that shiitake mushrooms offer antiviral, cholesterol-lowering and cardiovascular support, and amazingly, properties in just the right amounts to augment the immune system, revving it up or leveling it off where needed. Immune cells called macrophage, for instance, are responsible for identifying and removing potentially cancerous cells from the body, including colon cancer cells; enzymes called cytochrome are known to metabolize carcinogens in the body.
Shiitake mushrooms are also a great source of B vitamins, which help support adrenal function and turn nutrients from food into useable energy. They help balance hormones naturally and break through the brain fog to maintain focus all day long, even improving cognitive performance.