Shiitake (Lentinus edodes)

The name shiitake comes from the Japanese word shita referring to the chestnut tree on which the mushroom commonly grows. In China, it is known as Shaingugu, which means „fragrant mushroom”.

In traditional Chinese medicine shiitake is recommended to activate blood flow, boost qi or chi (life energy that animates the body and connects it to the living cosmos), and prevent or treat bronchial inflammation, colds, flu, atherosclerosis and cancer.

Modern scientific research supports shiitake’s medicinal properties. Clinical studies have demonstrated that the mushroom can be used to treat AIDS and other viral infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, and Candida overgrowth. Scientists at the University of Michigan, found that shiitake could produce a significant level of protection against influenza A. Further research revealed that the mushroom contains ingredients that are similar in structure to an influenza virus and are able to stimulate interferon, a virus-fighting protein. A substance extracted from shiitake called LEM is believed to be efficient against hepatitis B. Some studies have shown that LEM stimulates the production of antibodies that counteract hepatitis.

In 1969, scientists extracted a beta-glucan from shiitake called Lentinan. In laboratory mice Lentinan inhibits tumor growth, and it proved effective also in clinical trials. Another research shows that Lentinan is able to increase helper T cells, so it can be promising in the treatment for AIDS.