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The Shiitake and Maitake: a Tale of Two Mushrooms

By Mack Shepperson Subscribe to RSS | April 19th 2012 | Views:

With the popularity of Asian and fusion cuisines in the United States, more Americans were introduced to different types of mushrooms. Two types of exotic mushrooms that have gained prominence—in more ways than one—in the country are shiitake and maitake mushrooms. This is because they make excellent add-ons to dishes, and they are packed with medicinal benefits.

Maitake is also referred to as hen of the woods and ram's head. It is characterized by its layers of caps which are curved like spoons. Although you wouldn’t guess it by the way it looks, maitake is actually quite edible and some even say tasty. It has a rather strong taste, but it usually wins people over, especially if you try it with soba noodles. The caps are the only ones used for culinary purposes because the stems are very tough.

Shiitake is also more well-known as an ingredient in culinary cuisines. It is characterized by a large umbrella shape cap, and its color varies from dark brown to black. Shiitake mushrooms are good enough as they are (maybe if you stir fry a little) and add a much needed spunk to delicious cuisines such as beef sukiyaki. This is truly a plus for a type of mushroom that likewise boosts the immune system and can even demonstrate antibacterial properties.

Maitake and shiitake mushrooms are not only delicious; they are also good for your health. The medicinal uses of mushrooms such as maitake and shiitake are well-documented, and they are often sold as supplements in herbal medicine supply stores. Both maitake and shiitake have been known to boost your immune system. Maitake contains polysaccharide which helps stabilize the blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Other medicinal uses of mushrooms (both shiitake and maitake) are their anti-cancer properties. Shiitake mushroom contains lentinan which is an active ingredient that supposedly exhibits strong anti-cancer properties. Extracts of maitake mushrooms are referred to as the maitake D-fractions and supposedly regress tumors in the lungs, liver, and breast.

Maitake and shiitake are true wonders in the world of mushrooms because they taste good and do you good. If you are interested to learn more about the medicinal uses of mushrooms, you can find more useful information on the following websites:,, and If you want to learn more about medicinal mushrooms’ anti-cancer properties, you can find more information on the official website of the American Cancer Society at

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