AKA Hen of the Woods, The Dancing Mushroom, Grifola frondosa
Imagine a mushroom so incredibly valuable that ancient foragers would literally dance with delight upon discovering it.
Imagine a mushroom so incredibly valuable that ancient foragers would literally dance with delight upon discovering it. In fact, this is where the Maitake mushroom is said to have got its name (in Japanese Mai means “dance” and take means “mushroom”).
The mushroom was actually reported to be worth its weight in silver – a healthy sum indeed!
More than medicinal
Maitake is one of the few medicinal mushrooms that is also a culinary delight. Amazing in soups and broths, or grilled straight up, it’s highly sought after by mushroom foragers in the North Eastern USA and Canada, where it naturally grows at the base of oak trees. Its common name in North America is “Hen of the Woods” but is also sometimes referred to as “sheep’s head” or “ram’s head.”
Maitake can develop truly prodigious fruiting bodies. Average mushrooms come in at a hefty 10-15lb, but some specimens have been found weighing up to 45lb! Not bad if you’re being paid its weight in silver.
The evidence for Maitake
One common trait between all medicinal mushrooms is their ability to modulate the immune system*.
Maitake extracts have a high concentration of beta-glucans relative to other medicinal mushrooms, with some extracts having between 30-40%.
The D-fraction appears to “activate” these macrophages, causing them to excrete proteins that act as a signalling device – allowing the macrophage to rapidly be aware of the presence of an invader*.
Maitake contains many different bio-active protein bound polysaccharides. One of these polysaccharides, known as Maitake D-fraction has been studied for its potential to aid cancer patients and to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy*. 
From the study referenced:
“MD-fraction and whole maitake powder was investigated to determine its effectiveness for 22- to 57-year-old cancer patients in stages II-IV*. Cancer regression or significant symptom improvement was observed in 58.3 percent of liver cancer patients, 68.8 percent of breast cancer patients, and 62.5 percent of lung cancer patients*.”
“Furthermore, when maitake was taken in addition to chemotherapy, immune-competent cell activities were enhanced 1.2-1.4 times, compared with chemotherapy alone*. Animal studies have supported the use of maitake MD-fraction for cancer*.”
Diabetes (Type 1) is related to a malfunctioning immune system, where immune cells erroneously attack other cells in the pancreas responsible for producing insulin. The inability to produce the right amount of insulin causes an accumulation of excess sugar in the blood, which can have a tremendous negative effect on overall health.
Studies have been done with diabetic mice, to see the effect of Maitake extracts on insulin levels. It was found that Maitake can favorably influence the production of insulin, lowering blood glucose levels*. 
Diabetics considering taking Maitake mushroom should use caution however, as medication intended to lower blood sugar combined with the effects of Maitake could cause blood sugar to drop below healthy levels*.
Animal studies have been performed showing that the subjects that were fed a high-cholesterol diet in combination with Maitake powder showed a lower increase in body fat*.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is associated with insulin resistance in the majority of cases. Maitake polysaccharides have shown promise in helping to address this condition*.
In one study, ovulation was observed in 20 of 26 women given Maitake extract, and 6 of 8 women who failed to ovulate after being treated with Clomiphene citrate (which is used for treating infertility) did so after being given Maitake*. All three women in the study that expressed an interest in becoming pregnant were able to do so*.
Looking for the benefits of Maitake? You can find pure extracts of Maitake in our Thrive 6 Mushroom blend.