You've probably heard of shiitake mushrooms and possibly eaten them. But did you know they've been used as medicine for centuries in Asia? The potential health benefits of this mushroom is more exciting than its taste.
About Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) are a type of fungi native to Asian counties like Japan and China, but are now grown throughout the world. Traditionally, they grow on fallen trees and have a brown cap. These mushrooms have been taken medicinally for thousands of years for general wellness and to treat a number of specific conditions.
Possible Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms
When it comes to the nutritional value of shiitake mushrooms, they're very low in calories and have less than 1 gram of fat. They also provide vitamin B6. The active compound within shiitake mushrooms believed to be responsible for their healthful benefits is lentinan, a type of polysaccharide. This compound is extracted for making medicines, and the body of the mushroom is also used.
These are the three main uses of shiitake mushrooms currently being studied in animals and humans:
Boosting Immunity -- Mushrooms like shiitake have anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and are said to strengthen the body's natural defenses, the immune system, to fight off threats of infection and illness before you get sick. They may also help you fight existing infections. Some people take shiitake supplements as a preventative measure for this reason.
Fighting Cancer -- When it comes to shiitake mushrooms and cancer research, their immunity-boosting benefits are one reason to study them as a potential treatment, but also because the lentinan may inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors. A 2002 animal study published in the Journal of alternative and complimentary medicine found lentinan did inhibit growth of colon cancer cells.
Lowering Cholesterol -- For patients with high levels of "bad" or LDL cholesterol, eating and/or taking shiitake mushrooms in supplement form may be helpful in lowering the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood. Having high cholesterol increases the risk for heart disease and heart attack.
While some human and animal studies have been conducted, all of these benefits require further study to determine the exact actions of shiitake mushrooms and their active compound lentinan within the body before they can be widely recommended as a treatment.
Shiitake Mushroom Supplements
We carry a variety of shiitake supplements, including liquids and blends with other varieties of mushrooms. There are no major side effects or drug interactions associated with shiitake mushroom supplements at this time, but they can cause digestive discomfort, like diarrhea, if consumed in high amounts. As with any herbal supplement, it's always best to start with a lower dosage to assess your tolerance.
If you're interested in adding a shiitake mushroom supplement to your daily routine, be sure to speak with your doctor first, especially if you're currently being treated for a medical condition or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Natural supplements can have different effects on everyone and may possibly interfere with medications. Don't stop taking your current medication without speaking to your doctor.
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