Shiitake, the imperial mushroom

Shiitake, an Oriental mushroom that is also grown in Europe, is not only tasty but also has great health value. Qualities and history of this Lentinus edodes. The medicinal mushroom Shiitake is native to Japan, China and other Asian regions with temperate climates. It grows on dead wood, in the wild mainly on fallen trees (oak, beech, chestnut, walnut, maple). It is traditionally grown in the Far East on logs in the forest.
The shiitake rightly bears the honorary title of ‘king of mushrooms’: for centuries it was mainly served at the Japanese and Chinese imperial court . It has been used for thousands of years as both food and medicine, including for the prevention and treatment of cancer and heart disease (cholesterol and blood pressure lowering effect). In Japan, the shiitake, traditionally called “the elixir of life”, has now received scientific recognition: the powders and extracts were licensed as a medicine against cancer. The antitumor effects have been demonstrated for stomach, intestinal, liver, lung and ovarian cancer. It is also used in the treatment of AIDS, including to enhance AZT treatment.
Because the shiitake combines a range of medicinal properties with excellent culinary properties, it is not only edible, but very tasty and nutritious, making it an ideal health food. And since this wonderful mushroom is not only available dried and as a nutritional supplement, but is also grown here , it can easily be included fresh in the daily diet. Healthy and delicious!

A bit of history

Wu Rui, Emperor Ming’s doctor, mentions the shiitake in his ‘Materia Medica for Everyday’ (1309): a tonic, purifies the blood and improves fluidity, anti-infectious (colds, flu, pus formation), anti-parasitic , anti-inflammatory (yes, stings and bites), anti-rheumatic (arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, fatigue), warming, stimulant of sexual and vital energy (Yin-Yang).
The shiitake is also traditionally used for both high and low blood pressure, hemorrhoids, hepatitis B and liver cirrhosis, diabetes, cancer and leukemia, autoimmune diseases, constipation, myalgia, rheumatism and neuralgias, allergies and asthma, eye problems, skin diseases, aging… and you name it. Again too much of a good thing, but it does indicate that this mushroom was particularly appreciated.


The first scientific studies were published by Prof. Kisaku Mori, founder of the ‘Mushroom Institute of Japan’, who showed from 1965 that the shiitake indeed has many medicinal properties. He first proved its tonic and blood pressure regulating effects, and that regular consumption can alleviate blood pressure and headaches. Later the cholesterol-lowering, immune-stimulating and anti-tumor effect was discovered.
A number of studies have been carried out with isolated lentinane, which gives a somewhat incorrect picture of the effect of the shiitake itself. Yet even the very strict Natural Standard states that ‘ Shiitake has been taken by mouth for boosting the immune system, decreasing cholesterol levels, and for anti-aging. Lentinan, derived from shiitake (Lentinus edodes), has been injected as an adjunct treatment for cancer and HIV infection, although currently high quality human scientific evidence is lacking for many proposed indications. Purified lentinan is considered a drug in Japan.
An abundance of scientific research results show that lentinan, administered by injection or infusion, can be a valuable addition to the treatment of stomach and pancreatic cancer and other cancers of the digestive tract. New developments have meant that lentinan has recently become available in an orally absorbable form. The oral applicability can meet the needs of many cancer patients who are looking for a safe drug that supports the quality of life. Moreover, an oral form is considerably cost-saving compared to administration by injection or infusion.
Recent studies show that l entinan, in a form that is well absorbed after ingestion, has beneficial effects in combination with current anti-cancer therapies.