The Maitake – Grifola frondosa

Hen of the woods or sheep’s head – lose weight naturally: this medicinal mushroom reduces cholesterol levels and can prevent the depositing of fat in the body cells

In Asia the Maitake mushroom, which grows wild at the foot of old oak and chestnut trees, has been considered a true delicacy since time immemorial. In English it is also called “hen of the woods” or “sheep’s head”, with a spongy appearance. The mushroom which is very rare in nature features numerous thin caps one above the other. The stalks are only formed very rudimentarily and grow laterally on the trunk. The Maitake mushroom can reach a size of up to half a metre in diameter.

Main areas of use in mycotherapy:

After a few months of taking the Maitake, a lowering of the cholesterol and triglyceride levels can be observed. Taking it may also prevent the development of a fatty liver and the reduction of HDL cholesterol. In addition, the Maitake mushroom reduces the blood sugar level in type 1 and 2 diabetes. The insulin sensitivity of the cells is increased, enabling a better processing of sugar in the cells. Maitake has a balancing effect on blood pressure. Taking the mushroom leads to a firming of the stool and is recommended against chronic diarrhoea.

Alongside the ABM, this mushroom contains the highest concentration of highly effective polysaccharides and is very important in cases of cancer and for the regulation of the immune system. The Maitake has a particularly positive effect in case of a dominance of the TH2 immune response. It shifts the TH2 dominance towards TH1 by means of a polysaccharide (Grifon D) and thereby strengthens cellular defence. This brings about an activation of the B cells and the TH1 cells, as well as an increased release of interferon and interleukin 12 and 18. This mildens allergic reactions and activates cellular defence. In the case of a TH2-dominance immune situation, the formation of interleukin 4 is also inhibited and the conversion of TH1 into TH2 cells is prevented. The use of Maitake has been proven preventive for brain tumours and bone metastases. Due to its ergosterol content (precursor to vitamin D2), Maitake supports the absorption of calcium. It thus contributes to protecting the bones and to osteoporosis prevention. Studies have shown that osteoblasts are also activated by Maitake. It is therefore an excellent mushroom for healthy bones.

Effects proven by studies:

  • the elevation of the blood sugar level in type 2 diabetes is prevented regardless of changes to body weight
  • the increase of triglycerides is also prevented independently of changes to body weight
  • the insulin sensitivity of the target cells is raised, the insulin level is lowered and weight gain is prevented
  • the development of a fatty liver is counteracted
  • after several months, the overall cholesterol level is lowered and the HDL level is kept constant
  • systolic blood pressure is lowered

Areas of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Characteristics: sweet, mild, slightly cool

  • Acts on: spleen, bladder, kidneys
  • Dissolves fluid and oedema


  • Keiko Kubo, Hisao Aoki, Horoaki Nanba: “Anti-Diabetic Activity Present in the Fruit Body of Grifola frondosa (Maitake):”; Biol. Pharm. Bull. 17(8) 1106-1110 (1994)
  • Keiko Kubo, Hiroaki Nanba: “Anti-Diabetic Mechanism of Maitake (Grifola frondosa).”; Department of Microbial Chemistry, Kobe Pharmaceutical University, Motoyama, Higashinada, Kobe 658, Japan
  • Hiroyuki Horio, Masaru Ohtsuru: “Maitake (Grifola frondosa) Improve Glucose Tolerance of Experimental Diabetic Rats.”; J Nutr Sci Vitaminol, 47, 57-63, 2001
  • V.Manohar, N.A.Talpur, B.W.Echard, S.Liebermann, H.G.Preuss: “Effects of a water-soluble extract of maitake mushroom on circulating glucose/insulin concentrations in KK mice.”; Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 4, 2002, 43-48
  • Keiko Kubo, Hiroaki Nanba: “Anti-Hyperliposis Effect of Maitake Fruit Body (Grifola frondosa).”; Biol. Pharm. Bull. 20(7) 781-785 (1997)
  • Nadeem A. Talpur, Bobby W. Echard, …: “Antihypertensive and metabolic effects of whole Maitake mushroom powder and its fractions in two rat strains”; Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 237: 129-136, 2002
  • Atsuyuki Inoue, Noriko Kodama, Hiroaki Nanba: “Effect of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) D-Fraction on the Control of the T-Lymph Node Th-1/Th-2 Proportion”; Biol. Pharm. Bull. 25(4) 536-540 (2002)
  • Prof. Dr. med. Ivo Bianchi: “Moderne Mykotherapie”; Hinckel Druck, 2008
  • Hobbs, C.: “Medicinal Mushrooms”; Botanica Press, 1995

Note: the described effects are based on taking medicinal mushroom powder made from the whole mushroom. Please consult your therapist before use.

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