Parts Used & Where Grown
Wild shiitake mushrooms are native to Japan, China, and other Asian countries and typically grow on fallen broadleaf trees. Shiitake is now widely cultivated throughout the world, including the United States. The fruiting body is used medicinally.
How It Works
Shiitake contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, soluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, shiitake’s key ingredient—found in the fruiting body—is a polysaccharide called lentinan. Commercial preparations employ the powdered mycelium of the mushroom before the cap and stem grow. This preparation is called lentinus edodes mycelium extract (LEM). LEM is rich in polysaccharides and lignans.
One preliminary trial suggested that oral shiitake may be useful for people with hepatitis B.1 A highly purified, intravenous form of lentinan is used in Japan and has been reported to increase survival in people with recurrent stomach cancer, particularly when used in combination with chemotherapy.2 Similar findings have been found in one small clinical trial with people suffering from pancreatic cancer.3 Case reports from Japan suggest that intravenous lentinan may be helpful in treating people with HIV infection.4 However, large-scale clinical trials to confirm this action have not yet been performed.
Oral supplementation of lentinan from shiitake has been shown to significantly reduce the recurrence rate of genital warts (condyloma acuminata). A preliminary trial involving a group of men and women with genital warts found that those who took 12.5 mg of lentinan twice a day for two months after laser surgery had significantly fewer recurrences (10.53% recurrence rate) compared to those who only had the laser surgery (47.06% recurrence rate).5