Maitake – Grifola frondosa

Chinese nameHui Shu Hua
English nameHen of the Woods

A popular gourmet mushroom, Grifola frondosa is also a highly regarded clinically, especially in cancer therapy.
As with other major anti-cancer mushrooms such as Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) and Trametes versicolor (Coriolus), polysaccharides have been shown to be the major active components of G. frondosa and several beta-glucan, heteropolysaccharide and proteoglycan fractions have been isolated with potent immunomodulatory action, including D-fraction and MD-fraction1-5.
Most of the clinical research has been carried out by one group of researchers in Japan, initially using D-fraction together with powdered fruiting body, later switching to the more bioactive MD-fraction, again in combination with powdered whole fruiting body.

CANCER – A 1997 paper by Nanba reported benefits from D-fraction taken together with whole fruiting body in a range of stage III-IV cancers with G. frondosa increasing the benefit of chemotherapy by an additional 12-28%6. The paper further reports synergistic benefits from combining D-fraction and Mitomycin C (MMC) in an animal tumour model with D-fraction (1mg/day) showing superior tumour inhibition to MMC (0.5mg/day) on its own.
A subsequent paper by Nanba et al reported impressive results for MD-fraction and whole G. frondosa fruiting body powder in cancer patients who had discontinued chemotherapy because of side effects with improvement in 7 of 12 liver cancer patients, 11 of 16 breast cancer patients and 5 of 8 lung cancer patients, together with increases in IL-2 (a major Th1 cytokine) and CD4+7.
Further studies confirmed alleviation of side effects from chemotherapy, including loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, hair loss and leukopaenia, as well as synergy between D-fraction and vitamin C2,7.

DIABETES – Various animal studies indicate benefit from G. frondosa in diabetes models but at high doses, in one case giving 1g/day G. frondosa powder to genetically diabetic mice and in another a purified alpha-glucan at a dose of 150-450mg/kg8,9.
In small scale clinical studies G. frondosa polysaccharide extract (dose unknown) was reported to control blood sugar levels in one patient and produce a 30% reduction in blood sugar levels in 4 other patients while inclusion of G. frondosa beta-glucans (150mg/day) in yoghurt produced significant improvement in blood glucose levels in 20 type II diabetes patients3,10.

POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME (PCOS) – In the majority of cases, PCOS is associated with some level of insulin resistance and G. frondosa polysaccharide extracts also show promise as agents for helping address this condition11.
In one Japanese study, ovulation was observed in 20 of the 26 women given a G. frondosa polysaccharide extract and 6 of 8 women who failed to ovulate after being treated with clomiphene citrate did so after being given the polysaccharide extract. In addition, all 3 women who expressed an interest in becoming pregnant were able to do so12.

CHOLESTEROL – Inclusion of G. frondosa in the diet of experimental animals at 5-20% of feed produces reductions in cholesterol consistent with the results seen in other mushrooms13.

HYPERTENSION – A number of studies report short-lived hypotensive action for G. frondosa included in the diet of hypertensive animals (typically 5% of feed)14-16.

Main Therapeutic Application – Cancer, PCOS.
Key Component – Polysaccharides.
Dose – The optimum dose of D-fraction/MD-fraction in animal studies is reported to be 1mg/kg i.p. with human trials using D-fraction/MD-fraction at oral doses of 35-150mg/day in combination with 4-6g/day G. frondosa fruiting body.

1. A polysaccharide extracted from Grifola frondosa enhances the anti-tumour activity of bone marrow-derived dendritic cell-based immunotherapy against murine colon cancer. Masuda Y, Ito K, Konishi M, Nanba H. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2010;59(10):1531–1541.
2. Maitake extracts and their therapeutic potential – A review. Mayell M. Alt Med Rev. 2001;6(1):48–60.
3. Grifola frondosa (Dicks.: Fr.) S.F. Gray (Maitake Mushroom): medicinal properties, active compounds, and biotechnological cultivation. Boh B, Berovic MM. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2007;9(2):89–108.
4. Anti tumour activity of orally administered d-fraction from Maitake (Grifola frondosa). Nanba H. J Naturopathic Medicine. 1993;4(1):10–15.
5. Oral administration of soluble β-glucans extracted from Grifola frondosa induces systemic antitumor immune response and decreases immunosuppression in tumor-bearing mice. Masuda Y, Inoue H, Ohta H, Miyake A, Konishi M, Nanba H. Int J Cancer. 2013;133(1):108–119.
6. Maitake D-fraction: healing and preventive potential for cancer. Nanba H. J Orthomol Med. 1997;12(1):43–49.
7. Can Maitake MD-fraction aid cancer patients? Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H. Alt Med Rev. 2002;7(3):236–239.
8. Anti-diabetic activity present in the fruit body of Grifola frondosa (Maitake). I. Kubo K, Aoki H, Nanba H. Biol Pharm Bull. 1994;17(8):1106–1110.
9. Anti-diabetic effect of an alpha-glucan from fruit body of maitake (Grifola frondosa) on KK-Ay mice. Hong L, Xun M, Wutong W. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2007;59(4):575–582.
10. Anti-cancer and hypoglycemic effects of polysaccharides in edible and medicinal Maitake mushroom [Grifola frondosa (Dicks.: Fr.) S. F. Gray]. Konno S, Aynehchi S, Dolin DJ, Schwartz AM, Choudhury MS, Tazaki H. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2002;4(3):185–195.
11. Polycystic ovary syndrome: a complex condition with psychological, reproductive and metabolic manifestations that impacts on health across the lifespan. Teede H, Deeks A, Moran L. BMC Medicine. 2010;8:41.
12. Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) extract induces ovulation in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a possible monotherapy and a combination therapy after failure with first-line clomiphene citrate. Chen JT, Tominaga K, Sato Y, Anzai H, Matsuoka R. J Alt Comp Med. 2010;16(12):1295–1299.
13. Anti-hyperliposis effect of Maitake fruit body (Grifola frondosa). I. Kubo K, Nanba H. Biol Pharm Bull. 1997;20(7):781–785.
14. Blood pressure lowering activity present in the fruit body of Grifola frondosa (maitake). Adachi K, Nanba H, Otsuka M, Kuroda H. Chem Pharm Bull. 1988;36(3):1000–1006.
15. Effect of shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms on blood pressure and plasma lipids in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Kabir Y, Yamaguchi M, Kimua S. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 1987;33(5):341–346.
16. Dietary mushrooms reduce blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). Kabir Y, Kimura S. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 1989;35(1):91–94.