Shiitake Mushroom Benefits

Shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes) is a edible fungus native to Japan, China, and Korea. Shiitake mushrooms are the second most commonly cultivated edible mushrooms in the world. This mushroom has been licensed as a anti-cancer drug by the Japanese FDA and extracts from the mushroom are used in herbal remedies. They are valued both for their flavor as well as their medicinal benefits.

Recent studies have traced shiitakes' legendary benefits to an active compound contained in these mushrooms called lentinan. Among lentinan's healing benefits is its ability to build up the immune system, strengthening its ability to fight infection and disease.

Lentinan (which is the name given a highly purified polysaccharide fraction extracted from Shiitake mushrooms,) is a beta glucan that is found in several mushrooms, bakers' yeasts, and other foods. A polysaccharide is a large and complex molecule made up of smaller sugar molecules. The beta-glucan polysaccharide is believed to stimulate the immune system and activate certain cells and proteins that attack cancer, including macrophages, T-cells, and natural killer cells (types of white blood cells). In lab studies, beta glucan appears to slow the growth of cancer in some cell cultures.

In Japan, mushroom extracts have become the leading prescription treatment for cancer. Lentinan is not only useful for cancer treatment, but may also prevent the increase of chromosomal damage induced by anti-cancer drugs. With lentinan there are no known side effects of any serious nature.

A compound contained in shiitake mushrooms, lentinan, is believed to stop or slow tumor growth. Another component, activated hexose containing compound, is also said to reduce tumor activity and lessen the side effects of cancer treatment.

Shiitake Found to be Top Food Source of Potent Antioxidant

L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant, has been discovered in mushrooms, thanks to a new analytical method capable of identifying this antioxidant in plant material. In research presented at the 2005 American Chemical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., an American research team revealed that mushrooms contain higher concentrations L-ergothioneine than either of the two dietary sources previously believed to contain the most: chicken liver and wheat germ.

Shiitake is also rich in several other anti-oxidants (Selenium, Uric acid & Vitamin A, E, & C). They also provide us with essential vitamins and minerals, among them A,B, B12, C, D and Niacin. As a functional food, Shiitake mushrooms have all eight essential amino acids in a higher, more condensed proportion than soy beans, meat, milk or eggs.

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