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Shiitake (Lentinan edodes)

Common name: Hua gu

Parts used and where grown: Wild shiitake mushrooms are native to Japan, China, and other Asian countries and typically grow on fallen broadleaf trees. Shiitake is widely cultivated throughout the world, including the United States. The fruiting body is used medicinally.

In what conditions might shiitake be supportive?

¥ chemotherapy support

¥ hepatitis

¥ HIV support

Historical or traditional use: Shiitake has been revered in Japan and China as both a food and medicinal herb for thousands of years. Wu Ri, a famous physician from the Chinese Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644), wrote extensively about this mushroom, noting its ability to increase energy, cure colds, and eliminate worms.1

Active constituents: Shiitake contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, soluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, shiitakeÕs key ingredientÑfound in the fruiting bodyÑis a polysaccharide called lentinan. Commercial preparations employ the powdered mycelium of the mushroom before the cap and stem grow; this is called LEM (lentinan edodes mycelium extract). LEM is also rich in polysaccharides and lignans.

Research indicates that LEM helps decrease chronic hepatitis B infectivity, as measured by specific liver and blood markers. A highly purified intravenous form of lentinan has been employed in Japan for the treatment of recurrent stomach cancer, which increases survival with this cancer (particularly when used in combination with chemotherapy). These effects may be due to shiitakeÕs ability to stimulate specific types of white blood cells called T-lymphocytes. Case reports from Japan are also highly suggestive that lentinan is helpful in treating individuals with HIV infection. However, large-scale clinical trials have not yet been performed confirming this action.2

How much should I take? The traditional intake of the whole, dried shiitake mushroom, in soups or as a decoction, is 6-16 grams per day. For LEM, the intake is 1-3 grams two to three times per day until the condition being treated improves. As LEM is the more concentrated and hence more potent extract, it is preferred over the crude mushroom. Tincture, in the amount of 2-4 ml per day, can also be used.

Are there any side effects or interactions? Shiitake has an excellent record of safety but has been known to induce temporary diarrhea and abdominal bloating when used in high dosages. Its safety during pregnancy has not yet been established.


1. Jones K. Shiitake: The Healing Mushroom. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1995. 2. Hobbs C. Medicinal Mushrooms. Santa Cruz, CA: Botanica Press, 1995, 125-8.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

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