You're probably familiar with the shiitake mushroom. This fungus is edible, tasty, used in many dishes, and easy to find in your local grocery store. However, you might not be as familiar with how shiitake mushrooms benefit your health.*
In this article, we'll explore the main health benefits of shiitake mushrooms and discuss how you can work this fungus into your wellness regimen, either by cooking with it, taking a capsule, or using a mushroom powder.
But before we get there, let's look at what shiitake mushrooms are and where and how they grow.
What Are Shiitake Mushrooms?
Scientifically known by the name Lentinus edodes or Lentinula edodes, shiitake mushrooms are tan or brown and typically measure two to four inches in diameter. They boast the typical umbrella shape that comes to mind when we think of mushrooms, unlike more unusual-looking mushrooms such as Cordyceps or Chaga.
Grown on hardwoods in East Asia, with over 83 percent produced in Japan, shiitake spores thrive when they land on dead or fallen trees or limbs. Found wild or farmed, they build a hidden mycelial network that creates fruiting bodies, the above-ground part of the mushroom that we forage and eat.
Aside from being delicious, shiitake mushrooms are packed full of vitamins and nutrients essential for your body. Consuming four dried shiitake mushrooms will give you the following nutrients:
- Calories: 44
- Carbohydrates: 11 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Calcium: 2 mg
- Riboflavin: 11% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Niacin: 11% DV
- Copper: 39% DV
- Vitamin B5: 33% DV
- Selenium: 10% DV
- Manganese: 9% DV
- Potassium: 15% DV
- Zinc: 8% DV
- Vitamin B6: 7% DV
- Folate: 6% DV
- Vitamin D: 6% DV
These mushrooms are unique in containing linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid) and all eight essential amino acids. They are among the few foods (including many fish) that contain natural vitamin D (primarily vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol). REF#563 With these beneficial nutrients, it's no wonder the shiitake mushroom has a history of use in herbalism.
Shiitake Mushroom Benefits
Shiitake mushrooms were called "an elixir of life" in Chinese historical writings and were cultivated in central China during the 12th century. REF#563
In recent studies, dried shiitake and shiitake mushroom extract had agents that support immune health, skin health, and more. Often consumers wonder whether they should choose powdered mushrooms or tinctures. While both have many benefits, powders tend to be more bioavailable and concentrated.
The active compounds discovered in mushrooms have prompted studies and further research into their possible health benefits.
Support Immune Health*
One of the main benefits of shiitake is that it helps to support immune health.* This is primarily due to the polysaccharides called beta-glucans. Studies have shown that these polysaccharides support immune function, overall wellness, and normal, healthy cell growth and turnover.*
Additionally, it's important to remember that a healthy immune system is closely related to gut health. In an article titled "Mushrooms and Health Summit Proceedings," the authors note, "Preliminary evidence suggests that mushrooms may support healthy immune and inflammatory responses through interaction with the gut microbiota, supporting the development of adaptive immunity, and immune cell functionality."* REF#563
In a study conducted with 52 healthy adults, researchers found that regular consumption of Shiitake mushrooms resulted in healthy immunity, as seen by cell proliferation and activation.* REF#564 While more research and clinical studies are needed, we are excited by these promising results.*
Support Heart Health*
These mushrooms are naturally low in sodium and free of saturated fats. They contain compounds called eritadenine, sterols, and beta-glucans that may help maintain lower cholesterol levels, making them a great addition to a heart-friendly diet.* REF#565
One study found that powdered shiitake could support healthy blood pressure. REF#566 Another study in rats fed a high-fat diet showed that shiitake combatted fatty liver and arterial plaque when consumed in five to 20 percent doses. REF#567 More research and clinical trials are the next step to verify these claims.
Side Effects and Precautions
While these are edible mushrooms, shiitake dermatitis is a dermal (skin) reaction that appears as red lines or scratches and develops from eating raw shiitake mushrooms. It is a toxic reaction to lentinan (a polysaccharide isolated from the body of shiitake), which decomposes when heated. REF#566 Always cook your raw mushrooms before eating.
Before using any herbal supplement, you should consult your doctor, especially if you are already taking medications or have a medical condition. Shiitake mushrooms can be an allergen. If you are unsure of an allergy, you can have a test done with your allergist.
Please be advised that Gaia Herbs mushroom supplements are not formulated or designed for use during pregnancy or lactation.
How To Experience Shiitake Mushroom Benefits
Many people cook with shiitake mushrooms regularly. That's one delicious way to reap the benefits of this fungus. Dried or fresh shiitake are quite popular in various dishes, specifically in Asian cuisine. Dried mushrooms are mainly for simmering dishes, like soups. Fresh mushrooms are delicious when grilled and make an excellent addition to stir-fries. It is important to know that mushrooms can lose some of their nutritional benefit when cooked.
Or, if you are not a fan of the taste or texture of mushrooms, you can easily take a capsule supplement or use a powder supplement that contains pure shiitake mushrooms and still reap the benefits from these fabulous fungi. Gaia Herbs has several mushroom blends to add to your routine including:
Immune Mushroom Blend
With a blend of five potent immune-supporting mushrooms — Reishi, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Shiitake, and Chaga — our Immune Mushroom Blend can help your body build its immune defenses to support your well-being all year long.*
The blend contains only organic fruiting bodies and nothing else, no fillers, starch, grains, or mycelium. And best of all, each vegan capsule contains 2,500 mg of dried mushrooms, so you get the support you need with just one capsule daily.*
Whole Body Support Mushrooms & Herbs*
Gaia Herbs Whole Body Support Mushrooms & Herbs is an award-winning formula designed to provide daily support to help people stay active.*
Use shiitake mushrooms via Whole Body Support Mushrooms & Herbs twice daily as part of your wellness regime.
Capsules are great for when you're on the go, but you can also easily add shiitake to your diet with a powder such as Gaia Herbs Everyday Adaptogen™. In addition to Shiitake mushrooms, this formula contains Maca, Astragalus, Cordyceps, Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, and Schisandra.
Between managing work, maintaining a home, and having a social life, it's easy to feel fatigued. But this beneficial blend of mushrooms and herbs is a simple way to help you maintain peak performance, as it supports your energy levels and stamina.*
To take Everyday Adaptogen™, simply mix it into your smoothie or a glass of milk. One teaspoon a day will do the trick, so you can easily add this USDA Certified Organic powder to your daily wellness regimen.
That way, you get all the health benefits of organic mushrooms plus herbs with no added fillers, flavors, or sweeteners.*
Source and Quality
Gaia Herbs sources the mushrooms used in our products from North American Medicinal Mushroom Extract (Nammex). Nammex operates Certified Organic growing and manufacturing operations in Qingyuan County, China. Often referred to as the best ecological environment in all of China, this is a remote, mountainous region far from highly populated cities and industrial manufacturing areas.
We can assure you that Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest sources for using mushrooms for health purposes. Gaia Herbs chose Nammex as our mushroom provider because their growing conditions are similar to the mushrooms' natural habitats.
Our mushrooms are harvested from their growing substrate, never incorporating any growing medium into the final product. This results in an organic supplement that, in the case of our line of mushroom capsules, is 100 percent mushrooms and nothing else — no fillers, starch, or grains with guaranteed levels of beneficial beta-glucans.* Our mushroom powders and herb and mushroom blend formulas are free of fillers, starch, and grains.
Our mushroom products have no mycelium, as we use only mushroom fruiting bodies (the above-ground part of the mushroom). Why? The concentration of potent biochemical compounds, such as beta-glucans, is highest in the fruiting body versus the mycelium.
Because we value transparency, we created our Meet Your Herbs® program at meetyourherbs.com, the world's first herb traceability platform.
Enter the ID number on the back of any Gaia Herbs product and instantly learn the manufacturing date and about each herb in your product — where it came from; how it was grown, harvested, and extracted; and see validation of your product's level of purity and potency.
Rest assured that our products are produced safely without pesticides and other toxins that can damage our bodies and the earth.
Shiitake Mushrooms for Your Well-Being*
This tiny mushroom is a mighty one. The shiitake mushroom can benefit your well-being significantly!*
It's easy to incorporate into your day-to-day routine. In addition to cooking it in various dishes, you can enjoy what this mushroom offers by taking a capsule or powdered dietary supplement containing Shiitake mushroom.
- 1. M.J. Feeney et al., "Mushrooms and Health Summit Proceedings", The Journal of Nutrition (2014). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056650 1 1. M.J. Feeney et al., "Mushrooms and Health Summit Proceedings", The Journal of Nutrition (2014). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056650
- 2. Xiaoshuang Dai et al, "Consuming Lentinula Edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults", Journal of the American College of Nutrition 34, no 6. (2015): 478-87. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25866155 2 2. Xiaoshuang Dai et al, "Consuming Lentinula Edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults", Journal of the American College of Nutrition 34, no 6. (2015): 478-87. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25866155
- 3. P.S. Bisen et al., "Lentinus edodes: A Macrofungus with Pharmacological Activities", Current Medicinal Chemistry 17 (2010): 2419-2430. https://www.doi.org/10.2174/092986710791698495 3 3. P.S. Bisen et al., "Lentinus edodes: A Macrofungus with Pharmacological Activities", Current Medicinal Chemistry 17 (2010): 2419-2430. https://www.doi.org/10.2174/092986710791698495
- 4. Mendonça CN, Silva PM, Avelleira JC, Nishimori FS, Cassia Fde F, "Shiitake dermatitis", An Bras Dermatol. 2015 Mar-Apr;90(2):276-8,. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4371686/ 4 4. Mendonça CN, Silva PM, Avelleira JC, Nishimori FS, Cassia Fde F, "Shiitake dermatitis", An Bras Dermatol. 2015 Mar-Apr;90(2):276-8,. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4371686/
- 5. Yang H, Hwang I, Kim S, Hong EJ, Jeung EB, "Lentinus edodes promotes fat removal in hypercholesterolemic mice", Exp Ther Med. 2013 Dec;6(6):1409-1413. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3829752/ 5 5. Yang H, Hwang I, Kim S, Hong EJ, Jeung EB, "Lentinus edodes promotes fat removal in hypercholesterolemic mice", Exp Ther Med. 2013 Dec;6(6):1409-1413. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3829752/