Commonly called ‘hen of the woods’ or ‘sheeps head’ in the west, in Japan the maitake is known as the ‘dancing mushroom.’ One reason for this name derives from a legend that in ancient times those who found maitakes growing wild in the woods would dance with joy upon discovering them because they were worth their weight in silver. The name dancing mushroom is also thought to have come from the mushroom’s appearance, whose delicate looking layered edges resembles the wings of a collection of dancing butterflies.
Like many other medicinal mushrooms, maitake has a long history of use as a food, medicine and tonic, especially in areas of eastern Asia like Japan and China where it has been used by traditional healers for thousands of years.
This beautiful mushroom can be found growing wild in a variety of regions around the world, primarily in parts of Asia, Europe and the eastern areas of the US. Wild specimens of this perennial fungus can often be found growing in the same location year after year, although effective cultivation techniques have been developed in recent decades, making fresh maitakes increasingly available in many areas commercially.
Maitake is a soft bodied, edible polypore that grows from roots of stumps and trees, often oaks and has multiple wavy, fan shaped caps that protrude from its stalks to form a distinctive rosette shaped fruiting cluster.
The size of these maitake clusters can range from a few inches wide to nearly two feet across. They’re generally tan or a light grayish brown on the top and creamy white underneath, while their texture is very soft and velvety to the touch.
Nourishing Culinary Delicacy
Maitakes have a mild, woodsy taste and meaty texture and make a delicious addition to soups, stews and stir fries, and can also be simply sauteed in oil, ghee or butter and eaten on their own or as a side dish.
They’re rich in minerals, including the macro-minerals magnesium, potassium and calcium as well as trace elements such as copper and selenium, and also contain amino acids, vitamins D2, B2 and niacin, and polysaccharides.
D-Fraction – Polysaccharide Extract
An extract of the maitake mushroom’s beta glucan polysaccharides, called D-fraction, has been the focus of a variety if different scientific studies that demonstrate its effectiveness in treating several different ailments. And like the majority of other medicinal mushrooms, maitakes are well known for their immune bolstering qualities
Clinical evidence shows that due to its anti-tumor properties, D-fraction has potential for use as a treatment for breast cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and others.
Scientific data has also demonstrated this extract’s potential usefulness in helping to regulate blood pressure in those suffering from hypertension, in modulating blood sugar in diabetics, as well as its effectiveness in helping to balance cholesterol levels.
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