A powerful mushroom medicine
Maitake, Hen-of-the-woods, Grifola frondosa
During the summer months, my family and I love foraging for medicinal plants in the forests and meadows near our house. Once you start to learn which plant is which, it’s really fun to gather your own remedies.
But it’s not just the green stuff that can help us heal — there’s another category of forest dwellers that are packed with mood-lifting and immune-supporting nutrients that can transform your health.
Now, before we dive into this mysterious realm of natural medicine, I want to first make it very clear that foraging for mushrooms is dangerous and you should not harvest mushrooms from the wild without the guidance of a trained professional.
That said, these fun-guys (mushroom pun) are nutritional powerhouses, and many of them have been used since time immemorial to treat all manner of serious illnesses – including cancer.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to one safe and readily available mushroom whose cancer healing properties make it a medicinal force. I’m talking about maitake.
You might know maitake as Hen of the Woods or The Dancing Mushroom, coined for the way it grows at the base of oak trees. Well, scientists are beginning to discover that this little mushroom comes with some big healing benefits…
After years of studies, this VIP mushroom has proven to be an amazing preventative. It’s so powerful, in fact, that maitake extract is being tested for its cancer-fighting ability. Early tests have yielded promising results, particularly with breast cancer.
Maitake can slow tumor growth by inhibiting a cancerous cell’s ability to produce its own blood vessels, slowly starving and shrinking the tumor. It’s also used to curb the nasty side effects that come with chemotherapy.
One of the main healing constituents in maitake is beta-glucan, which regulates your immune system to kill off existing bacteria, viruses and fungi. Beta-glucan, which is usually found in oats and other fibrous foods, is currently being studied as an anti-cancer remedy. Preliminary animal studies show that beta-glucan stops the spread of cancer by triggering an immune response to fight off foreign cells.
Maitake is also a hepatic which means that it detoxifies your body while ensuring that your liver is protected. As the main organ that purifies your blood and detoxifies chemicals and drugs, it’s important for those diagnosed with cancer to keep the liver running in tip top shape (especially for those who have chosen the chemo route).
Among it’s many other benefits: maitake is rich in fiber which lowers cholesterol, regulates bathroom trips and can help maintain your body’s insulin response. It’s protein, calcium, and iron content makes for strong bones, muscles and tissues, and its B vitamins and vitamin D2 help your body convert food into energy.
It also supplies the copper, potassium, magnesium and selenium your body needs to keep up communication within your nervous system.
With all these amazing benefits, adding maitake to your regular diet is a no-brainer… at least for me. It’s completely safe to consume, so you can throw it into your dishes whenever you need a boost!
My family and I love adding this woody, mild taste to our stews and sauces — particularly during flu season. Since maitake boosts your immune system, it gives us that extra nutritive push to get better.
For an easy way to prepare this powerhouse mushroom, here’s a nourishing (and delicious!) maitake tea recipe:
Maitake Chai Tea
- maitake strips
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 peppercorns
- 5-8 cloves
- 10 cardamom pods
- a chunk of ginger
- 3 cups of water
- 3 cups milk or milk substitute
- sweetener if you so choose
- Soak Maitake in water for 30+ minutes
- Simmer Maitake in a pot for 10 minutes
- Add remaining herbs, simmer another 10 minutes
- Strain out the liquid
- Return liquid to the pot
- Add milk and warm to your preference
You can easily find maitake in most health food stores, either fresh or dried — both forms of this special mushroom have healing benefits that just may improve your life.
Again, please do not pick mushrooms from your yard or nature trails without a trained guide. If you’re uncertain about a mushroom, leave it be.