Long a symbol of longevity in Asia because of their health-promoting properties, shiitake mushrooms have been used medicinally by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years.
No health benefit is better documented for shiitake mushroom than immune support. In fact, the immune support track record for this mushroom is fascinating. Shiitake mushrooms appear able to enhance immune function in both directions, giving it a boost when needed, and cutting back on its activity when needed.
Cardiovascular benefits of shiitake mushrooms have been documented in three basic areas of research. The first of these areas is cholesterol reduction. Another basic area of cardiovascular support involves the interaction between our cardiovascular system and our immune system. A final basic area of cardiovascular benefits involves antioxidant support. Chronic oxidative stress in our cardiovascular system (ongoing, oxygen-based damage to our blood vessel linings) is a critical factor in the development of clogged arteries (atherosclerosis) and other blood vessel problems. One of the best ways for us to reduce our risk of chronic oxidative stress is consumption of a diet rich in antioxidant nutrients. Shiitake mushrooms are a very good source of three key antioxidant minerals: manganese, selenium, and zinc.
Anti-Cancer Benefits Lot of research on shiitake mushrooms and cancer has been conducted. Based on research to date, we believe that adding shiitake mushrooms to your diet is likely to offer you anti-cancer benefits, especially with respect to prevention of prostate cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Scientists are now convinced that shiitake provides many non-polysaccharide substances that have anti-tumor effects.
Other Benefits The special combination of antioxidants found in shiitake mushrooms together with their highly flexible support for immune system function make them a natural candidate for providing us with protection from a variety of problems involving oxidative stress and immune function. This includes rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an area that has begun to interest shiitake mushroom researchers.
Medicinal extracts from shiitake mushrooms have well-documented effects on a variety of micro-organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses (including human immunodeficiency virus-1, or HIV-1). While we have yet to see large-scale human studies on whole food intake of shiitake mushrooms and decreased susceptibility to colds, flu or other problems related to unwanted activity of micro-organisms, this is a very likely area for future food research and discovery of health benefits.