MAITAKE: THE KING OF MUSHROOMS
Dr. Andrew Well, one of the most prominent figures in the field of
alternative medicine, praised the "king of mushrooms"
in a 1993 article in Natural Henltlz (May/June): "Research on the therapeutic
properties of maitake is better and more extensive than that on other
This mushroom is delicious." In his recent book 8 Weeks To Optinrum HeaIth
notes that "My tonic of choice at the moment is an extract called Maitake D-fraction, which concentrates the immune-boosting
constituents ... and since I've been [using it] I almost
never get colds."
The chemical structure of maitake's polysaccharide compound is slightly different from beta-glucans found in other medicinal mushrooms: Known as beta 1,6 glucan, it is recognized by researchers as the most effective active agent stimulating cellular immune responses.
Immunostimulant activity, in terms of tumor growth inhibition ratio, has been found to be potent among many medicinal and edible mushrooms, including shiitake (Lentinus edodes), oyster (Pleurotus ostereatus), and enoki (Flammulina velutipes). Figure 1 shows how much each type of immune-competent cell is activated by maitake. Activity of natural killer cells and cytotoxic T-cells was increased from 1.5 to 3.0 times by oral or intraperitoneal administration of maitake. Also seen was an increase of production of interleukin-1, which activates T-cells, and superoxide anions, which damage tumor cells.
Recent studies with maitake investigated the "D-fraction," which appears to be the most active form of
beta-glucan. The Maitake D-fraction is a
protein-bound extract developed by Professor Hiroaki Namba,
Ph.D. of Kobe Pharmaceutical University in
Japan. D-fraction has also been confirmed to
be the optimal choice for oral administration, demonstrating the same
effectiveness (or better) as injection (Table 1).
The antitumor activity (tumor inhibition ratio) of D-fraction is surprisingly potent and far superior to Lentinan (shiitake extract), PSK (kawaratake extract) or reishi extract (Table 2). Furthermore, PSK, the@world's best-selling cancer drug, is not effective on its own." For this reason, Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry instructs doctors to combine PSK with other chemotherapeutic agents. Peter D'Adamo, N.D. of Greenwich, Connecticut theorizes that maitake may also have a potentiating effect on shark cartilage supplements which are thought to inhibit angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors).
Preventing the spread (metastasis) of cancer from one area of the body to another is an important concern in cancer treatment. Dr. Nanba conducted a study in which mice were injected with cancer cells.@The mice were then divided into three groups and fed (A) a control (normal) diet; (B) a diet consisting of 20% maitake powder; or (C) a control diet, but with additional injections of 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight of D-fraction. The result of the experiment is shown in Figure 2. It was observed that metastasis was prevented by 81.3% in the maitake-fed group and by 91.3% in the group fed D-fraction, while there was no inhibition. Whatever in the group receiving the regular diet.
Dr. Nanba also wanted to determine if maitake
could prevent cancer from developing in normal cells. Three groups of mice were
fed (A) a control diet, (B) a diet with 20% maitake
powder or (C) oral administration of 1 mg /kg of D-fraction. The mice were then given a carcinogenic
chemical three times at seven-day intervals.
After 60 days, the tumors that developed in the liver were counted. Figure 3 shows that the occurrence rate of liver cancer in the D-fraction group (C) and the 20% maitake-fed group (B) were 9.7% and 22.2% respectively while that of the control group (A) was 100%.' The results of this study suggest that maitake may be helpful in reducing cancer risk from the numerous chemical carcinogens in our environment.
ENHANCEMENT OF CHEMOTHERAPY
A recent study by Dr. Nanba compared D-fraction with mitomycin-C (MMC), one of the strongest and widely-used chemotherapeutic drugs. With just a small dose, the maitake extract produced approximately an 80% tumor shrinkage in mice compared to 30% with MMC. When D-fraction and MMC were combined in half-doses, an astonishing 98% tumor shrinkage was achieved demonstrating an apparent synergy between the two agents (Figure 4).
Figure 5 shows the results of a nonrandomized study of the efficacy of maitake against various advanced cancers presented by Dr.
Nanba at the Adjuvant Nutrition in Cancer Treatment Symposium in Tampa, Florida
in October, 1995."' The 165 patients who participated in the study were given
Maitake D-fraction, 35 to 100 mg per day, along with
crude powder tablets only, or D-fraction accompanied
by standard chemotherapy.
Although this was not a blind, placebo-controlled study, the results suggest that breast, lung and liver cancers are more favorably affected by maitake treatment than cancers of the bone, stomach or blood (leukemia).
It is important to note that many severe side effects of chemotherapy for all types of cancer were ameliorated when maitake was included in with conventional treatment (Figure. 6).
Symptoms such as nausea, hair loss and leukopenia (deficiency of white blood cells) were alleviated in 90% of the patients. Reduction of the pain was also reported by 83% of the patients. When closing his presentation at the symposium, Dr. Nanba observed: "Though it cannot be said that Maitake D-fraction and tablets are the cancer cure, one can safely say that they do maintain the quality of life of patients and improve the immune system, resulting in the possible remission of cancer cells with no side effects."
Here are some typical clinical cases presented by Dr.
Namba at above symposium,showing improvement by
oral administration of Maitake D-fraction and tablets:
(1) 51 years old, male, stage III liver cancer:
He had received Adriamycin (ADM) since 1993, but refused it because of insufficient effectiveness and severe side effects. He has been taking 35 mg of D-fraction and 4 grams of crude tablets per day.
Eight months later, the level of biiirubin and albumin are improved. Bilirubin reduced to 1.8 mg/dl rom 4.7 mg/dl. Albumin improved from 2.1 g/dl to 3.7 g/dl and the prothrombin activation was increased to 920/0 from 36%. His doctor reclassified his stage from stage III to II.
(2) 56 years old, female, stage III liver cancer
She was diagnosed in stage III with serum bilirubin of 3.5 mg/dl, albumin of 2.8 g/dl and prothrombin activation of 48%. Diameter of tumor was more than 2 cm and metastases to lymph nodes were observed. She received transcatheter arterial embolization (TAE) in January, 1994 and was then administered chemotherapeutic drugs such as ADM, Cisplatin (CDDP) and 5-FU, but did not show any improvement. In December, 1994, she started taking 55 mg of D-fraction and 6 g of maitake tablets every day. As of July, 1995, value of bilirubin was 2.7, albumin 3.1 and prothrombin activation 63%. She improved and re-classified as stage I.
(3) 53 years old, female, stage III lung cancer
In November, 1993, she was diagnosed as stage III-A. Chemotherapeutic drugs CDDP 80 mg/m, CPA 350 mg/m and ADM 50 mg/m2 were administered.
However, she gave up taking those in March, 1994 because of severe side effects. Since then she has switched to taking 50 mg of D-fraction and 4 g of tablets. After 14 months, she improved to stage I.
(4) 71 years old, male, stage IV lung cancer
He was diagnosed as advanced stage IV and told by his doctors that he had three months to live at most. He could not take chemotherapeutics. But he could take 70 mg of D-fraction and 9 g of tablets every day.
Unfortunately, he died 20 months later. However, tumor size was reduced and the overall symptoms improved, being diagnosed as stage III-A before he died. Tumors that had metastasized in remote areas disappeared. He did not claim to feel much pain.
Though he died, it appears that the maitake contributed to extending his life for 17 months beyond his doctors' estimate.
(5) 45 years old, female, breast cancer
ER + (Estrogen receptor positive) was observed on this patient, who had 1.8 cm dian~eter of tumor. In April, 1992, she underwent surgical removal of one breast. Then she received chemotherapy including 5-FU and ADM until February, 1994, but cancer recurrence (diameter of 0.9 cm) was found in April, 1994.
She refused to take surgery this time and started taking 100 mg of D-fraction and 5 g of maitake tablets every day. After 6 months, the dose of D-fraction reduced to 50 mg a day. In May, 1995, complete regression of the recurred tumor was confirmed by her physician.
(6) 44 years old, male, brain tumor
This is an example of D-fraction working very well. The patient has taken 100 mg of D-fraction and 6 g of maitake tablets every day for four months without taking any other medication, including chemotherapy and radiation. He had received chemotherapy (Lomustine: CCNU) 135 mg for four cycles, beginning in February, 1994. Because of severe side effects, no treatment was given for four months before starting maitake administration. After four months, the chicken egg-sized brain tumor was confirmed by MRI to have completely disappeared .
Two U.S. Cases
Some practitioners in the United States also confirmed the effectiveness of Maitake D-fraction against brain tumor patients, though not as dramatically as in case (6), above .
Robert M. Murphy, N.D. of Connecticut has used Maitake D-fraction on his patients and has seen improvements in brain tumor patients:
I had agreed to do an uncontrolled in-office study of administering Maitake D-fraction 200 mg BID [twice a day] to a 44-Lear-old patient with mucinous adenocarcinoma of the brain. He had been given this diagnosis May 18, 1994 and it was also revealed that he had a tumor in the proximal left femur. He was initially treated with Decadion to reduce brain edema and whole brain radiation consisting of 10 sessions of 300 rads. On August 8, 1994, I started this gentleman on Maitake D-fraction 200 mg BID, Larix occidentalis powder, one tablespoon BID, Echinacea tincture 60 drops BID, vitamin A 50,000 IU per day, multiple antioxidants
(C, E, selenium, and beta-carotene) BID, vitamin C 1 gram BID and CO-Q10 300 mg/day.
I phoned this gentleman on November 23, 1994. He was feeling well and had a
repeat MRI done on October 19, 1994, which demonstrated significant improvement
and reduction of tumor size. I have included copies of the before and after
MRIs. This patient would like to continue on Maitake
The cause for improvement is uncertain . Maitake D-fraction may well have played a part in this. Therefore, I would recommend he continue on Maitake D-fraction.
This patient's November 19, 1994 MRI report read in part:
In another case, a patient suffering from prostate cancer submitted blood tests showing that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) had come down from 9.0 to 0.01 in six months. He was on maitake mushroom alone. His medical report for July 27, 1994 shows the PSA as "9.0," with a reference range of 0.0 to 4.0. Then on September 7, 1994 another lab test revealed it as less than 0.3. The tests were repeated and results were verified. Another test on November 2 showed 0.02 ng/mL and another on February 2, 1995 showed 0.01 ng/mL.
A HEALTH REVELATION
In the June 1994 issue of his newsletter, Health Revelations, Robert
Atkins, M.D. wrote, "RaIph Moss, author of several excellent books on cancer and
alternative therapies, has researched more than 100 natural, effective cancer
therapies. You'd think that he'd have a tough time identifying the most
promising one, but when I asked him to do just that, he replied with just two
words: medicinal mushrooms,"
In his July 1996 issue, Dr. Atkins noted: "Some two years have passed since I last wrote about what may be the best of [cancer antagonists], maitake mushrooms. Since then, some significant scientific advances have elevated the fungus even higher on my list of safe anti-cancer agents."
HIV AND AIDS
Maitake's anti-HIV properties have been recognized
in both Japan and the U.S. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) confirmed the
efficacy of D-fraction against HIV early in 1992,"
(Figure 7) one year after the National Institute of Health Uapan) announced the
same conclusion." This result indicated that D-fraction can prevent HIV-infected helper T-cells from
being destroyed by as much as 97% in vitro. This is very important because
measuring a patient's helper T-cell count is considered as a benchmark in
monitoring the progression of HIV to full-blown AIDS.
Moreover, the researchers at NCI admitted that the maitake extract is as powerful as AZT (a commonly prescribed drug for AIDS, and the only FDA-approved drug at the time) but without the toxic side effects associated with AZT. These prestigious research institutes confirmed in test-tube experiments that D-fraction enhances the activity of other immune cells as well as T lymphocytes. Since then, a number of practitioners involved in AIDS/HIV treatment have reported favorable responses in patients, including increases in helper T-cells and reversal of HIV-positive status to HIV-negative. This feedback supports what the studies show. Some physicians are also applying D-fraction extract topically as a treatment for Kaposi's sarcoma, a skin cancer which often develops in AIDS patients.
The pioneers who developed such treatments are two American AIDS researchers; Dr. Joan Priestley (Omni Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska) and Dr. David Hughes (Hyperbaric Oxygen lInstitute in San Bernardino, California). Dr. Priestley has found considerable improvement in her HIV/AIDS patients taking maitake. She has found that her patients' T-lymphocyte cell counts have stabilized or increased over the course of treatment. She has also found D-fraction to be a more effective treatment than maitake tablets alone. She states that "I have used maitake products on my patients for some time now and have been very impressed with the results. Topical application produced good regression of Kaposi's sarcoma lesions in one AIDS patient a major accomplishment."
Dr. David Hughes has focused his research on treating Kaposi's sarcoma, an often fatal skin condition that effects 40% of HIV/AIDS patients. According to Dr. Hughes, Maitake D-fraction may be applied directly to the Kaposi's sarcoma lesions; he reports that lesions have disappeared within several days. Dr. Hughes recommends the following treatment:
One of Dr. Hughes's patients has claimed that his HIV-positive status was turned to negative by his use of maitake. On July 14, 1994, he tested positive for HIV, but a follow-up test result dated August 23 showed HIV- negative. His diary shows the progress of his improvement:
It seems undeniably evident that Maitake D-fraction played a major role in this patient's improvement by enhancing his overall immune activity.
Diabetes affects 16 million Americans, of whom approximately 95% are non-insulin dependent (Type II). Diabetes can cause death and is a risk factor for other diseases, including atherosclerosis, kidney disease and loss of nerve function. Recent studies indicate that maitake can control blood glucose levels by reducing insulin resistance and enhancing insulin sensitivity.
Figure 8 shows the results of a test on mice that have an obesity gene and
are genetically diabetic. On a regular diet, the blood glucose level of these
mice increases as well as their body weight. If maitake is mixed with the feed (20%), however, biomarkers
such as blood glucose, insulin and triglycerides and body weight are maintained
at a significantly lower level.
Following this test, a crossover test was also conducted, in which the feed was altered at the beginning of 5th week, from maitake-enriched feed to the normal feed for one group, and vice versa. Blood glucose of mice in the control group, which had risen to 400 mg/dl, decreased to 230 mg/dl the week after the administration of the maitake feed began. After two weeks, it decreased further to 155 mg/dl, which was below the start-up level. The levels of insulin and triglycerides demonstrated similar changes as the group's diet was altered from normal feed to maitake feed. The researchers concluded that the changes in glucose values were caused by the administration of the maitake feed prior to the change in body weight and that maitake is effective in reducing glucose levels, insulin resistance and triglycerides in diabetic mice.
There are a number of drugs available on the market intended to ameliorate
the symptoms of type II diabetes. Unfortunately, none of them is without adverse
effects. Most of the drugs operate by stimulating beta-cells of the islands of
Langerhans in the pancreas to promote the secretion of insulin. The problem is
that, although the insulin supply may be replenished for a while, pancreatic
function would eventually decline, resulting in exhaustion of insulin
Just recently, some pharmaceutical giants in the United States and Japan have succeeded in obtaining governmental approval in both countries for the marketing of a new type of drug. Troglitazone, to improve glucose transport in the body tissue. However, there are unresolved questions about the drug's possible potential for carcinogenicity and for promoting cataract formation.
Dr. Nanba and his research group have successfully isolated an active ingredient from maitake which may increase insulin sensitivity and improve glucose transport and bioavailability for optimum use by body tissues. And, as mentioned previously, maitake is free from the side effects often associated with conventional drug treatment.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Administration of maitake to hypertensive rats has also been studied (Table 3). When fed maitake, blood pressure was reduced by 50 mmgHg compared to controls on a regular diet after 4 days. Further, a one-time feeding of an ether-soluble extract of maitake showed a remarkable result. In just 4 hours, blood pressure was lowered from 200 mmgHg to 115.
Abram Ber, M.D. of Scottsdale, Arizona, treated over 30 patients with maitake during a period of two to three months. He states,
"When on medication, the blood pressure is all over the place, but with maitake mushroom there is a gradual decrease in blood
pressure toward normalcy. Further, there are absolutely no side effects." Dr.
Ber's treatment program includes 3 grams of whole dried maitake per day for the first week, 4 grams per day for the
second week, then 5 grams per day as blood pressure indicates.
"Sometimes," he says, "blood pressure is dose-related."
S. Gerson, M.D., Director of the Foundation for Holistic Medical Research in New York City, has also conducted studies on maitake's effectiveness in lowering blood pressure.
Hypertensive people taking prescription drugs often experience unpleasant
side effects such as nausea, dizziness and headache.
Dr. Gerson concluded that "I was left with a strong suspicion that maitake does indeed reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients."
Michael Williams, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer of Cancer Treatment Centers of America shared his own experience of maitake's blood pressure-lowering activity:
He cautioned, however, to avoid large doses on an empty stomach with beer.
This may cause some severe hypotensive (low blood pressure) responses.
It should be pointed out that for lowering high blood pressure, or for adaptogenic use, you need to take whole maitake mushroom, rather than the fractionated extract, which contains only isolated compounds.
HIGH CHOLESTEROL AND
One of the chief causes of death and disability among elderly people today is atherosclerosis. There is no doubt that the high-calorie and high-cholesterol American diet has contributed heavily to the incidence of serious degenerative diseases such as stroke and heart attack. Also, the lipid compounds called triglycerides are known to be strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases, especially in older women. In an animal test using rats which were fed (1) a regular diet, (2) one containing 5b/o shiitake or (3) one containing 5% maitake, the maitake-fed group experienced greater redudion of blood and liver cholesterol and triglyceride levels than the shiitake-fed group or
the normal-fed group.16 (See Figures 9 and 10.) This suggests that maitake may have cardioprotective effects and reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease risks.
WEIGHT CONTROL AND
Maitake is high in dietary fiber, an important component of a healthful diet. Fiber helps to prevent constipation by holding moisture in the bowel and increasing peristaltic action. Animal data show that the water content of the stool is significantly increased after feeding with maitake powder.
Maitake's anti-obesity activity has been studied in both animals and humans.'" The results of tests with overweight rats indicate that after 18 weeks those fed unheated maitake powder lost weight, whereas controls gained weight (Figures 11 and 12).
In a human study conducted by M. Yokota, M.D. at the Koseikai Clinic in Tokyo, patients lost weight on maitake.'Y Thirty patients were given twenty 500-mg tablets of maitake powder daily for a period of two months with no change in their regular diets. All of the patients lost weight (between 7 to 26 pounds) with an average loss of 11 to 13 pounds. Dr. Yokota suggests that the patients would have continued to lose weight if they had continued the program beyond the two months.
Abram Ber, M.D. is a long-time user of maitake mushroom products for a number of conditions. Dr. Ber gave six patients with uterine fibroids maitake tablets and found substantial reduction of fibroids six months to one year after beginning maitake treatment. The patients' conditions improved.to a point at which surgery was usually not indicated. In general, Dr. Ber's treatment program is two tablets' three times per day (3 grams) and up to 8 grams, depending on the size of the individual. "
According to Dr. Ber, at least 12 patients with prostatic cancer have been treated with maitake tablets, resulting in amelioration of symptdms. In particular, there was improvement in urinary flow as well as frequency.
Another long-time user of maitake is Peter D'Adamo, N.D., of Greenwich, Connecticut, author of a recent best seller, Eat Right Fov Yanr Type. He writes: "My observations cause me to feel very strongly that maitake mushroom and D-fraction accelerate the rate of healing and also have a complementary effect with other remedies that I use. One good case was a leukemia patient who had received chemotherapy. The tumor had metastasized to her spleen during the year after the treatment.
The tumor grew fast and her spleen was swollen when she came to me. I gave her D-fraction and instructed her to take a half teaspoon twice a day. After a while the tumor completely disappeared." He added that this was not a particularly rare case.
In 1993, Dr. D'Adamo treated 30 to 35 cancer patients and about 15 HIV-positive patients, using primarily maitake mushroom in conjunction with a few other natural remedies. He has successfully used maitake in treating prostate cancer in men whose previous chemotherapy had been unsuccessful. He has used it successfully in treating pulmonary metastasis (cancer spreading through the circulatory system). These results were confirmed by physicians in Massachusetts General Hospital using CAT scans and magnetic imaging. He has successfully used maitake mushrooms in treating other cancers as well, including those of the liver, breast and colon. Dr. D'Adamo also theorizes that maitake has a potentiating effect on shark cartilage.
Sidney Shane, M.D., of Wayne, New Jersey, says, "We have used maitake mushroom for the past two years and have found this product to be very helpful in treating chronic fatigue syndrome and with long-standing viral problems" He also talks about his personal experience with maitake: "Maitake helped me recover from a heart bypass. Afterwards, I was feeling fatigued.
When I started taking maitake mushrooms, I recovered very quickly. After about a month I stopped taking the mushrooms and my energy and health diminished. After resuming taking maitake mushrooms, I noticed that this energy returned."
SOME PERSONAL ACCOUNTS
Here are some more testimonials from patients who received treatment with Maitake D-fraction:
San Bernardino, California
AIDS patient, Boulder, Colorado
Hoboken, New Jersey
There are a few tips you should know when preparing fresh and dried maitake to help minimize nutrient losses. The D-fradion or beta1, 6 glucan, the active compound in maitake for the immune system, is hot water extradable.
That is, it dissolves in the cooking water. As with cooking vegetables, you must
recover the liquid to make use of all nutrients. The water in which maitake has been steamed or boiled can be used for soups,
stews or sauces. Other compounds in maitake that are
important in lowering high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol
are fat-soluble. This means that if you stir-fry, these substances will
dissoltte into the cooking oil. Also, research indicates that the more the
mushroom is heated, the less effective its anti-obesity activity. To summarize,
the best way to consume maitake is to eat the whole
mushroom, including the cooking liquids, and to be careful not to overcook it.
Until cultivation increases in this country, it may be difficult to find fresh
or dried maitake.
Most people will find maitake supplements as capsules, caplets or liquid extracts more convenient to take. Supplements consist of a concentrated, dried powder of the whole mushroom and are recommended for routine use as a tonic or adaptogen (a substance that helps adapt to stress by readjusting altered body conditions toward normal). The usual recommendation is 1 to 2 grams daily for preventive purposes or 3 to 5 if used therapeutically. The whole mushroom is generally used for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and blood pressure. Maitake D-fraction, the optimum extract of beta-glucan, is the most potent and active form of maitake for therapeutic oral administration (capsuies and tincture). D-fraction is now the basis of all research in the area of immune-related chronic diseases tie: cancer, HIV/ AIDS) both in Japan and the United States. Maitake also comes in tea form combined with complementary herbs. All products are available through natural food and supplement stores.
You should also be aware that there are several mushrooms in maitake family, including Tonbi-maitake, Shiro-maitake and
Chorei-maitake. Those are all edible and do have some health benefits. However,
it is confirmed that the maitake mushroom (GrifoIa
frondosa) is the most potent in its ability to enhance the immune system (rich
in D-fraction content). Besides, it tastes best.
Another fact you should know is that nutritional composition is different from
one maitake mushroom to the next, depending on its
strain and the way of cultivation. It is noted that some maitake has very little D-fraction content even though it looks land tastes) like a
real maitake mushroom.
There are number of medicinal mushrooms that are also edible. But maitake is the only edible mushroom in the "Monkey's Bench" family, known as potent cancer fighters. Maitake's unique combination of delicious flavor and important health benefits fully justify its title of
"King of Mushrooms."