Grifola frondosa
(from Medicinal Mushrooms – A Clinical Guide by Martin Powell)

Japanese name – Maitake
Chinese name – Hui Shu Hua
English name – Hen of the Woods

A popular gourmet mushroom, G. frondosa is also a highly regarded clinically, especially in cancer therapy.

As with other major anti-cancer mushrooms such as Lentinus edodes (Shiitake) and Trametes versicolor (Coriolus), polysaccharides have been shown to be the major active components of G. frondosa and several beta-glucan, heteropolysaccharide and proteoglycan fractions have been isolated with potent immunomodulatory action, including D-fraction and MD-fraction1-4.

Most of the clinical research has been carried out by one group of researchers in Japan, initially using D-fraction together with powdered fruiting body, later switching to the more bioactive MD-fraction, again in combination with powdered whole fruiting body.

Cancer – A 1997 paper by Nanba H reported benefits from D-fraction taken together with whole fruiting body in a range of stage III-IV cancers with G. frondosa increasing the benefit of chemotherapy by an additional 12-28%5. The paper further reports synergistic benefits from combining D-fraction and Mitomycin C (MMC) in an animal tumor model with D-fraction (1mg/day) showing superior tumor inhibition to MMC (0.5mg/day) on its own.

A subsequent paper by Nanba et al reported impressive results for MD-fraction and whole G. frondosa fruiting body powder in cancer patients who had discontinued chemotherapy because of side effects with improvement in 7 of 12 liver cancer patients, 11 of 16 breast cancer patients and 5 of 8 lung cancer patients, together with increases in IL-2 (a major Th1 cytokine) and CD4+6.

Further studies confirmed alleviation of side effects from chemotherapy, including loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, hair loss and leukopenia as well as synergy between D-fraction and vitamin C2,6.

Diabetes – Various animal studies indicate benefits of G. frondosa in diabetes models but at high doses, in one case giving 1g/day G. frondosa powder to genetically diabetic mice and in another a purified alpha-glucan at a dose of 150-450mg/kg7,8.

In small scale clinical studies G. frondosa polysaccharide extract (dose unclear) was reported to control of blood sugar level in one patient and produce a 30% reduction in blood sugar levels in 4 other patients, while inclusion of G. frondosa beta-glucans (150mg/day) in yoghurt produced significant improvement in blood glucose levels in 20 type II diabetes patients3,9.

Cholesterol – Inclusion of G. frondosa in the diet of experimental animals at 5-20% of feed produces reductions in cholesterol consistent with the results seen in other mushrooms10.

Hypertension – A number of studies report short-lived hypotensive action for G. frondosa included in the diet of hypertensive animals (typically 5% of feed)11-13.

Main Therapeutic Application – Cancer
Key Component – Polysaccharides
Dose – The optimum dose of D-fraction/MD-fraction in animal studies is reported to be 1mg/kg i.p. with human trials using D-fraction/MD-fraction at oral doses of 35-150mg/day in combination with 4-6g/day G. frondosa fruiting body.

1. A polysaccharide extracted from Grifola frondosa enhances the anti-tumor activity of bone marrow-derived dendritic cell-based immunotherapy against murine colon cancer. Masuda Y, Ito K, Konishi M, Nanba H. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2010.
2. Maitake extracts and their therapeutic potential – A review. Mayell M. Alt Med Rev, 2001;6(1)
3. Grifola frondosa (Dicks.: Fr.) S.F. Gray (Maitake Mushroom): medicinal properties, active compounds, and biotechnological cultivation. Boh B, Berovic M.M. Int J Med Mushr. 2007;9(2):10.
4. Anti tumor activity of orally administered d-fraction from Maitake (Grifola frondosa). Nanba H. J Naturopathic Medicine. 1993;1:10-15
5. Maitake D-fraction: healing and preventive potential for cancer. Nanba H. J Orthomolecular Med. 1997;12:43-49
6. Can Maitake MD-fraction aid cancer patients? Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H. Alt Med Rev. 2002;(7)3:236-9
7. Anti-diabetic activity present in the fruit body of Grifola frondosa (Maitake). Kubo K, Aoki H, Nanba H. Biol Pharm Bull. 1994;17:1106-1110
8. Anti-diabetic effect of an alpha-glucan from fruit body of maitake (Grifola frondosa) on KK-Ay mice. Hong L, Xun M, Wutong W. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2007;59(4):575-82.
9. Anticancer and hypoglycemic effects of Polysaccharides in edible and medicinal Maitake mushroom [Grifola frondosa (Dicks.: Fr.) S. F. Gray] Konno S et al. Int J Med Mushr 4:3
10. Anti-hyperliposis effect of Maitake fruit body (Grifola frondosa) Kubo K, Nanba H. Biol Pharm Bull. 1997;20:781-785
11. Blood pressure lowering activity present in the fruit body of Grifola frondosa (maitake). Adachi K, Nanba H, Otsuka M, Kuroda H. Chen Pharm Bull. 1988;36:1000-1006
12. Effect of shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms on blood pressure and plasma lipids in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Kabir Y, Yamaguchi M, Kimua S. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 1987;33:341-346
13. Dietary mushrooms reduce blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). Kabir Y, Kimura S. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 1989;35:91-94

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