What is Shiitake Mushroom Extract?
If you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, one who likes to eat the healthiest foods or just generally appreciates umami, you’re probably already familiar with shiitake mushrooms. They’re a very popular culinary ingredient worldwide, infamous for their flavor and aroma. But shiitake mushrooms also make a great dietary supplement that can be used by just about anyone for their astounding health benefits.
The shiitake mushroom is a highly nutritious food item, chock-full of vitamins and fiber as well as dozens of other phytonutrients. They have a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, mainly to improve overall health and longevity. They can be eaten fresh, dried or made into extracts. Extracts can come as powders, capsules and liquids (x).
Whether you’re using shiitake mushrooms for heart health, its anti-cancer properties or any of the other research-backed benefits, they are one the most health-promoting mushrooms on the planet.
Shiitake Mushroom Extract Benefits
- B vitamins
- Minerals including copper, selenium, manganese and zinc
- Vitamin D
- Antioxidants like phenolic compounds
- Plant sterols
Many factors contribute to a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. For example, maintaining proper cholesterol levels is important, as is stable blood sugar. Keeping inflammation and blood pressure in check is also key. Shiitake mushroom extract can comprehensively support a healthy heart by addressing all of these factors.
Over 10 percent of people over the age of 20 in the United States have high cholesterol (x). This puts them at a higher risk for metabolic disorders, diabetes and cardiovascular issues. A compound found in shiitake mushroom extract called eritadenine, however, can help lower cholesterol. The specific dietary fiber found in the mushrooms, beta-glucan, may also play a role in this effect.
Animal studies show that the extract can help prevent high cholesterol in those fed high fat diets and can reduce plaque buildup in the cardiovascular system. It also inhibits the accumulation of fat in the liver (x, x).
Researchers also assert that shiitake extract, possibly because of its folate and B12 content, can help lower homocysteine (x). High homocysteine levels also have a connection to cardiovascular issues.
As if that weren’t enough, studies show that shiitake extract can help reduce blood pressure (x). It can also play a role in supporting healthy blood sugar in those with diabetes by reducing damage to pancreatic cells and promoting insulin production (x).
Shiitake mushroom extract can help improve immunity. How? First, it may activate certain immune cells in the gut. At the same time, however, shiitake extract can also reduce the activation of some inflammatory cells. The result is a better modulated immune system that is more equipped to handle threats.
This was demonstrated in a study of 52 healthy adults who were given 5-10 grams of shiitake mushrooms per day for four weeks. At the end of the study, participants had significantly altered laboratory results. Several immune cells showed more activity while levels of c-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) declined (x).
A better regulated immune system has many benefits. For one thing, it can help the body fight off infections. And while the immune system is doing its job, it’s not as likely to overreact, causing chronic inflammation that is linked to many conditions like cardiovascular disease, arthritis and diabetes (x).
In addition to the direct effects that shiitake mushroom extract may have on the immune system, it also has antimicrobial and antiviral properties (x).
A Natural Anti-Cancer Agent
The immune system, besides combating germs, is also responsible for fighting tumors and cancer. Since shiitake mushroom extract can help modulate the immune system, it’s the subject of cancer research.
Research is currently scarce and conflicting, though. On one hand, an active compound in shiitake mushrooms called lentinan may play a role in stopping the growth of tumors and certain cancer cells (x, x). For example, it could help stop the proliferation of leukemia cells (x).
Other research, however, does not show any beneficial effect of using shiitake mushroom extract as a stand-alone cancer treatment (x). While the scientific evidence isn’t there yet, there is still a notion that it may have an effect. Shiitake mushroom extract, as well as extracts from other mushrooms, is sometimes used in Asia along with conventional cancer treatments.
Skin and Bones
In addition, companies that produce skincare products are increasingly adding shiitake extracts as an active ingredient because it may help soothe irritated skin, improve elasticity and reduce signs of aging. This is due to the mushroom’s rich antioxidant and anti-irritant compounds (x).
Shiitake Mushroom Extract Dosage and Side Effects
As a dietary supplement, take 1,000 mg (scant 1/2 tsp) of shiitake extract powder once or twice daily, or as directed by a physician.
As with all supplements, be sure to talk to a doctor if you experience any side effects when using shiitake mushroom extract. Talk to your doctor before taking this product if you are pregnant or nursing. Avoid this product if you are allergic to shiitake mushrooms or other mushrooms. Side effects may include:
- Stomach upset
- Increased sensitivity to sunlight
- Increase in eosinophils, a type of white blood cell that can cause gastrointestinal inflammation (x)
- Rash (shiitake dermatitis) that causes skin lesions, pain and itchiness (x)
- Allergic reaction
Shiitake Mushroom Extract Supplement vs. Whole Mushrooms
Some might wonder if it’s better to just eat whole mushrooms instead of taking an extract. After all, whole foods can have their benefits over dried extracts. And shiitake mushrooms are a delicious addition to a lot of dishes. Why not just ditch the bottle and eat them fresh?
Although many people could benefit from adding whole shiitake mushrooms to their diet, extracts have some advantages over whole mushrooms.
Gentler On Your Wallet
One benefit of extracts over whole mushrooms is cost. To eat large volumes of them would just be too expensive for some people. By contrast, shiitake mushroom extracts offer a much more affordable option and can be bought in large volumes and stored safely.
Shiitake mushrooms may also not always be available, which means you may have to visit multiple stores to find them. Shiitake mushroom extracts are usually available both online and at most health food stores. Plus, no washing, cooking or cleaning up.
The Bottom Line
Shiitake mushroom extract is a natural and safe supplement that can offer plenty of benefits. Whether you are taking it for a healthy heart or to strengthen your immune system, shiitake mushroom extract can make a noticeable difference.