Description: The shiitake mushroom grows on the trunks or stumps of trees. The extract of the mushroom is a fine tan powder. The shiitake mushroom, like certain seaweeds, is an important part of the diets of many people in Asia, particularly China and Japan. Shiitake is the Japanese name for the mushroom which is simply called "black mushroom" in Chinese restaurant menus. However, unlike the seaweeds, shiitake is traditionally taken as a tea by those who want to gain its formidable immune-enhancing benefits. For this purpose, some say the mushrooms must be boiled in a covered container for a minimum of two hours and then consumed as a tea, while others suggest steeping an ounce of chopped, dried shiitake in a pint of boiled water. However it is prepared, shiitake mushroom tea or extract offers remarkable antitumor benefits which are particularly helpful in cases of HIV infection and AIDS. In this case, it is more reliable to buy the extract form from your health food store and take concentrated shiitake as a dietary supplement.
Biochemistry: The proteins contain all of the essential amino acids, and most commonly occurring non-essential amino acids and amides. The fatty acids are largely unsaturated, and shiitake are rich in vitamins and minerals. Key therapeutic substances are glucans, a major constituent of the cell walls. Shiitake yields lentinan, a beta-1,3-linked glucan polysacharride with a molecular weight of one million.
Indications - Cancer, high cholesterol, diseases of the liver, such as hepititis and cirrhosis, and general immune response support.
Physiology/Pharmacology: It acts by stimulating the immune system, rather than by direct action in the tumor. Because of its large molecular size, lentinan is not absorbed efficiently when taken orally, but some is absorbed. Lentinan activates the alternative complement pathway, stimulating the macrophages, thus inhibiting tumor growth. Shiitake is believed to stimulate interferon production. Shiitake significantly inhibited the toxic immunosuppresive effects of cancer drugs such as cyclocytidine, when taken with them. Eritadenine, a purine alkaloid from shiitake, is similar to nucleotides in structure, and lowers cholesterol in animal studies.
Toxicity, Cautions & Contraindications - None. Shiitake is highly edible and delicious.
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