Herb Library: Natural Herbs and Herbal Supplements Directory: Shiitake Mushrooms


Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushrooms


This fact sheet provides basic information about Shiitake Mushrooms. Lentinan is a complex polysaccharide that possesses immuno-stimulating antitumor properties. Lentinan was isolated from edible shiitake mushrooms that have been used in traditional oriental cooking and herbal medicine. Shiitake has been renowned in Japan and China as both a food and medicine for thousands of years. It is now commonplace throughout the world. Extracts of these mushrooms are now being incorporated into over-the-counter dietary supplements designed to improve the status of the immune system.

Common Names

Shiitake Mushrooms, Shiitake, Snake Butter, Pasania Fungus, Forest Mushroom, Hua Gu

Latin Names

Lentinula edodes

What It Is Used For

  • Lentinan is proving to be a valuable component in cancer and infection treatments. It has also demonstrated cholesterol-lowering and immune-regulatory properties.

How It Is Used

The isolated polysaccharide lentinan from shiitake culture has been used IV at doses of 2 to 10 mg on a weekly schedule as adjunctive therapy in HIV as well as cancer, primarily in Japan.

What the Science Says

  • Therapeutic effects of lentinan in the GI tract have been noted. A case study reports reduced primary tumor size, in a 63-year-old patient treated with lentinan combination therapy. Metastasis disappeared, and only mild thrombocytopenia occurred as a side effect. Lentinan used as an agent for postoperative adjuvant therapy was investigated in GI patients with stages II to IV cancer. Stage IV patients had higher lymphocyte counts than control patients, suggesting lentinan's immuno-potentiating efficacy in advanced GI cancer. Another study reports life span prolongation in stomach cancer patients, using lentinan combination therapy. Other successful chemotherapies using lentinan include: CDDP and 5-FU, mitomycin and 5-FU, cisplatin with radiation and interleukin. Another study involving gastric cancer describes how lentinan causes marked development of reticular fibers related to antitumor effect and enhanced interstitial response. Intracavitary injection of lentinan is a useful treatment for malignant effusions in gastric carcinoma patients. Resistance to lentinan chemoimmunotherapy is also reported.

Side Effects and Cautions

  • Lentinan is derived from the shiitake mushroom, which is edible and is not generally associated with side effects. Lentinan side effects are rarely reported.


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