Grifola frondosa

Scientific classification
G. frondosa
Binomial name
Grifola frondosa
(Dicks.) Gray (1821)
  • Boletus frondosus Dicks. (1785)
  • Polyporus frondosus Fr.[1]

Grifola frondosa is a polypore mushroom that grows in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks. The mushroom is commonly known among English speakers as hen-of-the-woods, ram's head and sheep's head. It is typically found in late summer to early autumn. In the United States' supplement market, as well as in Asian grocery stores, the mushroom is known by its Japanese name maitake (舞茸, "dancing mushroom"). Throughout Italian American communities in the northeastern United States, it is commonly known as the signorina mushroom. G. frondosa should not be confused with Laetiporus sulphureus, another edible bracket fungus that is commonly called chicken of the woods or "sulphur shelf". Like all polypores, the fungus becomes inedible when older, because it is then too tough to eat.

The fungus is native to China,[2] the northeastern part of Japan and North America, and is prized in traditional Chinese and Japanese herbology as a medicinal mushroom. It is widely eaten in Japan, and its popularity in western cuisine is growing, although the mushroom has been reported to cause allergic reactions in rare cases.

Grifola frondosa
View the Mycomorphbox template that generates the following list
Mycological characteristics
pores on hymenium
cap is offset or indistinct
hymenium is decurrent
lacks a stipe
spore print is white
ecology is parasitic
edibility: choice


Like the sulphur shelf mushroom, G. frondosa is a perennial fungus that often grows in the same place for a number of years in succession. It occurs most prolifically in the northeastern regions of the United States, but has been found as far west as Idaho.

G. frondosa grows from an underground tuber-like structure known as a sclerotium, about the size of a potato. The fruiting body, occurring as large as 100 cm, is a cluster consisting of multiple grayish-brown caps which are often curled or spoon-shaped, with wavy margins and 2–7 cm broad. The undersurface of each cap bears about one to three pores per millimeter, with the tubes rarely deeper than 3 mm. The milky-white stipe (stalk) has a branchy structure and becomes tough as the mushroom matures.

In Japan, the maitake can grow to more than 100 lb (45 kg), earning this giant mushroom the title "king of mushrooms". Maitake is one of the major culinary mushrooms used in Japan, the others being shiitake, shimeji, and enoki. They are used in a wide variety of dishes, often being a key ingredient in nabemono or cooked in foil with butter.

Medical research and use[edit]

In 2009, a phase I/II human trial, conducted by Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center, showed maitake could stimulate the immune systems of breast cancer patients.[3][non-primary source needed] Small experiments with human cancer patients have shown it can stimulate immune system cells, such as NK cells.[4][non-primary source needed][5] In vitro research has also shown G. frondosa can stimulate immune system cells.[6] An in vivo experiment showed that it could stimulate both the innate immune system and adaptive immune system.[7]

In vitro research has shown maitake can induce apoptosis in various cancer cell lines, and inhibit the growth of various types of cancer cells.[8] Small studies with human cancer patients revealed that a portion of this mushroom, known as the mitake D-fraction, possesses anticancer activity.[9][unreliable fringe source?][10] In vitro research demonstrated the mushroom has potential antimetastatic properties.[11]

Maitake has a hypoglycemic effect, and may be beneficial for the management of diabetes.[8] It lowers blood sugar because the mushroom naturally contains an alpha glucosidase inhibitor.[12]

This species contains antioxidants and may partially inhibit the enzyme cyclooxygenase.[13] An extract of maitake inhibited angiogenesis via inhibition of the vascular endothelial growth factor.[14]

Lys-N is a unique protease found in maitake.[15] Lys-N is used for proteomics experiments because of its protein cleavage specificity.[16]


  1. ^ McIlvaine, Charles; Robert K. Macadam; and Robert L. Shaffer. 1973. One Thousand American Fungi. Dover Publications. New York. 729 pp. (Polyporus frondosus, pp. 482-483 & Plate CXXVIII.)
  2. ^ Meuninck, Jim (2015-06-01). Jim Meuninck - Basic Illustrated Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms, pp. 13-14, Rowman & Littlefield, 1 Jun 2015. ISBN 9781493014682. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  3. ^ Deng G, Lin H, Seidman A, et al. (September 2009). "A phase I/II trial of a polysaccharide extract from Grifola frondosa (Maitake mushroom) in breast cancer patients: immunological effects". Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology. 135 (9): 1215–21. doi:10.1007/s00432-009-0562-z. PMC 3751581. PMID 19253021.
  4. ^ Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H (2003). "Effect of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) D-Fraction on the activation of NK cells in cancer patients". Journal of Medicinal Food. 6 (4): 371–7. doi:10.1089/109662003772519949. PMID 14977447.
  5. ^ Kodama N, Komuta K, Sakai N, Nanba H (December 2002). "Effects of D-Fraction, a polysaccharide from Grifola frondosa on tumor growth involve activation of NK cells". Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 25 (12): 1647–50. doi:10.1248/bpb.25.1647. PMID 12499658.
  6. ^ Kodama N, Asakawa A, Inui A, Masuda Y, Nanba H (March 2005). "Enhancement of cytotoxicity of NK cells by D-Fraction, a polysaccharide from Grifola frondosa". Oncology Reports. 13 (3): 497–502. doi:10.3892/or.13.3.497. PMID 15706424.
  7. ^ Kodama N, Murata Y, Nanba H (2004). "Administration of a polysaccharide from Grifola frondosa stimulates immune function of normal mice". Journal of Medicinal Food. 7 (2): 141–5. doi:10.1089/1096620041224012. PMID 15298759.
  8. ^ a b Ulbricht C, Weissner W, Basch E, Giese N, Hammerness P, Rusie-Seamon E, Varghese M, Woods J (2009). "Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa): systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration". Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. 7 (2): 66–72. PMID 19476741.
  9. ^ Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H (June 2002). "Can maitake MD-fraction aid cancer patients?" (PDF). Alternative Medicine Review. 7 (3): 236–9. PMID 12126464. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-28.
  10. ^ Nanba H, Kubo K (December 1997). "Effect of Maitake D-fraction on cancer prevention". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 833 (1 Cancer): 204–7. Bibcode:1997NYASA.833..204N. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1997.tb48611.x. PMID 9616756.
  11. ^ Masuda Y, Murata Y, Hayashi M, Nanba H (June 2008). "Inhibitory effect of MD-Fraction on tumor metastasis: involvement of NK cell activation and suppression of intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1 expression in lung vascular endothelial cells". Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 31 (6): 1104–8. doi:10.1248/bpb.31.1104. PMID 18520039.
  12. ^ Matsuur H, Asakawa C, Kurimoto M, Mizutani J (July 2002). "Alpha-glucosidase inhibitor from the seeds of balsam pear (Momordica charantia) and the fruit bodies of Grifola frondosa". Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 66 (7): 1576–8. doi:10.1271/bbb.66.1576. PMID 12224646.
  13. ^ Zhang Y, Mills GL, Nair MG (December 2002). "Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant compounds from the mycelia of the edible mushroom Grifola frondosa". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 50 (26): 7581–5. doi:10.1021/jf0257648. PMID 12475274.
  14. ^ Lee JS, Park BC, Ko YJ, et al. (December 2008). "Grifola frondosa (maitake mushroom) water extract inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor-induced angiogenesis through inhibition of reactive oxygen species and extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation". Journal of Medicinal Food. 11 (4): 643–51. doi:10.1089/jmf.2007.0629. PMID 19053855.
  15. ^ Nonaka, T; Y Hashimoto; K Takio (July 1998). "Kinetic characterization of lysine-specific metalloendopeptidases from Grifola frondosa and Pleurotus ostreatus fruiting bodies". Journal of Biochemistry. 124 (1): 157–162. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.jbchem.a022074. ISSN 0021-924X. PMID 9644258.
  16. ^ Taouatas, Nadia; Madalina M Drugan; Albert J R Heck; Shabaz Mohammed (May 2008). "Straightforward ladder sequencing of peptides using a Lys-N metalloendopeptidase". Nat Methods. 5 (5): 405–407. doi:10.1038/nmeth.1204. ISSN 1548-7091. PMID 18425140.

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