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Herb Information
Name: Shiitake
Biological Name: Lentinula edodes
Other Names: Shiitake, black mushroom, Hua gu, mushroom (shiitake)
Parts Used: fruiting body
Active Compounds:  

Shiitake contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, soluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, shiitake’s key ingredient—found in the fruiting body—is a polysaccharide called lentinan. Commercial preparations employ the powdered mycelium of the mushroom before the cap and stem grow; this is called LEM (lentinan edodes mycelium extract). LEM is also rich in polysaccharides and lignans.


The Chinese have always regarded the mushroom as having special properties. Mushrooms are regarded as "spirit medicine' because they are believed to nourish the shen, or spirit. As such, they are considered particularly important in vegetarian diets and regarded as a medicinal food that promotes longevity. Various medicinal mushrooms are used by the Chinese, but the most common is the shiitake, called the black mushroom (Lentinula edodes). While it was once available only by wild harvest, it has come to be the second most commonly grown mushroom in the world.

Shiitake has been revered in Japan and China as both a food and medicinal herb for thousands of years. Wu Ri, a famous physician from the Chinese Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644), wrote extensively about this mushroom, noting its ability to increase energy, cure colds, and eliminate worms.

Remedies For

Shiitake is useful for:

• chemotherapy support
• hepatitis
• HIV support

Recent research has substantiated the immense therapeutic properties of shiitake: anti-tumor, immune-regulating, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, and anti- cholesterol. Shiitake mushrooms have been found to be particularly valuable for treating all forms of hepatitis, including hepatitis B and C. The lentinan in shiitake mushrooms has been found to be powerfully antiviral, with the ability to increase helper T-cell and low lymphocyte counts in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals.

Research indicates that LEM helps decrease chronic hepatitis B infectivity, as measured by specific liver and blood markers. A highly purified intravenous form of lentinan has been employed in Japan for the treatment of recurrent stomach cancer, which increases survival with this cancer (particularly when used in combination with chemotherapy). These effects may be due to shiitake’s ability to stimulate specific types of white blood cells called T-lymphocytes. Case reports from Japan are also highly suggestive that lentinan is helpful in treating individuals with HIV infection. However, large-scale clinical trials have not yet been performed confirming this action.

According to herbalist Christopher Hobbs, "eritadenine, isolated from shiitake, has been shown to lower blood levels of cholesterol and lipids.... Added to the diet of rats, eritadenine (0.005%) caused a 25% decrease in total cholesterol in as little as one week."


Wild shiitake mushrooms are native to Japan, China, and other Asian countries and typically grow on fallen broadleaf trees. Shiitake is widely cultivated throughout the world, including the United States. The fruiting body is used medicinally.


The traditional intake of the whole, dried shiitake mushroom, in soups or as a decoction, is 6-16 grams per day.

For LEM, the intake is 1-3 grams two to three times per day until the condition being treated improves. As LEM is the more concentrated and hence more potent extract, it is preferred over the crude mushroom.

Tincture, in the amount of 2-4 ml per day, can also be used.


Shiitake has an excellent record of safety but has been known to induce temporary diarrhea and abdominal bloating when used in high dosages. Its safety during pregnancy has not yet been established. We recommend that you consult your physician before taking this herb.

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