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Shiitake (Lentinus Edodes) represents a symbol of longevity in Asia and is glorified as food and medicine for centuries.

Aug 17, 2019

Wild Shiitake mushrooms existed since prehistoric times and it is native to Japan, China and other Asian countries.

In the wild, Shiitake mushroom grows on the trunks, stumps or various fallen hardwoods - oak, chestnut, beech or the shii tree, from where this mushroom derives its name ("take" means mushroom).

Shiitake Mushroom is also known by the names Oak Mushroom, Oriental Black Mushroom and Glossagyne.

Shiitake mushroom has a distinctive look - light brown with amber effect and slight trumpet-shaped caps that range in diameter from about two to four inches and rest on tender white stems.

This mushroom, mysterious and unique in many aspects, has been a gourmet product for centuries. It has a delicious taste, exotic flavour and meaty texture making it a fabulous addition to almost any dish.

Besides its taste, Shiitake mushroom is highly nutritious. It is regarded as one of the most popular sources of protein in Japan and a major staple in China and the rest of Asia. As a food source, Shiitake mushroom has the combined attributes of being appetizing, nourishing, dietetic and healthful. It has adequate nutritional benefits to serve as a main dish and it complements well the various recipes as meat substitute.

Shiitake mushroom contains all eight essential amino acids in better proportions than the ones found in soy beans, meat, milk, or eggs as well as a good blend of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B, B12, C, D and Niacin, elevating it to the pedestal of functional food. Shiitake produces a fat-absorbing compound that assists in weight loss. It has become the second popular mushroom in the world.

Shiitake mushroom is the most widely cultivated and one of the most thoroughly researched and documented medicinal mushrooms.

The famous physician from the Chinese Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644), Wu Ri, wrote extensively about this mushroom, noting its ability to increase energy, cure colds, and eliminate worms. It is regarded as medicinal mushroom possessing powers of boosting "QI" within the body's blood circulation. The vast research of Shiitake's medicinal properties has been completed and it shows its ability to fight tumour, viral infections and enhance the immune system. Its beneficial effects have been reported in the Cochran's review of medicinal mushrooms, "Medical Effects" (Biology and Cultivation of Edible Mushrooms, Academic Press, 1978).

In the late 1960's a Japanese researcher by the name of T. Ikekawa together with his colleague after an intense study produced evidence related to a component of the Shiitake mushroom that demonstrated a 94.8% rate of tumour inhibition at a 200/day dose. Interestingly, the alkaline-eluted component gave only a 62.5% tumour inhibition rate at the same dosage.

Primary chemical constituents of Shiitake mushroom include Polysaccharide (lentinan), eritadenin, proteins, largely unsaturated fatty acids, minerals and vitamins D, B-2, B-12.

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