Shiitake (Xiang Gu)
Botanical Name: Lentinus edodes
Shiitake mushrooms, spelled with two “i’s,” have a long history in the kitchen and as a medicinal herb. They have a rich, savory taste and are popularly included in many culinary recipes. The compounds in shiitake help to fight cancer, boost the immune system, and support overall health. Full of nutritional value, the mushrooms are an excellent addition to your daily diet.
Below is an overview of Shiitake (Xiang Gu), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Shiitake (Xiang Gu).
Western Name: Shiitake
Also Known As: Black Forest, Chinese Black, Oriental Black, Golden Oak Mushroom
Organs/Systems: Immune System, Cardiovascular System, Digestive System
Key Actions: Anticancer, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-aging, Antimicrobial
Medicinal Uses: Lowers blood cholesterol, diabetes, colds, flu, hardening of the arteries, hepatitis B, herpes eczema, cancer (especially breast and prostate), stomach ache, dental plaque, HIV/AIDs, manage blood sugar levels, cardiovascular disease, fungal infections.
Pin Yin: Xiang Gu
Also Known As: Dong Gu (translates as “Winter Mushroom”), Hua Gu (translates as “Flower Mushroom”)
Meridians: Spleen, Stomach, Lungs
Key Actions: Tonifies Qi, Nourishes Blood, Dries Damp, Tonifies Wei Qi
Medicinal Uses: Colds, flu, gout, nutritional deficiencies, measles, poor circulation, hemorrhoids, headaches, constipation, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, herpes, viral infections, improves skin, acne scars, longevity, anaemia, arthritis, osteoporosis, lowers cholesterol, chronic fatigue, weight loss, builds strength.
Spores are released from fruiting bodies in the fall or spring, and land on both live and fallen tree limbs. Healthy trees will resist the spores, but fallen and dead limbs will be taken over by the spores where they will build a mycelial network that produces fruiting bodies. The above ground part of the mushroom is what is foraged and harvested. The mushrooms are tan to dark brown, with caps that grow between 2 to 4 inches.
Shiitake mushrooms are native to the hardwood forests throughout East Asia, but especially those found in central China. Over 80% of all shiitake cultivation is from Japan, U.S., Canadam Singapore, and China.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Fruiting Body
Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Neutral
Caution: Considered safe, a very few people may develop a skin rash from eating or handling the mushrooms.
History/Folklore: Cultivation of shiitake mushrooms began in the 12th century in the mountains of central China. In Chinese historical writings they are referred to as an elixir of life. Shiitake mushrooms contain a similar amino acid profile to red meat, and are therefore a good substitute for those wishing to avoid eating meat, especially when combined with other vegetable protein sources.
The Japanese have done extensive research on the mushrooms revealing the mushrooms nutritional and immuno-supportive properties. Shiitakes are unique for a plant as they contain all eight essential amino acids, as well as the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid. Linoleic acid helps with weight loss and building muscle. Writings from 199 AD describe a Japanese tribe bringing shiitake mushrooms as a gift to the Japanese emperor.
The beta-glucans found in shiitake mushrooms are known to support the immune system and heart health. They are known to improve circulation and counter inflammation. The compound eritadenine inhibits an enzyme that is involved in the production of cholesterol. The sterols found in the mushrooms help block cholesterol absorption in the gut and the beta-glucans are a type of fiber that can help to lower cholesterol. These same compounds can help treat obesity by reducing plasma lipid (fat) levels. The mushrooms can help prevent body weight gain and fat deposition.
Shiitake mushrooms have long been used in the medicinal traditions of China, Japan, Korea, and Eastern Russia. In China, they have long been used to boost health and promote longevity. Research suggests that consuming shiitake mushrooms improves cell effector function and improves gut immunity helping to improve overall immune function. Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular ingredients in Chinese cuisine. Two particularly high-grade shiitake mushrooms are known as Dong Gu (translates as “Winter Mushroom”) and Hua Gu (translates as “Flower Mushroom”).
Shiitake mushrooms are antiviral and antibacterial helping to prevent colds and flus and even support treatment of HIV patients.
The mushrooms help strengthen intestinal flora.
The high levels of vitamin B in shiitake mushrooms can help support adrenal function. Deficiency in vitamin B can also cause fatigue, brain fog, and lower cognitive function. Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of B vitamins.
Shiitake mushrooms are also one of the few foods that contain vitamin D, which is important for bone health, heart health, reducing the risk of diabetes, cancer, and auto-immune diseases.
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Shiitake mushrooms are the second most cultivated mushrooms in the world.
Shiitake mushrooms are a good source of dietary fiber.
Shiitake mushrooms contain 39% of your daily minimum copper requirement. They are the fourth best source of copper after sesame seeds, cashew nuts, and soybeans.
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