If you are a fan of Asian cuisine you have very probably eaten, or at least are aware of shiitake mushrooms. These delicious mushrooms, known by their latin name as Lentinula edodes, are also familiar to medical researchers. The research into the therapeutic properties of various mushrooms has been really taking off in recent years, and there are certain ‘favourites’ in the studies that seem to have quite a lot of potential, such as Reshi, Turkey Tail, Agaricus, and of course Shiitake. Some promising research is demonstrating potential benefit for Herpes Simplex virus infections such as cold sores.
What are the benefits of Shiitake mushrooms?
Shiitake mushroom extracts have been shown to have a variety of therapeutic actions, such as being anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, antioxidant, protective for the liver, cholesterol lowering, anti-tumor, antibacterial, and antiviral.
What about herpes virus?
Shiitake compounds have been studied to observe their effects on many viruses, including the Herpes Simplex virus which causes cold sores and genital herpes. Several laboratory investigations reported that the main way in which the mushroom extracts worked against the virus was by preventing it’s ability to replicate within the cells.
Since the herpes virus has the ability to evade natural immune responses and enter into a latent stage in the body (i.e. hide out in an inactivated state), it is difficult to actually be completely free of it. The best treatment strategy then is to prevent or reduce the likelihood of re-activation of the virus, and subsequent replication. Shiitake mushroom extracts are promising candidates as agent that can support the body in preventing reactivation, replicating, and boosting the natural defence systems.
What are these mushroom extracts?
The principal active compounds in antiviral mushroom extracts such as the ones that can be found in Shiitake are called polysaccharides. These are complex chained molecules that have the ability to physically interact with immune factors as well as viral particles, to enhance or disrupt their functions respectively. According to quite a few studies, some of the most effective polysaccharides are the sulfated polysaccharides. The molecular sulfate groups that give them their name seemed to be directly related to their antiviral activity.
Is Shiitake safe?
Shiitake mushrooms are considered very safe – after all they are a very popular culinary mushroom eaten all over the world. The polysaccharide extracts also have excellent safety profiles, with very few minor side effects reported, such as nausea, and those are fairly rare. As always, we still recommend that you speak with a qualified health care practitioner before starting any new medicinal supplements.