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A delectable medicinal mushroom with great clinical promise for diabetes, hypertension and immunity

Maitake

Grifola frondosa Grifolaceae

Maitake, Japanese for ‘dancing mushroom’, certainly inspires a frolic with its abundance of flavour, nutritional goodness and many potential health benefits including blood sugar and lipid-lowering effects, immune support and possible anti-tumour properties.

Sustainability Status

Sustainability status

Not currently on risk lists but complete data may be missing on the status of the species. Read more about our sustainability guide.

Key benefits
  • Immune modulation
  • Gut health
  • Hypoglycaemic
  • Hypolipidemic
  • Anti-cancer
  • How does it feel?

    Maitake is a popular culinary mushroom owing to its eminently palatable, earthy, umami flavour, distinct musky odour, fleshy texture and striking appearance. It may be eaten raw but is best enjoyed cooked, absorbing accompanying flavours beautifully.

  • What can I use it for?

    Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
    Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

    Maitake mushrooms are not only tasty but highly nutritious, with lower fat and higher protein content than your typical mushroom, while also being rich in Vitamin D.

    As with other medicinal mushrooms, Maitake may help to balance the immune system, enhancing it where it is suppressed and reducing an overactive immune response where appropriate. Due to its modulation of inflammation, it can be of use in cancer care. Early pre-clinical studies in Japan found anti-tumour activities from polysaccharide extracts of the fruiting bodies of Maitake, which has been an area of investigation since, with many promising results.

    Maitake mushrooms have also been shown to support gut health, with pre-clinical studies suggesting the use of Maitake polysaccharides can regulate the gut microbiota of people suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (1) and diabetes (2).

    Indeed, Type 2 diabetics are a group for which the Maitake mushroom may have benefit, with extensive pre-clinical research suggesting an ability for blood sugar regulation(2-4). Associated metabolic syndrome conditions, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, have also been found to benefit from Maitake consumption, making it an ideal food or supplement for the elderly.

    A lesser-known possible use of Maitake is in supporting fertility. A small clinical trial found that a Maitake extract significantly enhanced the effect of ovulation-inducing medication given to an ovulatory women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (5).

  • Into the heart of maitake

    Maitake mushrooms are eminently tasty little mushrooms, often found in Japanese hotpots, brimming with nutritional value and consumed for their taste and health-giving properties since ancient times. The Japanese name, maitake, means ‘dancing mushroom’, which some sources believe is owing to the sheer joy felt at finding it in the wild. In the West, it is known as Hen of the Woods on account of the “fluffiness” of a cluster of its fronds.

    In Eastern traditional medicine, maitake mushrooms have long been consumed as a medicinal food for strengthening the body and bolstering the digestive and immune systems.

  • Traditional uses

    In traditional Eastern medicine, Maitake, also known as hui shu hua in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), are believed to have fortifying properties; strengthening the qi, or energy, toning the digestive system, protecting the liver and moistening the lungs (6). It is also often said, like many other medicinal mushrooms, to relieve the body of excess dampness and heat – promoting fluid metabolism and alleviating inflammation, respectively – and have a calming effect on the nervous system.

  • Traditional actions

  • Traditional energetic actions

    Herbal energetics are the descriptions Herbalists have given to plants, mushrooms, lichens, foods, and some minerals based on the direct experience of how they taste, feel, and work in the body. All traditional health systems use these principles to explain how the environment we live in and absorb, impacts our health. Find out more about traditional energetic actions in our article “An introduction to herbal energetics“.

  • What practitioners say

    Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa)
    Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa)

    Maitake is a wonderful example of traditional Eastern dietary therapy or “kitchen medicine” as it lends itself so well to regular, enjoyable consumption in health-promoting meals.
    It is low in fat, rich in fibre, potassium, vitamin D2 and B vitamins and has around 23% protein in dried weight (7).

    The polysaccharides in the Maitake fruiting body and mycelium hold their greatest health benefits, with the beta-glucan complex being especially potent and investigated for its antitumor, anticancer and immunomodulatory properties.

    A 2021 review of three decades and around 80 studies (albeit mostly pre-clinical) into the bioactive ingredients and medicinal value of Maitake and its derivatives (notably D-fraction) concluded that, while more large-scale, high-quality and human studies are warranted, Maitake appears to exhibit anti-tumour, immunomodulatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antidiabetic, lipid metabolism-regulating, anti-hypertensive and antioxidant effects and that some of these effects may be the result of Maitake’s beneficial effect on the gut microbiome (4).

  • Research

    Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa)
    Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa)

    Immune system and cancer

    A 2021 review concluded there are three potential mechanisms of action for Maitake’s observed anti-cancer effects: the protection of healthy cells, inhibition of metastasis and suppression of tumour growth. It also reported Maitake’s immunomodulatory effects as the direct and indirect mechanisms responsible for its anti-cancer actions. These immunomodulatory effects include enhancement of the activity of immune cells including macrophages, cytotoxic (cell-killing) T-cells and natural killer cells (NKC’s), and triggering cytokines (signalling proteins involved in the immune response) leading to the differentiation and death of tumour cells (4).

    Pre-clinical studies have shown Maitake may help retard tumour growth and suppress the proliferation of breast cancer cells in vitro (8-11). They have also suggested that certain constituents may act directly on human tumour cells, independent of the immune system, decreasing cell viability and inhibiting metastasis of human breast cancer cells in two recent in vitro studies (10, 11).

    An early-stage, non-randomised clinical study involved 165 individuals with advanced (stage III-IV) cancers prescribed around 35-100mg liquid extract plus around 4-6g Maitake fruiting body powder tablets per day, alone or in combination with chemotherapy for extended periods (ranging from 4-20 months in the handful of cases detailed). Tumor regression and a significant improvement in symptoms were reported in 11 of 15 breast cancer patients, 12 of 18 lung cancer patients and 7 of 15 liver cancer patients with a 12-28% increase of chemotherapy effect reported in those taking Maitake supplementation alongside chemotherapy (12).

    A later, smaller, non-randomised clinical study involving 36 individuals with advanced (stage II-IV) cancer who had withdrawn from chemotherapy due to side effects found cancer regression or significant symptom improvement in 11 of 16 breast cancer patients, 7 of 12 liver cancer patients and 5 of 8 lung cancer patients along with increased production of immune-competent cells (eg. macrophages, NKCs and cytokines). Subjects received 4-6g maitake fruiting body powder tablets with 40-150mg MD-Fraction over 1-5 years, as per the handful of case studies provided (13).

    A 2021 meta-analysis of 24 pre-clinical studies offered a theoretical basis for future clinical trials for the use of Maitake in tumour treatment (14).

    Diabetes

    While there is very limited clinical research into Maitake’s hypoglycaemic benefits, these have been demonstrated in numerous pre-clinical studies (4) most of which use the glycoprotein extracts of the mushroom (6). A 2017 review of pre-clinical studies investigating the health benefits of Maitake polysaccharides concluded they may decrease blood glucose levels by affecting insulin resistance and sensitivity, as well as by acting on insulin transduction signalling and inhibiting α-glucosidase (an enzyme involved in the digestion of carbohydrates and starches to produce glucose for intestinal absorption) activity (6).

    A 2013 in vitro study found that a Maitake extract was as good as acarbose (a medicine used in the management of Type-2 diabetes) in inhibiting starch digestion (15).
    A later study of a heteropolysaccharide derived from Maitake found that it significantly upregulated a glucose transporter to improve glucose uptake in insulin resistant HepG2 (human liver cancer cell line) cells by activating the 1 (IRS-1)–PI3K–c-JNK signalling pathway (a signalling pathway essential for proper cell function), thus improving glucose tolerance (2).

    A 2020 pre-clinical study also showed that Maitake a polysaccharide may prevent hyperglycaemia and hyperlipidemia by altering gut microbiota and regulating hepatic (liver) glycolipid metabolism-related genes. It was, therefore, suggested as a potential functional food for both the prevention and treatment of hyperglycaemia and hyperlipidemia (16).

    Maitake fungi (Grifola Frondosa)
    Maitake fungi (Grifola Frondosa)

    A small-scale clinical study involving five individuals with Type II diabetes who received Maitake polysaccharide tablets (dosage unknown) showed a 30% reduction in blood glucose levels in four of the individuals and complete glycemic control in the remaining subject after 2-4 weeks of supplementation (17).

    High cholesterol

    Early pre-clinical studies suggested that Maitake fruiting body extracts could suppress triglyceride, cholesterol and phospholipid levels and enhance cholesterol excretion (18). These findings were reinforced by a similar 2001 study (19).

    Maitake fruiting body powder was shown to lower cholesterol in a 2013 pre-clinical study (20). In 2016 a similar study found that a preparation of dried Maitake fruiting body reconstituted in water had hypolipidaemic and anti-atherosclerotic effects and achieved these via modulating the primary enzymes concerned with cholesterol metabolism and inhibiting LDL (commonly known as ‘bad’ cholesterol) oxidation (the oxidized variety of cholesterol being the dangerous kind associated with inflammation of the arteries and atherosclerosis). The study concluded it may be useful in both treating and preventing hyperlipidaemia and atherosclerosis (21).

    High blood pressure

    Pre-clinical studies in hypertension revealed that Maitake fruiting body powder may significantly reduce systolic blood pressure (22). A later study by the same researchers concluded that Maitake may also have a preventative effect on high blood pressure (23).
    A 2010 pre-clinical study found that Maitake fractions inhibited age-related hypertension in part by exerting their effects on the renin-angiotensin system (RAS; a hormone system regulating blood pressure) and suggested regularly consuming Maitake may help reduce blood pressure and the sequelae of hypertension (24).

    Antioxidant effects

    A 2012 in vitro study isolated polysaccharides from the Maitake fruiting body and purified these into three fractions. These were found to have significant inhibitory effects on 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical, hydroxyl radical and superoxide radicals (25).

  • Did you know?

    The umami flavour of Maitake is so rich that it is used in dried powder form as a seasoning. 

    Maitake is very similar in appearance and is often mistaken for, a similar mushroom, Umbrella polypore (Polyporus umbellatus/Grifola umbellata), known in China as zhu ling and used as a ‘damp-draining’ medicinal in traditional Chinese medicine.

Additional information

  • Botanical description

    Maitake are a type of soft polypore bracket fungus, meaning they have spore-releasing pores on their underside – rather than gills – and grow outwards from the trees on which they feed (typically oak) in shelf-like formations. Their light brown fan-shaped fruiting bodies with white undersides and stems are 2-8cm wide and grow in clusters spanning 10-100cm in diameter.

  • Common names

    • Hen of the Woods
    • King of the Mushrooms
    • Ram’s/ Sheep’s Head
    • Cloud Mushroom
    • Hui shu hua (“grey tree flower” (China))
    • Signorina (“unmarried woman” (Italy))
  • Safety

    Generally considered to be safe, however, there is no evidence relating to its safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

  • Interactions

    May interact with Warfarin and blood glucose lowering medication.

  • Contraindications

    Mushroom allergy

  • Preparation

    Hot water extraction is the most common method for polysaccharide extraction. Typically, consumed fresh or dried, steeped in a tea or prepared in powder capsule or liquid/tincture form.

  • Dosage

    Commercial preparations provide 3 to 25mg of extract with 75 to 250mg of the whole Maitake powder in each capsule. Capsules of the whole powder alone typically contain 100 to 500 mg of mushroom. Liquid extracts contain 1mg in each drop. Daily doses range from 12 to 25mg of extract and up to 2,500mg of the whole powder (26).

    One clinical study safely prescribed a daily dose of 6g of the whole powder or 20mg of purified extract with 4g of whole Maitake powder for 12 months (27).

  • Plant parts used

    • Fruiting body (mushroom)
    • Mycelium
  • Constituents

    Main bioactive constituents:

    • Polysaccharide fractions: D-fraction, MD-fraction, X-fraction, Grifolan, MZ-fraction, MT- α glucan
    • Proteins/peptides: GFL, Glyco-protein, GFAHP, GFG-3a, GFPr
    • Small molecules: fatty acids, ergosterols, flavonoids, alkaloids, ascorbic acid and tocopherol (4)
Maitake illustration (Grifola frondosa)
  • Habitat

    Maitake thrives mainly in the damp, temperate hardwood forests of Asia – notably Japan and China, but also outside of Asia in North America and Europe. They are typically found at the base of oak trees but may also grow on elms and, occasionally, maples.

  • Sustainability

    Always be mindful of overharvesting if foraging Maitake in the wild. If only one site is found be sure to leave some clusters to enable it to continue to spread via spore dispersal.

  • Quality control

    Look for supplements with high levels of polysaccharides, ideally a minimum of 15% beta-glucans, and without fillers or starches.

  • How to grow

    Maitake are not the easiest of mushrooms to grow, however, should you accept the challenge, the simplest way to do so is with a ready-to-fruit kit. For a more hands-on, albeit slower, approach, they may also be cultivated on an oak log with ready-made hardwood ‘plugs’ – small wooden dowels pre-innoculated with Maitake mycelium – inserted into holes drilled into the log. Once the plugs have been hammered into the prepared log (typically following a process of soaking and possibly sterilising the wood) the insertion holes are sealed with wax (eg. cheese wax). The inoculated log can then be buried just below the soil surface in a moist and shady area. Harvest typically comes 12-24 months later, from September to November, and will produce new mushrooms each year.

  • Recipe

    Maitake mushrooms on a plate (Grifola frondosa)
    Maitake mushrooms on a plate (Grifola frondosa)

    Maitake ‘steaks’

    An incredibly simple yet delicious way to enjoy Maitake in its all glory is to prepare it as a “steak”. To do so:

    • Take a cluster of mushrooms and wash well. Wild-harvested Maitake must always be cleaned thoroughly to remove any forest debris from its folds. 
    • Slice the Maitake lengthways into 1-2 inch steaks.
    • Sear in a pan with a little olive oil or butter and a sprinkle of salt for around 4 minutes on each side and enjoy as a side dish or main. 

    Additions: Crushed garlic or red wine may be added towards the end of cooking or grated parmesan may be dusted on top at the end. 

  • References

      1. Li X et al. The Positive Effects of Grifola frondosa Heteropolysaccharide on NAFLD and Regulation of the Gut Microbiota. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(21):5302. Published 2019 Oct 24. doi:10.3390/ijms20215302
      2. Chen Y et al. Hypoglycemic activity and gut microbiota regulation of a novel polysaccharide from Grifola frondosa in type 2 diabetic mice. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2019;126:295-302. doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2019.02.034.
      3. Lo HC et al. Submerged culture mycelium and broth of Grifola frondosa improve glycemic responses in diabetic rats. Am J Chin Med. 2008;36(2):265-85. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X0800576X. 
      4. Wu J et al. Bioactive Ingredients and Medicinal Values of Grifola frondosa (Maitake). Foods. 2021;10(1):95. Published 2021 Jan 5. doi:10.3390/foods10010095
      5. Chen JT et al. Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) extract induces ovulation in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome: a possible monotherapy and a combination therapy after failure with first-line clomiphene citrate. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(12):1295-1299.21034160
      6. He X et al. Polysaccharides in Grifola frondosa mushroom and their health promoting properties: A review. Int J Biol Macromol. 2017;101:910-921. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2017.03.177. 
      7. Pérez-Bassart Z et al. Compositional differences of β-glucan-rich extracts from three relevant mushrooms obtained through a sequential extraction protocol. Food Chemistry. 2023;402. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2022.134207.
      8. Masuda Y et al. Oral administration of soluble β-glucans extracted from Grifola frondosa induces systemic antitumor immune response and decreases immunosuppression in tumor-bearing mice. Int J Cancer. 2013 Jul;133(1):108-19. doi: 10.1002/ijc.27999.
      9. Alonso EN et al. Genes related to suppression of malignant phenotype induced by Maitake D-Fraction in breast cancer cells. J Med Food. 2013;16(7):602-617. doi:10.1089/jmf.2012.0222
      10. Alonso EN et al. Antitumoral Effects of D-Fraction from Grifola Frondosa (Maitake) Mushroom in Breast Cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2017 Jan;69(1):29-43. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2017.1247891. 
      11. Alonso EN et al. Antitumoral and antimetastatic activity of Maitake D-Fraction in triple-negative breast cancer cells. Oncotarget. 2018 May 4;9(34):23396-23412. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.25174.
      12. Nanba H. Maitake D-fraction: healing and preventive potential for cancer. J Orthomolecular Med. 1997;12:43-49.
      13. Kodama N et al. Can maitake MD-fraction aid cancer patients? Altern Med Rev. 2002 Jun;7(3):236-9. PMID: 12126464. 
      14. Zhao F et al. Antitumor activities of Grifola frondosa (Maitake) polysaccharide: A meta-analysis based on preclinical evidence and quality assessment. J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Nov 15;280:114395. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2021.114395. Epub 2021 Jul 13. PMID: 34271115. 
      15. Su CH et al. Inhibitory potential of Grifola frondosa bioactive fractions on α-amylase and α-glucosidase for management of hyperglycemia. Biotechnol Appl Biochem. 2013 Jul-Aug;60(4):446-52. doi: 10.1002/bab.1105. PMID: 24033596.
      16. Guo WL et al. Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic activities of Grifola frondosa polysaccharides and their relationships with the modulation of intestinal microflora in diabetic mice induced by high-fat diet and streptozotocin. Int J Biol Macromol. 2020 Jun 15;153:1231-1240. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2019.10.253. Epub 2019 Nov 20. PMID: 31759027.
      17. Konno et al. Anticancer and Hypoglycemic Effects of Polysaccharides in Edible and Medicinal Maitake Mushroom [Grifola frondosa (Dicks.: Fr.) S. F. Gray]. Int J Med Mush. 2002;4(3). doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v4.i3.10.
      18. Kubo K, Nanba H. Anti-hyperliposis effect of maitake fruit body (Grifola frondosa). I. Biol Pharm Bull. 1997 Jul;20(7):781-5. doi: 10.1248/bpb.20.781. PMID: 9255420.
      19. Fukushima M et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of maitake (Grifola frondosa) fiber, shiitake (Lentinus edodes) fiber, and enokitake (Flammulina velutipes) fiber in rats. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2001 Sep;226(8):758-65. doi: 10.1177/153537020222600808. PMID: 11520942.
      20. Sato M et al. Effect of dietary Maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms on plasma cholesterol and hepatic gene expression in cholesterol-fed mice. J Oleo Sci. 2013;62(12):1049-58. doi: 10.5650/jos.62.1049. PMID: 24292357.
      21. Ding Y et al. The mechanisms underlying the hypolipidaemic effects of Grifola frondosa in the liver of rats. Front Microbiol. 2016;7:1186.27536279.
      22. Kabir Y et al. Effect of shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms on blood pressure and plasma lipids of spontaneously hypertensive rats. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 1987 Oct;33(5):341-6. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.33.341. PMID: 3443885.
      23. Kabir Y, Kimura S. Dietary mushrooms reduce blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 1989 Feb;35(1):91-4. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.35.91. PMID: 2738717.
      24. Preuss HG et al. Maitake mushroom extracts ameliorate progressive hypertension and other chronic metabolic perturbations in aging female rats. Int J Med Sci. 2010;7(4):169-180. Published 2010 Jun 7. doi:10.7150/ijms.7.169
      25. Chen GT et al. Isolation, purification and antioxidant activities of polysaccharides from Grifola frondosaCarbohydr. Polym.2012;89:61–66. doi:10.1016/j.carbpol.2012.02.045. 
      26. Mayell M. Maitake extracts and their therapeutic potential. Altern Med Rev. 2001;6(1):48-60.11207456.
      27. Nanba H. Effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) glucan in HIV-infected patients. Mycoscience. 2000;41:293-295.
Aromatic
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitter
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Cooling
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Hot
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilaginous
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resinous
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
Salty
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
Sharpness
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
Sweet
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

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