The Frisbee-sized maitake mushroom was once a rare find in the mountains of northern Japan. Its name means "dancing mushroom," but it's also been dubbed "hen of the woods" for the feathery appearance of its overlapping caps. Today, the mushroom is cultivated throughout Europe and North America for its purported medicinal powers. Maitake's cell walls contain powerful carbohydrate compounds called polysaccharides, which help spur the body's immune cells into action.
Uses: Maitake supplements are most commonly used as an immune booster, particularly against cancer and HIV. They're also sometimes taken in attempts to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, lose weight and manage diabetes.
Dose: Recommended doses vary from 1 to 7 grams a day. Maitake supplements are sold as powders, pills and liquid extracts. The mushrooms can also be eaten as food or made into a tea. Maitake products are sometimes labeled with the mushroom's scientific name, Grifola frondosa.
Precautions: Maitake supplements are a relatively new subject of study, but so far they appear to be safe and side-effect free.