Shiitake Mushrooms Help Lower Arthritic Symptoms

Long used in traditional medicine as a treatment for chronic diseases, the shiitake mushroom is also widely used in East Asian cuisine. Recent research into the medicinal mushroom shows that shiitake has antiviral and antibacterial properties, which can enhance the immune system to combat ailments.

In Japan, the shiitake mushroom is isolated into Active Hexose Correlated Compound, a common type of alternative medicine for patients with cancer. In a study done at Oklahoma State University, researchers conducted a test with shiitake and white button mushrooms to observe their effects on arthritic mice.

Arthritis is a disorder of the joints that can affect all ages; however, the majority of those with arthritis are 65 and older. It is estimated that about 50 million adults in the U.S. are living with arthritis. There are many types of the disorder, but one of the most common symptoms is inflammation.

The effect of shiitake on arthritis

Because of shiitake mushrooms’ seeming ability to alleviate various symptoms, researchers Lawrence Chandra et al. decided to experiment with the mushroom as possible alternative, natural and cost-effective treatment for arthritis.

For the test, female mice were divided into three groups. One group received a control diet, another group’s diet was supplemented with white button mushroom, and the third group’s diet was supplemented with shiitake mushrooms. Forty-two days into their diet, the mice were given collagen-induced arthritis, which is equivalent to rheumatoid arthritis in humans.

At the end of the experiment, researchers found that the level of arthritis was higher in mice fed a control diet compared to the mushroom diets. The decreases between diet groups were not significant, though. In the microscopic assessment of joint cells and bone erosion, it was found that the mice fed with a shiitake diet had bone structure that was nearly intact with only minor inflammation.

The bone structure in mice fed the control diet was mostly eroded, while the white button mushroom group fell in between the control and shiitake groups. Chandra et al. also found that compared to the control group, the mice administered the shiitake mushroom diets had lower levels of tumour necrosis factor (TNF-α), which is involved in inflammation.

Because a popular treatment for rheumatoid arthritis are anti-TNF- α drugs, the researchers believe the potential for shiitake to be used as an alternative form of arthritis therapy may be very beneficial.

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Celia Leung

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