The shiitake is one of the most highly prized foods in Oriental cuisine, lending its rich, caramel-like flavor to seasonings, sauces, soups, even carbonated drinks and candies. Yet few aficionados of this gourmet delicacy are aware of its high nutritional value or of its important role in traditional Chinese medicine and in the modern search for botanical remedies. Traditionally classified as a food that activates the blood, shiitake has been used as a folk treatment for colds, measles, and bronchial inflammations. Shiitake: The Healing Mushroom takes the reader on a lively tour of the healing properties of one of the world's most delicious foods.
In the past few years, its growing popularity in the West has made shiitake, after the common table mushroom, the most-cultivated mushroom worldwide. Recent studies indicate its usefulness in lowering blood cholesterol levels and preventing heart disease. Research suggests that shiitake is valuable in immunotherapy, bolstering the immune system and increasing the body's ability to ward off cancerous tumors, viral infections, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
The N.I.H. is testing shiitake in their AIDS research program.