Medicinal Mushrooms for Controlling Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the common disease in the world that is on the rise. According to World Health Organization, 422 million people have diabetes, which is 1 in every 11 people in the world, (1) and nearly 8 percent of Americans have diabetes. (2) Maintaining healthy body weight, being physically active and eating a healthy diet are good way to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

In addition, there are studies that show mushrooms can help regulate blood sugar levels and help with diabetes. Here is what we found from our research.

​​Oyster Mushrooms

There are a couple of interesting studies performed on both diabetic mice and human subjects. (3)(4) One using fresh oyster mushrooms as food, and in the other, an extract of oyster mushrooms. They both came to the same result, that consuming oyster mushrooms will reduce blood glucose levels, cholesterol and triglycerides in diabetic patients.

"it has been proved in a clinical trial that eating oyster mushroom reduces blood glucose and cholesterol in diabetic men and women.

K. Khatun at Department of Diet and Nutrition, BIRDEM, in Dhaka 1000 and colleagues earlier conducted a clinical trial and proved that oyster mushroom helps reduce cholesterol and blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

In the study, which was published in Mymensingh Medical Journal, 89 men and women at the mean age of 46.3 years were assigned to use oyster mushroom for seven days and then stopped eating the mushroom for seven days and then resumed another-7-day mushroom dietary intervention.

The researchers found during the first seven day oyster mushroom regimen:

  • Mushroom significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure (DBP).

  • It lowered plasma glucose significantly (FPG)

  • Mushroom lowered total cholesterol and triglycerides significantly (T-cholesterol and TG)

  • Mushroom did not significantly change weight and HDL-c.

When subjects stopped eating mushroom, DBP, FPG, 2hPG, T-cholesterol and TG increased while weight, SBP and HDL-c did not change.After resuming the mushroom diet, subjects had serum levels of blood glucose, TG and cholesterol decreased again.The researchers concluded "mushroom significantly reduced blood glucose, blood pressure, TG and cholesterol of diabetic subjects without any deleterious effect on liver and kidney." (4)

​​​​Shiitake Mushrooms

"Shiitake mushrooms are unusual in containing not only a large amount of total glucans but also a large amount of one specific glucan called beta-glucan. Because these glucans cannot be broken down by enzymes in our digestive tract, they pass undigested all the way through to our large intestine where they help support growth of desirable bacteria in our digestive tract. This result earns shiitake mushrooms the right to be called a health-supportive food. But perhaps more importantly, beta-glucans also provide support for a wide variety of body systems, including our immune system, antioxidant system, and our endocrine system. Because beta-glucans can bind onto certain receptors on our immune cells, they can help support immune system function. These polysaccharides can also function as antioxidants and have been shown to have free radical scavenging activity. In addition, beta-glucan intake has been linked to better regulation of our blood sugar and insulin levels." (5)

"Scientists have also isolated an amino acid, eritadenine, in shiitakes that may prove to be beneficial in the prevention of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes by lowering cholesterol, preventing blood clots, and regulating blood sugar levels." (6)

​​​​Lion's Mane Mushrooms

"It has long been claimed that the lion’s mane mushroom is a “superfood” that can aid concentration. A scientific study published in January 2017 has shown lion’s mane to stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), an amino acid compound found in the brain that assists in the maintenance of neurons. Those neurons are what enable the brain to process and transmit information. Stimulating NGF production can help people diagnosed with ADHD to better focus on tasks at hand. Furthermore, researchers discovered five years ago by using Lion’s Mane to increase NGF levels, it is possible to stop of the progress of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

That is good news for diabetics who suffer from nerve damage (neuropathy), a common complication with diabetes. However, the benefits to Type-2 diabetics goes further than that. A study published this past April in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules found that consumption of lion’s mane mushrooms can improve insulin sensitivity, lowering high blood sugar levels by as much as 50% in as little as four weeks. This indicates that lion’s mane could very well turn out to be as effective as drugs such as canagliflozin – without the dangerous side effects." (7)

Reishi Mushrooms

"According to researchers from the Institute of Vascular Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, reishi mushrooms can lower blood sugar levels in laboratory animals.

For their study, which was published in the May 2009 edition of Phytomedicine, the researchers fed 0.03 and 0.3g/kg of reishi extracts to diabetic mice over a one-month period. The extracts lowered the blood glucose levels of the mice within a single week, leading the researchers to believe that the mushroom inhibits an enzyme used by the liver to produce glucose.

Another Chinese study, which was conducted by researchers at the Department of Pharmacology of Peking University in Beijing and published in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Asian Natural Products Research, specifically looked into reishi's effects on diabetic kidney disease. After the eight-week trial period, the diabetic subjects exhibited noticeably reduced markers of kidney stress, as well as lowered triglyceride and blood sugar levels. The researchers concluded that reishi mushrooms can prevent or halt the progression of diabetic kidney complications.

Important: Unlike most other medicinal mushrooms, which can be eaten cooked, reishi have a tough texture that is difficult for our stomachs to digest. Therefore, if you're interested in utilizing reishi as a medicine, consider consuming it in extract form (like in the studies) for improved nutrient absorption." (8)

Photo Credit: Lingzhi or Reishi, by Eric Steinert at Paussac, France

Maitake Mushrooms, Hen of the Woods

"The polysaccharides of maitake mushrooms—called beta-glucans—do almost the opposite of dietary starch in every significant way. This is where research shows the value of maitake polysaccharides in preventing and treating diabetes.

At the top of the list of such properties, maitake polysaccharides are now known to significantly diminish levels of insulin and of sugar-bound (glycated) hemoglobin (2002). The latter measure, abbreviated HbA1C, indicates the three-month average of blood glucose concentration. It is a reliable measure of long-term blood sugar levels.

Extra Blood Sugar Reduction

The anti-diabetic properties of maitake polysaccharides are just one aspect of blood sugar regulation. It turns out that maitake also contains a disaccharide (“double sugar”) called trehalose. This small carbohydrate is known for its ability to inhibit the activity of an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase (2002).

Inhibition of alpha-glucosidase activity leads to a lower rate of glucose absorption in the small intestine. Drug companies are now developing alpha-glucosidase inhibitors for regulating blood sugar levels in diabetics. New drugs seem to be an unnecessary approach, since trehalose is already known for such activity.

The Insulin Bonus

Regulating levels of blood glucose and insulin are only part of the story when it comes to fighting diabetes. Over time, chronic impairment of carbohydrate metabolism can cause insulin resistance. This condition is characterized as the failure of insulin to transport blood glucose into cells where it is needed for energy.

Restoring insulin sensitivity is therefore also crucial for healthy carbohydrate metabolism. This is where maitake mushroom nutrition can provide an anti-diabetic bonus. Studies show that a particular glycoprotein (“sugar-protein” combo) of maitake has the ability to improve insulin sensitivity (2007)." (9)

Photo Credit: Grifola frondosa Eikhaas by Pethan 10-2004 Amelisweerd, Netherland


(1) World Health Organization, "Diabetes Fact Sheet"

(2) "Maitake: The Magnificent ‘Dancing’ Mushroom" by Paul Stamets

(3) "Oyster mushroom reduced blood glucose and cholesterol in diabetic subjects" by Khatun K, Mahtab H, Khanam PA, Sayeed MA, Khan KA

(4) Pilze Nagy "Oyster Mushroom against diabetes"

(5)"What's New and Beneficial about Shiitake Mushrooms"

(6) Prescription for Dietary Wellness by Phyllis A. Balch

(7) The Unusual Mushroom Called “Lion’s Mane” Might Have True Medical Benefits by KJ McElrath

(8) "A Magic Mushroom That Fights Cancer & Diabetes" by James Colquhoun

(9) "Fight Diabetes with Maitake Mushrooms and Regulate Blood Sugar Levels" by Dr. Dennis Clark

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