Book Review

Shiitake: The Healing Mushroom
by Kenneth Jones

Cover: Shiitake: The Healing Mushroom

Kenneth Jones was the researcher for Terry Willard's book Reishi Mushroom: Herb of Spiritual Potency and Medical Wonder. We reviewed it in our September 1992 issue. We felt that Willard got a little too excited about the potential of reishi at the expense of his scientific objectivity. Jones, while clearly excited about the potential of shiitake in human health, better maintains his objectivity while drawing together all the available evidence to make his case. That's a major accomplishment considering the book contains 33 pages of notes that document virtually every substantive statement he makes. We were a bit amused when he referenced the statement ". . . now reliable methods are available to anyone who wishes to grow them at home or commercially" to Shiitake Growers Handbook by Przybillowicz (sic) and Donaghue (sic). While we recommend Shiitake Growers Handbook to our readers, this statement probably didn't need to be referenced to it. Jones provides a pretty good balance to the book by acknowledging the lack of clinic studies, the potential for allergic reaction (as in any food), and other "cons" to the wealth of "pros" he documents.

The book makes the best presentation of nutritional factors we've seen by combining the results of eight different studies into one table. It includes the quantities of trace elements, general components, vitamin D, polysaccharide content, nutritionally essential amino acids, protein and fatty acid content. Jones quotes S.T. Chang from a 1980 article in BioScience: "When one considers that they can be produced on waste materials - converting products of little or no market value into food for an over-populated world - then there is no doubt that mushrooms represent one of the world's greatest untapped resources of nutritious and palatable food for the future." That's one of the main points of the book.

Most of the book focuses on the medicinal effects that have been demonstrated by the mushroom and its various components. To his credit, Jones tries to highlight those effects that have been associated with eating the mushroom and those that have been demonstrated to some extent in humans. At the same time, he doesn't neglect various studies that have used isolated components of the mushroom or those that have only been tested in animals.

According to the studies that Jones draws from, shiitake have been demonstrated to have beneficial effects on the following array of diseases:

Although shiitake is the topic of the book, Jones does note some similar benefits derived from reishi and maitake. He includes a table from a 1969 article that appeared in Cancer Research. The table highlights the anti-tumor effectiveness of a water extract of several mushroom species when injected into the stomachs of mice that had Sarcoma 180.