by Lex Barnard

Common Names Shiitake, Shiitake Mushroom, Black Forest Mushroom, Chinese Black Mushroom, Donko (dōnggū) aka “winter mushroom”, xiang gu aka “flower mushroom”, bai hua gu

Latin Name: Lentinula edodes

Family: Omphalotaceae

Habitat: Native to east Asia, largely China and Japan, as well as in warm and moist climates. Shiitake grows on decaying broadleaf (deciduous) trees and is largely cultivated throughout the world. They fruit during spring to late summer and early autumn.

Parts Used: Fruiting body and mycelium

History/Tradition: Shiitake takes its name from the Japanese word “shii” for the tree it was typically found growing on, and “take” which means mushroom. Shiitake has been used for over 6,000 years in ancient Chinese Medicine (Shiitake Mushroom, n.d.) and likely began being cultivated over 1400 years ago in 600 AD. Shiitake is used for tonifying and balancing out Qi, and is said in TCM to work with the spleen, stomach, and lung meridians. It is used in both culinary and medicinal settings in both eastern Russian and Asian traditions.(Shiitake Mushroom Medicinal Benefits, n.d., sec. History/Folklore)

It is the second most cultivated mushroom in the world behind button mushrooms. Dried shiitake are used in soups, stocks, and any dishes requiring boiling. It can also be used in dual extract tinctures, teas, or ground up and used as a seasoning. Shiitake has a similar amino acid profile as red meat and can be an additional or alternative source of protein in the diet. Thanks to extensive research out of Japan, it is now known that Shiitake contains all 8 of the essential amino acids.


Flavor: sweet, umami, earthy

Temperature: neutral, balancing or cooling.


Vitamins C, D, zinc, Beta-glucans and Lentinen polysaccharides, fiber, protein, amino acids, B vitamins, copper.


Anti-Inflammatory, Qi balancing, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-fungal


Immune, cardiovascular, skeletal system, overall body.


cholesterol balancing, produces free radicals, hepatic, anti-inflammatory, helps with weight loss, micronutrient dense/nutritive, immune boosting, alterative


There are no known contraindications of using Shiitake, however, if you have an allergy to mushrooms or find you have stomach issues after consuming mushrooms, please be advised that all mushrooms have a cell wall known as chitin that can be more difficult to digest for some than others. Ways around this can be in a tea or tincture, steeping in a broth for flavor, or possibly boiling mushrooms before sauteing.


  • Materia medica — Shiitake. (n.d.). Peaceful Harvest Mushrooms. Shiitake PDF
  • Mushroom. (2022). Shiitake Mushrooms Facts, History and Recipes – Mushroom appreciation. Mushroom Appreciation.
  • Shiitake mushroom. (n.d.). Mountain Rose Herbs.
  • Shiitake mushroom medicinal benefits. (n.d.). The Forest Farmacy.
  • Shitake Identification: Pictures, Habitat, Season & Spore Print | Lentinula edodes. (n.d.).
  • Shull, K. (2021). Energetics of Mushrooms: Literal Magic — East West Wellness | Acupuncture, Herbal Therapy & Nutrition. East West Wellness.
  • White Rabbit Institute of Healing. (2023, March 20). Shiitake (Xiang Gu) | White Rabbit Institute of Healing.
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