Long before it reached our Japanese restaurant in Lynnwood, the shiitake mushroom was revered for its great taste and medicinal properties. Its history as a food stretches to prehistory, with its first recorded use going back as far as AD 199 in its native China. The Chinese and, later on, the Japanese have been cultivating the mushrooms for over a thousand years, using it not only as a food but as a remedy for disease, an agent to empower the chi, and a means to battle the effects of old age.
Though ancient medicine lacked the finer tools of modern day, modern science can confirm many of shiitake’s long-celebrated benefits. Shiitake has been found to contain valuable nutrients and powerful anti-oxidants, serving to balance bodily nutrition and fight the aging effects of free radicals. Substances in shiitake can also lower cholesterol and inhibit cancer tumors. Indeed, it would seem that the doctors of the old East knew what they were talking about!