The white fungus (Tremella fuciformis) is a wild edible mushroom that grows on the bark and branches of trees, particularly broad-leaved trees (1).
For centuries, it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is still praised today for its medicinal properties, which include anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
This article discusses the benefits, uses, drawbacks, and methods for preparing and eating white fungus.
What exactly is it?
White fungus is a type of edible mushroom in the Tremellaceae family (1).
Due to its distinctive characteristics and the fact that it is commonly found attached to fallen branches of broad-leaved trees, it is also known as snow fungus, silver ear, snow ear, white wood ear, and white jelly mushroom.
It's white to pale yellow in colour, with a soft, jelly-like texture that's almost translucent and the shape of underwater coral.
White fungus is most commonly found in Asia, but it can also be found in tropical climates throughout the world, including South and Central America, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands (1).
For many years, it has been used as a medicinal herb in Chinese medicine to promote health and longevity (2).
White fungus is a gelatinous medicinal mushroom with a coral shape. It is widely grown in Asia and has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
There is currently no information available on the nutritional value of white fungus.
Its nutritional profile, however, is likely to be similar to that of other wild mushrooms — or mushrooms in general.
Overall, mushrooms are low in calories and contain only trace amounts of protein and fibre (3).
Increasing your fibre intake may help lower your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and gastrointestinal diseases (4).
Mushrooms, in general, contain trace amounts of vitamin D, zinc, calcium, and folate, all of which are important for immunity, bone health, and brain development (3, 5, 6, 7).
White fungus is high in fibre and low in calories. It's also high in vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.
White fungus is valued for its numerous health-promoting properties, the majority of which are attributed to its polysaccharide content (2).
However, research is limited and is mostly conducted on animals and in test tubes. Keep in mind that, while the findings appear promising, more human research is required.
Inflammation is your body's natural response to injury and aids in the healing process. It usually goes away after a wound heals (8).
Chronic inflammation occurs when your body is in a constant state of inflammation. This has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer (8, 9, 10).
Chronic inflammation is also linked to higher levels of pro-inflammatory mediators such as nitric oxide, interleukin-1 beta, interleukin-6, and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (11).
According to in vitro studies, white fungus extract has anti-inflammatory activity capable of lowering said pro-inflammatory markers (9, 12, 13).
Antioxidant properties are possible
Excessive free radical exposure can cause oxidative stress, which can result in negative health effects such as cell and tissue damage (14).
Antioxidants are molecules that assist in the neutralisation of free radicals, thereby protecting your body from oxidative stress (14).White fungus polysaccharides have been shown in test tubes to reduce oxidative stress by fighting free radicals. This may help you avoid certain chronic conditions (9, 12, 15, 16).
Brain health may be improved
Polysaccharides from white fungi may protect brain cells from nerve cell damage and degenerative diseases (17).
One test-tube study discovered that white fungus extract may reduce brain toxicity caused by beta-amyloid — a protein that has been linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease in high amounts (18, 19).
May also help with memory
In one 8-week study of 75 people, consuming either 600 mg or 1,200 mg of a white fungus supplement per day improved memory questionnaire scores, particularly in short-term memory parameters, when compared to a control group (20).
Similarly, a 14-day rat study found that a daily oral treatment with white fungus extract significantly reversed drug-induced memory loss (21).
It could help your immune system
White fungus bioactive compounds may stimulate some of your immune system's defence cells.
According to one test-tube study, a protein found in white fungus may stimulate macrophage activity — a type of white blood cell that kills bacteria and removes damaged tissue (22).
In another study, its polysaccharides were found to help regulate the immune response and reduce infection-related mortality in mice during a laboratory-induced infection (23).
More human research, however, is required to better understand what this means for human health.
Skin complexion may improve
Because of its anti-aging and moisturising properties, white mushroom is popular in the beauty industry.
Its polysaccharides may improve skin hydration by reducing water and collagen losses in the skin after exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light (24).
Furthermore, when white fungus polysaccharides are applied to the skin, they form a transparent film that improves water retention. As a result, they may function as natural moisturisers and antiwrinkle agents (25).
Blood sugar levels may be controlled
White fungus polysaccharides may also help lower blood sugar levels by acting on a variety of anti-diabetic pathways.
One animal study, for example, discovered that white fungus polysaccharides may significantly lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which is how your cells respond to the hormone insulin (26).
Furthermore, in vitro studies revealed that white fungus extract may have a positive effect on diabetes-related enzymes and hormones.
According to the research, white fungus may inhibit aldose reductase activity. Increased levels of this enzyme in diabetics may cause eye and nerve damage (27, 28).
Other research indicates that white fungus polysaccharides can normalise resistin and adiponectin levels, two hormones that, when altered, can lead to insulin resistance (29, 30).
May reduce the risk of heart disease
Compounds found in white fungus may also help prevent heart disease (31).
According to one test-tube study, the mushroom's antioxidant activity may prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation (12).
Evidence suggests that LDL oxidation is involved in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis, which is defined as the accumulation of plaque in your arteries and is a risk factor for high blood pressure and stroke (32).
According to research, white fungus may provide a variety of health benefits, owing primarily to its polysaccharide and antioxidant content.
There have been no reports of negative side effects or toxicity from consuming white fungus.
Nonetheless, pregnant women should avoid consuming it as a precaution.
Foraging for white fungus in the wild is also not advised. You run the risk of confusing edible mushrooms with poisonous ones, which is dangerous to your health.
There have been no reported side effects from white fungus. However, pregnant women should avoid it.
How to Prepare White Fungus
Although you can buy fresh white fungus online or at a specialty store, it is usually sold dried.
Before cooking, the dried white fungus should be prepared as follows:
- Soaking. Cover the dried mushroom with water and set aside for 1 to 3 hours, or until gelatinously soft.
- Trimming. Trim away the bottom part, which is still hard after soaking.
- Washing. Tear the fungus into petal-like pieces. Thoroughly wash and drain or pat dry.
White fungus has a sweet flavour and a bland texture, and it is traditionally used in both sweet and savoury soups. You can still use it as an ingredient in other dishes.
Here's a simple recipe for white fungus porridge:
- First, prepare your white fungus by soaking, trimming, and washing it. After that, cut it into smaller pieces.
- Heat 1 cup of water to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes after adding 1/4 cup of oats and the chopped fungus.
As part of a balanced breakfast or snack, serve this porridge with fruits or nuts.
White fungus is simple to prepare and can be added to everyday dishes. If you get it dry, just remember to soak, trim, and wash it first.
White fungus is a wild medicinal mushroom that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine.
It is high in fibre and polysaccharides, which are chains of carbohydrates that provide health benefits such as improved brain, heart, skin, and immune health.
Keep in mind, however, that human research is limited, and that the majority of the claimed benefits are only supported by test-tube and animal studies.
White fungus has no known side effects and is simple to incorporate into your diet.