While the popularity of functional mushrooms in herbal medicine has been exploding in the last few years, the focus has mainly been on a few of the better known species – reishi, lions mane, cordyceps, turkey tail, chaga, maitake and shitake. There’s a reason for this – these 7 are health powerhouses – but there are many other fungi with medicinal and culinary uses.
Snow fungus (tremella fuciformis) is one that is relatively unknown in North America but that has a long history of use in Chinese medicine and cuisine. I was delighted to find it the other day in my (semi) local Asian supermarket.
In Chinese medicine, snow fungus is called Bai Mu Er (white wood ear) and is bland, sweet and has a neutral temperature. The bland flavour means that this herb will create flow within the body and help leach out toxins and other by-products of cell metabolism that can accumulate and cause health problems. Its sweetness means that it will help build vitality and energy while also harmonizing the body, which means that basically it will help your body run more smoothly.
Snow fungus is also considered a yin tonic in Chinese medicine, which further emphasizes its ability to nourish the body. It soothes and cools inflammation, especially in the lungs and stomach. It is slightly expectorant, meaning it helps to expel stuck phlegm from the lungs. It can also be helpful in treating a dry cough that is not productive, which is more common now with covid.
LIke many of the mushrooms from the Chinese medical tradition such as cordyceps and reishi, tremella is used as a tonic for vigor and longevity. In Japan, it is eaten to prevent atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) by lowering cholesterol levels.
Here is a synopsis of its medicinal uses, as indicated by scientific studies and traditional uses:
- Tremella is an expectorant for the lungs, as noted above. In addition to being used for dry coughs, it is also helpful for bronchial inflammation and asthma.
- It lowers cholesterol and is beneficial in heart disease.
- It has broad anticancer and immuno-modulatory effects.
- It has been shown to protect against the consequences of acute radiation exposure.
- As noted above, snow fungus is useful for circulatory disorders and can be helpful in treating atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and thrombophlebitis (inflammatory swelling and clotting in veins)
- It protects against neurological damage and has anti-aging effects by increasing the SOD activity in the brain and liver.
- Tremella has traditionally been used to nourish the brain.
To summarize, you can think of snow fungus as useful for its anti-aging, heart and brain health effects while supporting the immune system and protecting against cancers and the side effects of radiation therapy and exposure.
Another great thing about snow fungus is that it tastes great and has been used in Asian cuisine for generations. It can also be powdered (message me if you want the details on how to do so effectively) or tinctured to maximize your consumption of its valuable beta-glucans. But one of the best ways to consume mushrooms is in our food, so add this to your soups or stews.
Here are some mushroom combinations that I would consider for different therapeutic purposes. As always, I’m not giving medical advice here and I always recommend that you check with your MD before starting any herb or supplement. These are just ideas to give you an idea about how I use mushrooms in my acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice. If you would like to learn more or if you’d like to book an appointment in either Collingwood or Meaford, please use the link above.
For cardiovascular issues, I will consider combine chaga, reishi and with snow fungus. All three have long histories of use for heart and circulatory issues. Plant medicine that I may add in in such cases include hawthorn berries, leaves and flowers along with notoginseng root.
For lung issues, snow fungus can combine well with reishi and cordyceps. To help prevent cancers, I often recommend a multi-mushroom blend that might include snow fungus along with fungi luminaries such as chaga, turkey tail, shitake and maitake.
So the next time you are near an Asian supermarket or herbalist, pick up some snow fungus and add it into your life either as a tincture, powder or in your food. Like all the medicinal mushrooms, it is extremely safe to use and offers much to the body to support our health and vitality.