Tremella fuciformis is the name of a species of fungus that is characterized by being white in color, having a gelatinous texture and the shape of a coral. Also known as white fungus, snow mushroom and fungus ear silver, usually grows on the branches of trees large sheet coming loose or dead recently.
Likewise, it is native to tropical and subtropical regions, although it can also be found in temperate areas of America and Asia. In China, this mushroom is appreciated both in traditional medicine and in cooking. In fact, it has been cultivated since the 19th century.
Nutritional profile of snow fungus
Despite being a popular traditional Chinese medicine remedy, its nutritional value is not known with certainty. In general, it is believed that it may have a nutrient composition similar to that of other mushrooms, which means that they are low in calories and provide small amounts of protein and fiber.
Mushrooms are also known to provide zinc, calcium, folate, and vitamin D. These micronutrients are associated with bone health, stimulating brain development, and strengthening the immune system.
Benefits and Uses of Snow fungus
Before mentioning the possible benefits of this mushroom, it is necessary to clarify that research is limited. Most have been done in animals and test tubes.
1. Has anti-inflammatory properties
Although inflammation is a natural response of the body, when it becomes chronic it is associated with the development of heart disease and cancer. Likewise, there is scientific evidence that inflammatory markers such as nitric oxide, interleukin-1-beta and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) increase.
Fortunately, a study published in Analytical Cellular Pathology found that Tremella fuciformis extract has anti-inflammatory properties that decrease these markers.
2. Natural antioxidant
Antioxidants are known to block free radicals, molecules that cause oxidative stress and cell damage. According to test-tube studies published in the Journal of Food Science and International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, the white mushroom has polysaccharides capable of fighting free radicals and reducing oxidative stress.
3. Promotes brain health
It is proven that the polysaccharides of the white fungus also protect brain cells from damage and degenerative diseases. According to research published in Mycobiology, the extract of this fungus reduces brain toxicity caused by beta-amyloid, a peptide that in large quantities is associated with Alzheimer’s.
Similarly, it is believed that the snow fungus can improve memory. In a study with 75 people who took 600 to 1200 milligrams of a supplement of this mushroom per day, higher scores were obtained on a cognitive test.
Likewise, a study in rodents with induced memory loss found that following a daily oral treatment of Tremella fuciformis extract was able to counteract the deleterious effects.
4. Strengthens the immune system
According to test tube research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a protein present in snow fungus is capable of stimulating macrophage activity. Similarly, a study published in Cellular Immunology showed that polysaccharides from the fungus can control the immune system response and decrease mortality from infections.
Other possible benefits of snow fungus
Other benefits of silver ear fungus include the following:
- Promote skin health: A study published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules suggested that, if applied to the skin, the fungus can form a transparent film that helps retain water.
- Control blood sugar levels: There is scientific evidence that white mushroom polysaccharides can lower blood glucose levels, as well as improve insulin sensitivity.
- Protect against heart disease: according to a test tube study, the antioxidant effects of the snow fungus prevent the oxidation process of LDL or bad cholesterol from taking place. This, in turn, prevents atherosclerosis.
Risks and recommendations for use
Since there is no evidence on possible side effects, the white fungus is considered safe to ingest and apply. Of course, pregnant and lactating women should avoid it as a form of precaution.
Another recommendation is not to go out looking for mushrooms in nature, since you run the risk of confusing edibles with poisonous ones.
How to prepare snow mushrooms
When bought, the mushrooms come dry, so you have to follow a series of steps to get them ready:
- Soak the mushrooms and let them rest for 1 to 3 hours or until they become jelly-like.
- Take them out of the water and cut off the bottom. This tends to be hard, even after soaking.
- Cut the mushrooms into small pieces, preferably in the shape of petals. Then wash them well, drain and pat dry.
Once these steps are completed, you can add the mushrooms to your preferred recipe. Although you must bear in mind that its flavor is sweet and that they are usually added to sweet and savory soups.
Another way to eat them can be in a porridge. To do it, just prepare the dried mushroom as we have mentioned, bring 1 cup of water to a boil, add 1/4 cup of oatmeal and the chopped mushroom. Then cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
Snow fungus and health effects
In traditional Chinese medicine, silver ear mushroom is a prominent herbal remedy. It is also associated with a number of important health benefits, from reducing inflammation to promoting brain health and strengthening the immune system.
However, although there is scientific evidence to support these effects, most of the studies have been done in animals or test tubes. More research is needed to support these benefits.