Snow Fungus – Tremella fuciformis

Japanese nameShirokikurage / Hakumokuji
Chinese nameBai Mu Er/Yin Er

As well as being a popular culinary mushroom in oriental cuisine, Tremella fuciformis has a long history of medicinal use and was one of the mushrooms included in the Shen Nong Bencaojing (c.200AD). Its traditional indications include clearing Heat and Dryness, nourishing the brain and enhancing beauty.
Like other jelly fungi, T. fuciformis is rich in polysaccharides and these are the main bioactive component1. The principal polysaccharide is a glucoronoxylomannan with a linear backbone of 1,3 linked α-D-mannan residues with side chains consisting mainly of xylose and glucoronic acid2,3. The glucuronic acid side chains in Auricularia auricula-judae have been found to be essential for its anti-coagulant action and they are likely to contribute to T. fuciformis’s action in this regard.
Research in China has focused on its use to alleviate the side effects of radiotherapy and as an anti-ageing supplement with over 40 Chinese patents citing it during the 1990s alone4,5.

RADIOTHERAPY -As well as demonstrating broad immuno-modulatory activity and in vitro anti-cancer activity6-8, T. fuciformis polysaccharides have been shown to protect against the consequences of acute radiation exposure, restoring the blood-producing mechanism of the bone marrow9. When administered at a dose of 54mg/kg i.p. for 3 days before γ-irradiation they resulted in 50% 30-day survival in mice exposed to whole body lethal γ-irradiation compared to 100% mortality without and when administered at a dose of 200mg/kg for 3-5 days prior to γ-irradiation they exerted a protective effect on bone marrow with myeloid granulocytes reduced to 60% of normal compared to 20%of normal without10.
They also significantly increased 30-day survival rates in mice, dogs and monkeys exposed to γ-irradiation11.

CIRCULATORY DISORDERST. fuciformis polysaccharides have been shown to stimulate DNA synthesis in vascular endothelial cells, the dysfunction of which is a major factor in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, hypertension and thrombophlebitis, with therapeutic implications for these conditions. They have also been shown to protect endothelium cells from histamine damage, increase clotting time, reduce platelet adherence and blood viscosity9.

NEUROLOGICAL DAMAGE – The water extract of T. fuciformis (0.01-1 microg/ml) promoted neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells in a dose dependent manner, indicating potential for application of T. fuciformis polysaccharides in the treatment of neurological damage12.
Experiments with mice also showed the ability of T. fuciformis polysaccharides to exert an anti-ageing effect by increasing the superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity of the brain and liver9.

MEMORY IMPAIRMENT – Traditionally considered to nourish the brain, supplementation with T. fuciformis polysaccharide extract (100 or 400 mg/kg) for 14 days significantly reversed the scopolamine-induced deficit in learning and memory in rats and alleviated decrease in cholinergic immuno-reactivity induced by scopolamine in the medial septum and hippocampus13,14.

COSMETIC APPLICATIONT. fuciformis has traditionally been used to benefit the skin and ‘enhance beauty’ and T. fuciformis polysaccharides have been developed for use in cosmetics on account of their excellent skin moisture retention, skin protection, flexibility and flattening effects, as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. Their ability to prevent senile degeneration of micro-vessels helps maintain blood perfusion to the skin and they have also been shown to promote wound healing15,16.

Main Therapeutic Application – Immune support, anti-ageing, radiotherapy.
Key Component – Polysaccharides.
Dose – 1-3g/day polysaccharide extract for health maintenance, 3-6g/day for radiotherapy support.
T. fuciformis polysaccharides are beneficial for counteracting the harmful effects of radiotherapy and also possess excellent anti-ageing activity with a combination of neurological, circulatory and immune-modulating benefits. In addition they are an ideal supplement for those who smoke because of their moistening and nourishing properties, as well as beneficial effects on the skin and immune system.
Safety – Although a widely consumed culinary mushroom with no reported side effects, T. fuciformis’ mild anti-coagulant activity indicates a need for caution when using alongside anti-coagulant medication.

1. Research advances in primary biological effects of Tremella polysaccharides. Chen FF, Cai DL. Zhong XiYi Jie He Xue Bao. 2008;6(8):862–866.
2. Characterisation of acidic heteroglycans from Tremella fuciformis Berk with cytokine stimulating activity. Gao Q, Seljelid R, Chen H, Jiang R. Carbohydr Res. 1996;288:135–142.
3. Antioxidation activities of polysaccharides extracted from Tremella fuciformis Berk. Liu PX, Gao XR, Xu WQ, Zhou ZW, Shen X. Chin J Biochem Pharmaceutics. 2005;26(3):169–170.
4. Effect of polysaccharides from Auricularia auricula Underw, Tremella fuciformis Berk and spores of Tremella fuciformis Berk on aging. Chen YJ, Xia EN, Wang SR, Chen QH. Chin J Mod Appl Pharm. 1989;6(2):9–10.
5. Effect of Tremella polysaccharides on the immune function of experimental aging model mice. Li Y, Liu XL, Pei SP, Shi Y, Cai DL. Chin J Clin Nutr. 2005;13(4):228–231.
6. Effect of Tremella polysaccharide on IL-2 production by mouse splenocytes. Ma L, Lin ZB. Yaoxue Xuebao. 1992;27(1):1–4.
7. Effects of Tremella polysaccharides on immune function in mice. Xia D, Lin ZB. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 1989;10(5):453–457.
8. Antitumour activity on sarcoma 180 of the polysaccharides from Tremella fuciformis Berk. Ukai S, Hirose K, Kiho T, Hara C, Irikura T. Chem Pharm Bull. 1972;20(10):2293–2294.
9. Medicinal value of the genus Tremella Pers. (Heterobasidiomycetes) (Review). Reshetnikov SV, Wasser SP, Duckman I, Tsukor K. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2000;2(3):345–367.
10. Effect of nourishing Yin and antitoxic capsule II on oxidative injury by X-ray irradiation in rats. Chen R, Shi HJ, Hou Y. J Hebei Med Univ. 2006;27(5): 358–360.
11. Effect of Tremella fuciformis Berk on acute radiation sickness in dogs. Zhao TF, Xu CX, Li ZW, Xie F, Zhao YT, Wang SQ, Luo CH, Lu RS, Ni GL, Gu ZQ, Ni YF, Qian Q, Chen XQ. Zhongguo Yixueke Xueyuan Xue Bao. 1982;4(1):20–23.
12. Long-term regeneration and functional recovery of a 15mm critical nerve gap bridged by Tremella fuciformis polysaccharide-immobilized polylactide conduits. Hsu SH, Chan SH, Weng CT, Yang SH, Jiang CF. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:959261.
13. Effect of Tremella fuciformis on the neurite outgrowth of PC12h cells and the improvement of memory in rats. Kim JH, Ha HC, Lee MS, Kang JI, Kim HS, Lee SY, Pyun KH, Shim I. Biol Pharm Bull. 2007;30(4):708–714.
14. Tremella fuciformis enhances the neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells and restores trimethyltin-induced impairment of memory in rats via activation of CREB transcription and cholinergic systems. Park HJ, Shim HS, Ahn YH, Kim KS, Park KJ, Choi WK, Ha HC, Kang JI, Kim TS, Yeo IH, Kim JS, Shim I. Behav Brain Res. 2012;229(1):82–90.
15. Tremella fuciformis (Shirokikurage) polysaccharide. Ahashi Y, Yamamoto Y. Fragrance Journal. 2005;33(3):45–50.
16. Khamlue R, Naksupan N, Ounaroon A, Saleim N: Skin wound healing promoting effect of polysaccharides extracts from Tremella fuciformis and Auricularia auricula on the ex-vivo porcine skin wound healing model. 4th International Conference on Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. IPCBEE. 2012;43:93–98.