Wood Ear – Auricularia auricula-judae / Auricularia polytricha

Japanese Name – Kikurage
Chinese Name – Mu Er / Wood Ear
English Name – Jelly Ear

Auricularia auricula-judae grows throughout Europe, Asia and the United States and is highly valued in Asian cooking for its crunchy, rubbery texture. A type of jelly fungus, it produces fruiting bodies that are translucent, brown in colour and ‘ear’ shaped, hence its Chinese name ‘Wood Ear’. Both A. auricula-judae and A. polytricha (Mao Mu Er ‘Hairy Wood Ear’, or Yun Er ‘Cloud Ear’) are considered as species of Mu Er in Chinese medicine and today are used interchangeably1. In common with other jelly fungi, A. auricula-judae fruiting bodies contain high levels of polysaccharides and these are the main bioactive component, although phenols have been shown to contribute to the total antioxidant and hypercholesterolaemic activity2,3.
A. auricula-judae is of particular interest as a functional food for the elderly, with polysaccharide extracts showing considerable promise and Auricularia polytricha in processed and unprocessed form exhibiting inhibitory activity against one of the key enzymes involved in Alzheimer’s disease4,5.

ANTI-INFLAMMATORYA. auricula-judae polysaccharides have anti-inflammatory activity, which correlates with A. auricula-judae’s traditional use for soothing irritated or inflamed mucous membranes6.

ANTIOXIDANTA. auricula-judae extracts show strong antioxidant properties with a positive correlation between levels of phenols and antioxidant capacity7-9.

ANTI-THROMBOTIC – Polysaccharide extracts of A. auricula-judae inhibit platelet aggregation and increase clotting times in vitro and in vivo. Its anti-coagulant activity is due to catalysis of thrombin inhibition by antithrombin but not by heparin cofactor II10,11.

ANTI-CHOLESTEROLA. auricula-judae polysaccharides and polyphenols have been shown to lower blood total cholesterol (TC), triglyceride and LDL levels and enhance the level of blood HDL, as well as HDL/TC and HDL/LDL ratios at 5% of feed in rats suffering from hyperlipidaemia3,12-14.

CARDIOPROTECTIVE – Together with A. auricula-judae’s general antioxidant properties, A. auricula-judae polysaccharides show strong cardio-protective action, especially in aged mice, enhancing the activity of superoxide dismutase and reducing lipid peroxidation15,16.

Main Therapeutic Application – Cardiovascular support.
Key Component – Polysaccharides.
Dose – 2-3g/day polysaccharide extract.
Caution – Patients on anti-coagulant medication. Owing to possible anti-fertility effects it is recommended that A. auricula-judae not be taken by pregnant or lactating women or those planning to conceive17.

1. Hobbs C. Medicinal MushroomsAn Exploration of Tradition, Healing and Culture. Williams, Oregon : Botanica Press, 2002.
2 Research progress in Auricularia auricula polysaccharide. Huang XG, Quan YL, Guan B, Hu Y. Liangyou Shipin Keji. 2010;18(1):47–50, 54.
3. Hypocholesterolemic effects of Auricularia auricula ethanol extract in ICR mice fed a cholesterol-enriched diet. Chen G, Luo YC, Ji BP, Li B, Su W, Xiao ZL, Zhang GZ. J Food Sci Technol. 2011;48(6):692–698.
4. Evaluation of antioxidant property and quality of breads containing Auricularia auricula polysaccharide flour. Fan LS, Zhang SH, Yu L. Li Ma Food Chemistry. 2007;101(3):1158–1163.
5. Heat-stable components of Wood Ear mushroom, Auricularia polytricha (Higher Basidiomycetes), inhibit in vitro activity of Beta Secretase (BACE1). Bennett L, Sheean P, Zabaras D, Head R. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(3):233–249.
6. Polysaccharides in fungi. XIV. Anti-inflammatory effect of the polysaccharides from the fruit bodies of several fungi. Ukai S, Kiho T, Hara C, Kuruma I, Tanaka Y. J Pharmacobiodyn. 1983;6(12):983–990.
7. Antioxidant capacity of fresh and processed fruit bodies and mycelium of Auricularia auricula-judae (Fr.) Quél. Kho YS, Vikineswary S, Abdullah N, Kuppusamy UR, Oh HI. J Med Food. 2009;12(1):167–174.
8 Antioxidant and nitric oxide synthase activation properties of Auricularia auricula. Acharya K, Samui K, Rai M, Dutta BB, Acharya R. Indian J Exp Biol. 2004;42(5):538–540.
9. Antioxidant activity of submerged cultured mycelium extracts of higher Basidiomycetes mushrooms. Asatiani MD, Elisashvili VI, Reznick A, Nevo ED. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2007;9(2):151–158.
10. The nontoxic mushroom Auricularia auricula contains a polysaccharide with anticoagulant activity mediated by antithrombin. Yoon SJ, Yu MA, Pyun YR, Hwang JK, Chu DC, Juneja LR, Mourão PA. Thromb Res. 2003;112(3):151–158.
11. Inhibition of human and rat platelet aggregation by extracts of Mu-er (Auricularia auricula). Agarwal KC, Russo FX, Parks RE Jr. Thromb Haemost. 1982;48(2):162–165.
12. Effect of polysaccharide from Auricularia auricula on blood lipid metabolism and lipoprotein lipase activity of ICR mice fed a cholesterol-enriched diet. Chen G, Luo YC, Li BP, Li B, Guo Y, Li Y, Su W, Xiao ZL. J Food Sci. 2008;73(6):H103–108.
13. The hypocholesterolemic effect of two edible mushrooms: Auricularia auricula (tree-ear) and Tremella fuciformis (white jelly-leaf) in hypercholesterolemic rats. Cheung PCK. Nutr Res. 1996;16(10):1721–1725.
14. Isolation and purification of polysaccharides from wood ear (Auricularia auricular) and their hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic and antioxidant activities. Yi MA, Tang J, Han C. 2005 IFT Annual Meeting. ift.confex.com 18B-13.
15. Chemical characterization of Auricularia auricula polysaccharides and its pharmacological effect on heart antioxidant enzyme activities and left ventricular function in aged mice.Wu Q, Tan Z, Liu H, Gao L, Wu S, Luo J, Zhang W, Zhao T, Yu J, Xu X. Int J Biol Macromol. 2010;46(3):284–288.
16. Auricularia auricula polysaccharide protects myocardium against ischemia/reperfusion injury. Ye TM, Qian LB, Cui J, Wang HP, Ye ZG, Xia Q. Zhongguo Yingyong Shenglixue Zazhi. 2010;26(2):154–158.
17. Anti-fertility action of Auricularia auricula polysaccharide. He B, Chen Q, Zhongguo Yaoke Daxue Xuebao. 1991;22(1):48–49.