Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan, Physician Lee Shin Wei and Physician Wong Si Xuan
6 Ways Snow Fungus Benefits Your Health
Published | 5 min read
Snow fungus is a well-known ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine due to its health benefits. Here are reasons to add this ingredient to your dessert and dishes.
Have you ever heard of a medicinal dessert? Say hello to snow fungus. Due to its health benefits and mild taste, snow fungus features prominently in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Chinese cuisine, especially in soups and desserts. It’s been used in TCM for anti-ageing, immune support, and disease prevention for hundreds of years.
Read on to learn about its benefits and how to incorporate it into your diet.
Health Benefits of Snow Fungus
Snow fungus is also known as white fungus (bai mu er, 白木耳) or silver ear (yin er, 银耳) and scientifically as Tremella fuciformis. It’s also known as the poor man’s bird’s nest because of its similar appearance and health benefits. This jelly-like mushroom grows on the bark of dead tree branches.
Here are six health benefits of snow fungus you should know about.
1. Nourishes the Lungs
In TCM, white foods like snow fungus are considered beneficial for the Lungs, states TCM physician Lee Shin Wei. Specifically, it nourishes and moistens the Lungs. For this reason, it is a well-known key ingredient in simple TCM soups that help with respiratory tract infections.
In a 2018 study published in Oncology Letters, researchers found that Tremella polysaccharides have protective properties on the respiratory system. It significantly inhibited the onset of Lung cell death caused by the toxic lipopolysaccharides of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium. This pathogen is a major cause of respiratory disease among infants and children worldwide.
2. Promotes healthy, youthful skin
Physician Lee also shares that the mushroom strengthens the Spleen, revitalises the body, promotes fluid production, moisturises and nurtures skin, reduces wrinkles, and amps up facial appearance. “Snow fungus is packed with plant collagen. It contains 17 kinds of amino acids – the ingredients for collagen synthesis. It also has natural water-retaining ingredients such as tremella polysaccharide, calcium, and other minerals,” she further details.
A study published in 2017 in Molecular Medicine Reports found that Tremella polysaccharides protect skin from damage and ageing. This happens through the upregulation of SIRT1 enzymes. These enzymes are involved in the prevention of cell death from oxidative stress.
3. Strengthens the immune system
The past few decades of research indicate that snow fungus is a viable health supplement to enhance the immune system. Again, Tremella polysaccharides appear to be the star player. Tremella fuciformis has been found to activate macrophages, T-lymphocytes, and B-lymphocytes. These are the three types of white blood cells that protect our body from pathogens.
4. Neuroprotective and great for brain health
There is growing evidence that the mushroom promotes nerve growth factor (NGF) that can help with neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease. Tremella polysaccharides’ protective effect on neurons is based on the same mechanisms of neuroprotective agents currently on the market.
Numerous studies indicate snow fungus may also help with brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. A recent 2018 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that Tremella fuciformis supplementation improved memory function in individuals with subjective cognitive impairment.
5. Promotes heart health
As with other edible mushrooms with medicinal properties, this ingredient is rich in fibre and low in calories. This makes it a great food for heart health. Previous studies have shown snow fungus to lower the serum levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
6. Anti-diabetic and anti-obesity
Snow fungus is also a strong candidate among health foods that can help tackle metabolic diseases. A new review published in the International Journal of Immunology and Pathology in 2021 included an animal model study demonstrating the efficacy of the mushroom on obesity and diabetes. Tremella polysaccharides significantly downregulated 84 genes involved in obesity, insulin resistance, and other diabetes complications.
The Best Part: You Can Eat It as a Dessert!
“In TCM, this mushroom is considered to have a sweet, mild, and neutral taste,” explains Physician Lee. To ensure you get the full health benefits, ensure you’re consuming a high-quality product. Look for these characteristics:
- Shape and colour: Almost translucent and white with a hint of pale yellow, with the fruiting large and loose. The pedicle should be void of black spots and impurities. Spoiled snow fungus often appears dark yellow with an incomplete floral shape and impurities in its pedicle.
- Texture: It comes dried and shouldn’t feel moist.
- Smell: It shouldn’t have any odour or peculiar smell. If it has a sour or pungent odour, it’s spoiled.
- Soaking effect: Expands by up to five or 10 times its dried size after a few hours of soaking. If it doesn’t, this means it has gone bad.
“It’s unsuitable for people with a cough with mucus or a Damp-Heat constitution. Those with a cold at the early stage of exogenous infection should avoid it,” Physician Lee advises.
She shares the following quick and easy dessert soup recipe:
- Wash the ingredients and drain the water. Soak snow fungus and peach gum in clean water, remove the stem of the snow fungus, and tear it into small buds after rinsing. Remove the pits from the red dates.
- Put snow fungus, red dates, and peach gum pieces into a pot, add rock sugar and some water and cook for about 10 minutes until all ingredients turn soft.
- Serve and enjoy. Consume once weekly.
With snow fungus, there is such a thing as a healthy dessert. Don’t wait too long, start incorporating it in your diet today.
- MushroomHealth.org. 2021. White Fungus: One Mushroom, Many Names, Many Benefits. [online] Available at: <https://mushroomhealth.org/2021/11/18/white-fungus-one-mushroom-many-names-many-benefits/> [Accessed 28 September 2022]
- Oncology Letters. 2018. Tremella polysaccharides inhibit cellular apoptosis and autophagy induced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa lipopolysaccharide in A549 cells through sirtuin 1 activation. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5958729/> [Accessed 28 September 2022]
- Molecular Medicine Reports. 2017. Tremella fuciformis polysaccharide suppresses hydrogen peroxide-triggered injury of human skin fibroblasts via upregulation of SIRT1. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561887/> [Accessed 28 September 2022]
- International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. 2021. A review on the production, structure, bioactivities and applications of Tremella polysaccharides. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8172338/> [Accessed 28 September 2022]
- Journal of Medicinal Food. 2018. Efficacy and Safety of Tremella fuciformis in Individuals with Subjective Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. [online] Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322378165_Efficacy_and_Safety_of_Tremella_fuciformis_in_Individuals_with_Subjective_Cognitive_Impairment_A_Randomized_Controlled_Trial> [Accessed 28 September 2022]
- Brazilian Journal of Pharmacognosy. 2021. Mushrooms as therapeutic agents. [online] Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262471996_Mushrooms_as_therapeutic_agents> [Accessed 28 September 2022]
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