Tremella Mushroom: Benefits for Skincare, Immunity and More

Tremella Mushroom: Benefits for Skincare, Immunity and More

The Tremella mushroom (Tremella fuciformis) is a species of fungus that produces white, frond-like, gelatinous fruiting bodies. It is widespread, particularly in the tropics, where you can find it on the dead branches of broadleaf trees.

Tremella fuciformis is commercially cultivated and it is a popular mushroom in the cuisine of China, as well as in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This mushroom also goes by the names snow fungus, snow ear, silver ear fungus, white jelly mushroom, and white cloud ears.

The Tremella mushroom is a parasitic yeast. It grows as a slimy, mucus-like film until it finds its preferred hosts, which are various species of Annulohypoxylon (or possibly Hypoxylon) fungi. When it encounters these hosts, it invades them, triggering the aggressive mycelial growth to form the fruiting bodies.

An English mycologist, Miles Joseph Berkely, first described Tremella fuciformis in 1856, based on collections made in Brazil by the botanist and explorer Richard Spruce.

In 1939, the Japanese mycologist Yosio Kobayasi described Nakaiomyces nipponicus, a similar-looking fungus that was distinct since it had scattered, dark spines on its surface.

Later research, nonetheless, revealed that the fruit bodies of this fungus did belong to Tremella fuciformis; it had just been parasitized by another fungus, Ceratocystis epigoleum, which created dark spines. Nakaiomyces nipponicus is, therefore, a synonym of Tremella fuciformis.

In Chinese, the names for the Tremella mushroom translate as “silver ear”, “snow ear”, and “white wood ear”. In Japanese, people call it shiro kikurage (“white tree jellyfish”).

The gelationous, watery white fruit bodies of Tremella fuciformis can be up to 7.5 cm (3 inches) across. They are larger in cultivated specimens. The fruit bodies are composed of thin but erect, seaweed-like, branching fronds, often crisped at the edges. The mushroom has a shape that resembles underwater coral.

The Tremella mushroom mainly grows in tropical and subtropical climates, but it can extend into temperate areas in Asia and North America. You can find it growing in:

  • South and Central America
  • The Caribbean
  • Parts of North America
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Southern and eastern Asia
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • The Pacific Islands

China has been cultivating the Tremella mushroom since at least the 19th century. Initially, cultivators would prepare suitable wooden poles, treating them in various ways in the hope that the fungus would colonize them. This unreliable method of cultivation was improved when poles were inoculated with Tremella mushroom spores or mycelium.

Modern production only started when people realized that both the Tremella mushroom and its host species needed to be inoculated into the substrate to ensure success. The “dual culture” method, now used commercially, utilizes a sawdust mix inoculated with both fungal species, kept under optimal conditions.

The most popular species to pair with Tremella fuciformis is its preferred host, Annulohypoxylon archeri.

In Chinese cuisine, sweet dishes traditionally use the Tremella mushroom. While tasteless, the mushroom is valued because of its gelatinous texture, as well as its supposed medicinal benefits.

Most commonly in China, the mushroom is used to make a dessert soup called luk mei in Cantonese, often in combination with jujubes, dried longans, and other ingredients. It may also be a component of a drink and as ice cream.

Moreover, since cultivation has made the Tremella mushroom less expensive, people use it in some savory dishes as well.

In China, Korea, and Japan, some women’s beauty products may use Tremella mushroom extract. This is because it’s believed to increase moisture retention in the skin and prevent the degradation of micro-blood vessels in the skin that occurs as you age. The result, then, may be less wrinkles and the smoothing of fine lines in the skin.

The Tremella mushroom also offers anti-aging effects by increasing the presence of superoxide dismutase in the brain and liver. This is an enzyme that acts as a potent antioxidant throughout the body, particularly in the skin. Tremella fuciformis is also known in TCM as a way to nourish the lungs.

In this guide on Tremella fuciformis, we’ll be taking a look at:

  • Tremella mushroom benefits
  • Tremella mushroom side effects
  • How to grow Tremella mushrooms
  • Recipes
  • How to make Tremella mushroom tea and coffee
  • Tremella mushroom powder

Tremella Mushroom Benefits

The Tremella mushroom has been used in TCM for centuries as a way to promote health and longevity. Today, many value its medicinal benefits, including its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Most of the mushroom’s medicinal benefits come from its content of carbohydrate chains; known as polysaccharides. However, research is limited to mostly animal and test-tube studies. So keep in that mind that, while findings are promising, human research is necessary.

Nutritional Profile

There is currently a lack of information on the nutritional value of white fungus.

However, the nutritional profile of the Tremella mushroom is likely to be similar to that of other wild mushrooms and mushrooms in general.

Overall, mushrooms tend to be low in calories while providing small amounts of protein and fiber. Adding fiber to your diet may help lower the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and gastrointestinal diseases.

Mushrooms, in general, also offer small amounts of vitamin D, calcium, and folate (vitamin B9). These vitamins and minerals play an important role in immunity, bone health, and brain health, respectively.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Inflammation is a natural way that your body responds to injuries and supports the healing process. It typically passes once a wound has healed.

However, if your body is in a chronic state of inflammation, this will increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Chronic inflammation is associated with increased levels of pro-inflammatory markers like nitric oxide, interleukin-1 beta, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Test-tube studies suggest that white fungus extract has an anti-inflamamtory activity that is capable of lowering these pro-inflammatory markers.

Antioxidant Properties

When your body gets exposure to too many free radicals (unstable atoms that damage cells), this can lead to oxidative stress, resulting in negative health effects like cell and tissue damage.

Antioxidants are molecules that help neutralize free radicals, thereby protecting your body from oxidative stress.

Test-tube studies have shown that white fungus polysaccharides may reduce oxidative stress by fighting free radicals. This may help protect you from certain chronic health conditions.

Brain Health Benefits

The polysaccharides found in Tremella mushrooms may protect brain cells against nerve cell damage and degenerative diseases.

One test-tube study revealed that white fungus extract may reduce brain toxicity caused by beta-amyloid, a protein that in high amounts is associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have also found that Tremella mushroom extract may improve memory. One 8-week study in 75 people showed that consuming either 600 mg or 1,200 mg of a white fungus per day improved memory questionnaire scores (especially in relation to short-term memory) compared with a control group.

In addition, a 14-day study in rats showed that daily oral treatment with Tremella mushroom extract significantly reversed drug-induced memory loss.

Immune System Benefits

The bioactive compounds in Tremella mushrooms may stimulate some of your immune system’s defense cells.

One test-tube study found that a protein found in Tremella fuciformis may stimulate macrophage activity. This is a type of white blood cell that kills bacteria and eliminates damaged tissue.

Another study demonstrated that the mushroom’s polysaccharides might help regulate the immune response and reduce infection-related mortality in mice.

Nevertheless, we need more human research before we can conclude that the same effects would occur for people consuming the mushrooms.

Using The Tremella Mushroom For Skin Benefits

Tremella fuciformis is popular in the beauty industry due to its anti-aging and moisturizing properties.

The polysaccharides in the fungus may improve skin hydration by reducing water and collagen losses in the skin that occur after sun or ultraviolet exposure.

Moreover, white fungus polysaccharides create a transparent film that improves water retention when coated on the skin. Therefore, they may act as natural moisturizers and antiwrinkle agents.

Improved Blood Sugar Level Control

White fungus polysaccharides may also help you lower your blood sugar levels through their effects on multiple antidiabetic pathways.

For instance, one animal study demonstrated that these polysaccharides may significantly lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity (which is how your cells respond to the hormone insulin).

In addition, test-tube studies have found that white fungus extract may have a positive influence on diabetes-related enzymes and hormones. These studies indicate that the Tremella mushroom might inhibit aldose reductase activity. In people with diabetes, increased levels of this enzyme may result in eye and nerve damage.

Other studies reveal that Tremella mushroom polysaccharides could normalize resistin and adiponectin. These are two hormones that can lead to insulin resistance when altered.

Reduced Heart Disease Risk

The polysaccharides in white fungus may also help protect you against heart disease.

One test-tube study showed that the mushroom’s antioxidant activity may prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation. Evidence has shown that LDL oxidation is involved in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. This refers to the buildup of plaque in your arteries, which is a known risk factor for high blood pressure and stroke.

Tremella Mushroom Side Effects

There are no reports of unwanted side effects or toxicity from consuming Tremella mushrooms. But, there are some caveats to mention.

If foraging for Tremella mushrooms in the wild, you risk mistaking poisonous mushrooms for edible ones. This can pose a serious health concern.

While people don’t specifically have a Tremella fuciformis allergy, some do have a general allergy to mushrooms. If this applies to you, then you shouldn’t consume Tremella mushrooms.

However, if you do, this can result in symptoms like:

  • Swelling of the lips, mouth, and/or throat
  • Wheezing
  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Runny nose and/or watery eyes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping or bloating

While Tremella mushroom supplements do not appear to be harmful, it’s always wise to consult your doctor before using them, especially if you’re pregnant, nursing, or have pre-existing health problems.

How To Grow Tremella Mushrooms

If you don’t want to (or can’t) forage for Tremella mushrooms in the wild, you may be thinking about growing them. However, since the process can be challenging, it takes experience to grow Tremella mushrooms.

The traditional way of growing Tremella mushrooms, which is still utilized in some parts of China, is to grow them on logs using plug spawn.

Nowadays, most commercially produced Tremella mushrooms are grown in bags on blocks of supplemented hardwood sawdust substrate.

First, the substrate is prepared, which is typically sawdust supplements with bran and some sort of grain, such as millet. This substrate is put into special plastic bags and sterilized.

After cooling, the mycelium of Annulohypoxylon archeri is inoculated into the substrate and allowed to grow for a few weeks, at which time the Tremella mushroom culture is inoculated.

After additional growth, the bags are put under fruiting conditions (high humidity and the correct temperature). A couple of weeks later, the snowball-shaped clusters of Tremella fuciformis are formed on slits or holes cut in the bags.

Most of the mushrooms will be dried for future sale since they rehydrate to almost exactly the same consistency and flavor as when they were fresh.

How To Cook Tremella Mushrooms

Although it’s possible to find fresh white fungus online or at your local speciality store, these mushrooms are mostly sold in dried form.

Once rehydrated, the velvety texture of the mushrooms will return.

These mushrooms are chewy and supple, with a very mild flavor, and they have a spicy odor that dissipates with cooking.

Preparing Tremella Mushrooms

Prepare dried Tremella mushrooms before cooking by following these simple steps:

  1. Soaking: Cover the dried mushrooms with water and let them sit for 1-3 hours or until all of them become gelatinously soft.
  2. Trimming: Trim off the bottom part, as it remains hard after soaking.
  3. Washing: Tear the mushrooms into small, petal-like pieces. Wash thoroughly and drain or pat dry.

There Are Different Ways To Cook Tremella Mushrooms

Tremella mushrooms are best for boiling, pan-frying, and sautéing.

The most common way to cook them is to boil them and add them to a soup or the soup-like dessert known as luk mei. The latter is served hot or cold and also features dried longans and jujubes. For special occasions, such as Chinese New Year and at weddings, people may serve Luk mei.

But you can also pan-dry or sauté Tremella mushrooms and add them to stir fries.

Tremella Mushroom Recipes

The Tremella mushroom can work well in a variety of dishes, including:

  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Stir fries
  • Porridge

Tremella mushrooms pair well with:

  • Green onion
  • Cilantro
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Dates
  • Soy sauce
  • Blueberries
  • Kiwi
  • Vanilla ice cream

Tremella Mushroom Tea/Coffee

Another way to enjoy the health benefits of Tremella mushrooms is by making mushroom tea or coffee. You can use whole Tremella mushrooms, mushroom powder, or a tincture.

If you don’t want to powderize the mushrooms yourself, you can also purchase pre-made Tremella mushroom powder from a reputable vendor.

How To Make Tremella Mushroom Tea

Ingredients

  • 7 cups of purified water
  • 1 ½ cup of chopped rehydrated Tremella mushrooms
  • ¾ tsp of maple syrup
  • 3.5 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 2 drops of lemon essential oil

Instructions

  1. Chop the Tremella mushrooms into smaller pieces.
  2. Put the pieces of mushrooms in the large pot of water that is on the stove.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce it to a low simmer for one hour.
  4. Pour the mixture into a strainer.
  5. Add a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground turmeric, as well as maple syrup, and mix.
  6. Add the lemon essential oil and mix again.
  7. If you’d like to enhance the flavor, you can add almond milk, ginger, cinnamon, or stevia.

You can keep your Tremella mushroom tea in the fridge and reheat it later or serve it chilled.

A much simpler method is to make your favorite kind of tea and then add 1 tbsp of Tremella mushroom powder to it. Just stir in the powder and enjoy.

How To Make Tremella Mushroom Coffee

If you’re more of a coffee drinker, then there are basically four ways to make Tremella mushroom coffee at home:

  1. Buy a commercial Tremella mushroom coffee product
  2. Buy Tremella extract powder and add it to your coffee
  3. Add tremella mushroom tincture to your coffee
  4. Forage for mushrooms and make your own powder to add to your coffee

1. Commercial Tremella Mushroom Coffee

This is the easiest way to make Tremella mushroom coffee, since much of the preparation is already complete. Simply buy the coffee and brew it as your normally would.

However, there are some important things to keep in mind.

Firstly, not all products are equal, and there is very little regulation in the supplement industry. So many companies aren’t required to disclose their mushroom sourcing, growing methods, extraction process, or really any details about the supplement’s benefits or risks.

This is why it’s crucial to buy any coffee product from a trusted brand. To enjoy maximum health benefits, look for a company that uses only the fruiting body, is transparent about its sourcing and extraction methods, and shares COA or third-party lab test results.

2. Buy Tremella Mushroom Extract Powder And Add It To Your Coffee

If you want more control over your dosage of Tremella mushrooms, then this is the ideal choice for you. Moreover, using powder opens you up to significantly more brands and sourcing options, and may even allow you to shop locally for a product.

When buying Tremella mushroom powder, make sure that the company you’re going with is using only the fruiting body and shares their extraction process. Mushroom extracts may offer more beneficial effects than powder alone.

Here’s how to make Tremella mushroom coffee with mushroom powder:

  • Brew your morning cup of coffee how you normally would
  • Measure and add a serving of Tremella mushroom powder to your mug following your package directions. A safe dosage is usually ½-1 tsp.
  • While your coffee is still very hot, slowly pour your coffee over the mushroom powder
  • Stir the powder in
  • Allow it to steep for 3-5 minutes

3. Buy Tremella Mushroom Tincture And Add It To Your Coffee

Another option is to use Tremella mushroom tincture instead of powder. This option is ideal if you want to hide the taste of tincture in your morning coffee.

Tinctures are convenient, effective, and a trusted delivery method for consuming functional mushrooms. But not everyone likes taking a tincture directly.

Here’s how to make Tremella mushroom coffee with tincture:

  • Brew your morning coffee to your preference
  • Measure out a full dropper of tincture
  • Add it to your mug while your coffee is still very hot
  • Stir and enjoy

4. Forage For Tremella Mushrooms To Add To Your Coffee

This is a great option if you’re able to find wild Tremella mushrooms near where you live or from your local farmer’s market.

Here’s how to dry and grind Tremella mushrooms for coffee:

  • Prepare your Tremella mushrooms by gently brushing off any debris or dirt with a vegetable brush. An old toothbrush works, too. (There is no need to wash the mushrooms.)
  • Cut the mushrooms into ¼“ pieces, and add them to a food dehydrator. This will remove all the moisture. Another option is to place the fresh Tremella mushrooms in an oven heated to 175F for two hours, flipping them halfway through. Then transfer them to a colander to air-dry for another 3-5 days.
  • Once completely dry, the mushrooms are ready to be ground into powder. Use a coffee grinder or food processor to grind your mushrooms into as fine a powder as possible. Your mushroom powder is likely to be chunkier than any commercial version. You can store your mushroom powder in an airtight glass container, like a mason jar, for up to a year. Once you have the powder, you can make your coffee as you normally would.
  • Measure out 1 g of mushroom powder. Depending on how chunky the powder is, this is likely to be around a tsp.
  • While your coffee is still very hot, add your mushroom powder and stir.
  • Allow it to steep for 3-5 minutes.

If you don’t want any tiny mushroom chunks floating in your coffee, then you’ll want to strain them out.

You can use a French press for foraged Tremella mushroom powder, as it means you don’t have to worry about any mushroom chinks floating in your coffee. If using a French press, combine your ground coffee and mushroom powder together, then brew your coffee as you normally would.

Tremella Mushroom Powder

You can purchase Tremella mushroom powder from a variety of vendors. If you decide to do so, just make sure the vendor is reputable and well-reviewed. The product should be organic and free from industrial pollutants.

You should be aware that there are two different forms of Tremella mushroom powder that you can buy online:

  • Powder derived from ground-up, dried, whole Tremella mushrooms
  • Tremella mushroom extract powder. This is a more concentrated form of Tremella mushrooms, in which the active constituents of the mushroom are extracted. By using an extract powder, you will consume a much lower dosage to get the same medicinal benefits. Extracts can vary widely in terms of strengths (and therefore dosages), so make sure you follow recommendations for dosing when buying an extract.

Many Tremella mushroom extracts (which can come in the form of capsules or tinctures) may also have other mushroom extracts added to them, such as chaga, lion’s mane, maitake, cordyceps, shiitake, Turkey Tail, oyster, and reishi, as these offer health benefits, too.

The Bottom Line

Tremella mushrooms are a popular type of mushroom, which often present several health benefits.

As well as being nutritious, these mushrooms may promote heart, immune system, and brain health; encourage healthy blood sugar control; and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

However, keep in mind that human research is scare, so most of the benefits only gain support from both test-tube and animal studies. Nonetheless, white fungus has no reported side effects and is safe to consume.

Tremella mushrooms are also unique amongst functional mushrooms in that they can offer improved skin health.

You can try adding these versatile mushrooms to your diet by using in them dishes like soups and stir-fries.

You can consume Tremella mushrooms whole or as a powder, extract, or tincture.

While it’s economical to grow functional mushrooms so you have an abundant supply of them, growing Tremella mushrooms can be difficult. For this reason, it’s best to purchase them dried or as a supplement from a reputable vendor.

To truly reap the rewards of Tremella mushrooms, you want to consume them on a daily basis. After a few weeks of doing so, you may start to notice some improvements in your health.

You can further enhance your health by using other functional mushrooms. Creating (or buying) a mushroom blender powder and adding it to a smoothie or dish can be an easy way to ensure that you’re benefiting from all of the powerful compounds contained in these mushrooms.

Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe

View all posts by Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. He first became fascinated by psychedelics after reading Aldous Huxley's description of the mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception. Since then, he has researched and written about psychedelics for various publications, covering the legality of psychedelics, drug policy reform, and psychedelic science.

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