Tremella mushrooms are famous among the Chinese people since they have been using them to treat aging for centuries. The mushroom is even regarded as "The Fountain of Youth." Aside from the skincare benefits of tremella mushrooms, they might have some potential to address health issues among humans.
This post is dedicated to discussing tremella mushrooms along with their general usefulness.
How are tremella mushrooms identified?
Of all the mushrooms that you can cultivate, the tremella mushroom is one that bears many names. Tremella fuciformis is the scientific name, but the striking "beauty mushroom" is widely known as snow mushroom, silver ear mushroom, snow fungus, or white jelly mushroom.
This gelatinous fungus grows primarily on dead or fallen tree branches in tropical regions. Their white or yellowish jelly-like fruiting bodies that resemble sea anemones, loofah, and jellyfish are the famous traits that distinguish tremella mushrooms.
Tremella mushrooms are members of the Tremellaceae family and have a jelly-like consistency, earning them another moniker, the "jelly fungus."
They are composed of ruffled branching fronds or lobes attached to a central base and range in color from translucent white to pale yellow, with a soft jelly-like texture that becomes slimy when wet.
Tremella mushrooms can reach a diameter of 3.94 inches (10 cm) when grown, but in the wild, they are much smaller, often only the size of golf balls, and rarely grow larger beyond 2.95 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter and 1.57 inches (4 cm) in height.
For thousands of years, these medicinal mushrooms have been a favorite in traditional medicine due to their hydrating and skin rejuvenating properties.
What is the history of tremella mushrooms?
Tremella mushrooms have been part of traditional Chinese medicine since 200 AD. They were included in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica), the oldest surviving Chinese materia medica.
Tremella mushrooms, like many other medicinal mushrooms, were once reserved for royalty and the wealthy. Their primary uses were to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and treat asthma and dry coughs.
However, tremella mushrooms' beauty-enhancing effects earned them the nickname "fountain of youth" mushrooms during the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). This trait, as well, makes thee mushrooms under consideration a sought-after species.
Yang Guifei (719-756), an imperial concubine regarded as one of the most beautiful women in Chinese history, is said to have attributed her eternal beauty to tremella mushrooms. She used them regularly to keep her youthful, supple skin and glowing complexion, and her beauty was unequaled that the emperor could not resist Guifei's alluring charm.
Whether the legend is true or not, for centuries, Chinese women have consumed whole tremella mushroom extract to keep their skin healthy, moist, and soft. Tremella mushrooms were initially only harvested in the wild because, despite appearing to grow on dead wood like many other medicinal mushrooms, they proved impossible to cultivate.
Where do tremella mushrooms grow?
Tremella mushrooms are distributed in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide. The mushroom is known to grow in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and parts of North America. From this fact, we can conclude that the mushrooms thrive in humid tropical conditions.
In addition to this, they can also be found growing on dead or dying logs and broadleaf tree branches. When seen in the wild, small, black bumps on the wood near them may also be visible. These bumps are the fruiting bodies of the Hypoxylon archeri fungus, which are required for tremella mushrooms to fruit.
The precise nature of their interaction is still a mystery. Tremella may feed on Hypoxylon archeri, but it is also possible that they do not feed on them and instead require them to break down the wood into components that they can use.
Tremella evaded cultivation for many generations. The common question among mushroom growers is this: "So why can't it be grown on wood like enoki, pom pon, oyster, or shiitake mushrooms?"
Due to the species' propensity to grow as yeast in the absence of wood, potential cultivators who mistakenly thought they were dealing with one of the several hundred species of yeast, such as Candida albicans or Saccharomyces cerevisiae (the baker's and brewer's yeast), threw out the subcultures as contaminants.
Finally, research on the ecology of fungi discovered that Tremella species are mycoparasites. This fact indicates that they consume another fungus that ingests wood rather than the wood itself. The host fungus in this instance is Hypoxylon archeri, a member of the black Pyrenomycetes and a wood-rotting fungus related to Xylaria polymorpha and Daldinia concentrica (carbon balls). Hypoxylon archeri might break down the wood into a usable form rather than being parasitized by the Tremella.
Once you understand the growth ecology, the process is relatively simple. The substrate must first be prepared; typically, sawdust is supplemented with bran and a grain, such as millet. This substrate is sterilized after being placed in certain plastic bags.
After chilling, the substrate is injected with Hypoxylon archeri mycelium, which is allowed to develop for a few weeks before the Tremella culture is added. After more growth (high humidity and the proper temperature), the bags are placed under fruiting conditions. A few weeks later, on slits or holes made in the bags, Tremella snowball-shaped clusters develop.
Are tremella mushrooms edible?
Tremella mushrooms are safe to eat. The mushrooms are chewy and pliable with a very mild flavor. They have a spicy smell that goes away with cooking. Tremella fuciformis mushroom contains more than 70% nutritional fibers, including acidic polysaccharides, making it a prevalent ingredient in Chinese cooking.
There are no known toxicities or unintended side effects from consuming white fungus. However, as a precaution, pregnant women should abstain from taking it.
Also, hunting for white fungus in the wild is not advised. You run the chance of confusing healthy mushrooms with lethal ones, which is life-threatening.
Tremella mushrooms are occasionally purchased from specialized shops or online stores. The mushroom is usually offered in its dried form.
Before cooking, the dried Tremella fuciformis should be prepared using these quick steps:
- By soaking: The dried mushroom should be completely submerged in water, and this should take anywhere from one to three hours.
- By trimming: Cut the bottom portion because it is still hard after soaking.
- By washing. Cut the fungus into fragments that resemble tiny petals. Thoroughly wash, then drain or pat dry.
What are the health benefits of tremella mushrooms?
Tremella mushrooms are recognized as superfoods due to their numerous potential to improve human health. White fungus is valued for its wide range of health-promoting properties, the majority of which are related to the presence of polysaccharides and long chains of carbohydrates.
However, research is scarce and primarily conducted on test tubes and animals. Therefore, keep in mind that even though the results seem encouraging, more human study is required.
May lower risk of heart diseases
The chemical compounds present in tremella mushrooms have the potential to protect the human heart from certain diseases.
In one test-tube research, we know that the anti-oxidant activity of the fungus may stop LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidizing. It is believed that the development and progression of atherosclerosis, or the accumulation of plaque in your arteries, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure and stroke, appear to be influenced by LDL oxidation.
May help boost the human immune system
Some of the human immune system's defensive cells may be stimulated by bioactive substances of tremella mushrooms. Based on test tube research, a protein of the mushroom could enhance macrophage activity which is a type of white blood cell that destroys bacteria and removes damaged tissue.
Another investigation provides information regarding Tremellis' polysaccharides. These may assist in controlling the immune response and lowering infection-related mortality in mice exposed to a lab-induced infection.
May have anti-inflammatory effects
When our body is injured, our body responds through "inflammation." This is also a way to support the healing process that must occur. Suppose the body prolongs its inflammation; this could lead to a health condition called "chronic inflammation," which increases the risk of heart attack and cancer.
During chronic inflammation, the presence of pro-inflammatory markers (such as nitric oxide, interleukin-1 beta, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha) increases. According to research conducted in test tubes, the white fungus extract contains anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce these pro-inflammatory indicators. (Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954968/; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24547933/; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27334265/)
May possess anti-oxidant properties
Free radical overexposure can result in oxidative stress, which can harm cells and tissues and harm your health. Anti-oxidants are chemicals that assist in scavenging free radicals, defending your body against their harmful effects.
The polysaccharides of tremella mushrooms may have the capability to lessen oxidative stress by combating free radicals. Such a claim is based on tests conducted inside a laboratory. The potential anti-oxidant property of the mushroom could shield you from some chronic illnesses.
May combat obesity
The anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering effects of the tremella mushroom work together to stop weight gain in particular research done with mice. Even though the results are encouraging, more investigation is required to discover whether tremella is a suitable obesity treatment.
May protect and regenerate nerve cells
Tremella fuciformis' hot water extract has been found in studies to have potent neuroprotective properties. Tremella also appears to contain nerve growth factor (NGF), which may promote the development of new nerve tissue. These findings imply that tremella may one day be used to treat neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's.
May improve skin
White mushroom is well-liked in the cosmetics business because of their moisturizing and anti-aging qualities. Due to its polysaccharides, the skin may retain more water and collagen after exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light. (Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S175646461500554X)
Additionally, when applied to the skin, white fungus polysaccharides create a transparent layer that enhances water retention. They could therefore serve as natural moisturizers and anti-aging products. (Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25194971/)
How can tremella mushrooms improve our skin?
The substantial levels of polysaccharides included in tremella are responsible for several of its health advantages. Tremella mushrooms are potent hydrators due to their gelatinous structure and unique long-chain polysaccharides, which have excellent water retention and anti-oxidant effects.
Tremella mushrooms were believed to produce youthful, radiant skin from the inside out in ancient Chinese medicine, and they can also help skin stay hydrated. Vitamin D, which aids skin cell growth and repair and prevents premature aging, is abundant in tremella mushrooms. Moreover, there are advantages to utilizing tremella mushroom extracts internally and topically on the skin.
Tremella Mushrooms and the Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is naturally present in tremella mushrooms. Tremella mushrooms are known to hold water and keep your skin moist because hyaluronic acid binds water molecules in our skin.
Tremella mushrooms have been a go-to skincare product for anyone who has dry skin because studies have shown that they can hold up to 500 times their weight in water. Tremella mushroom extract can enter your skin and improve the natural moisture levels deep within because it is inherently oily.
Increased moisture levels can help people with acne-prone skin avoid overproducing oil and keep their skin moisturized.
How are tremella mushrooms used?
Dried tremella mushrooms, if done correctly, can retain the texture and firmness of the fresh ones. Once dried, rehydrating the mushrooms is not much challenging.
Dried tremellas are used in various savory dishes in Chinese cuisine, but their use in sweet dishes—particularly the traditional soup-like dessert known as luk mei—makes them the most well-known.
The shelf life of dried tremella mushrooms may last for several months if stored in a freezer.
The most practical use of tremella mushrooms is probably when they are in powder form. Due to its capacity to absorb water, powdered tremella excels as a natural thickening in sauces, soups, and stews, as well as a creamer in coffee. It has a very mild, mildly sweet flavor.
Tremella mushrooms turned into powder may be sprinkled over practically any meal, and they may also be added to smoothies or yogurt.
Extracts and Tinctures
Another approach to adding tremella mushrooms into your everyday routine is through liquid extracts and tinctures. The beneficial water-soluble chemicals found in tremella mushrooms are concentrated in extracts, which are liquids.
While tinctures typically involve a twofold extraction method and include both the alcohol- and water-soluble components present in mushrooms. Squeeze one or two droppers of an extract or tincture under your tongue once or twice a day, or add two droppers to your coffee or smoothie.
How do you grow tremella mushrooms?
Cultivating tremella mushrooms is very difficult, which is why we should leave it to the experts.
Tremella mushrooms are traditionally grown on logs using plug spawn, a method still used in some regions of China known as silver ear mushrooms. In this video, you will learn that majority of tremella mushrooms come from Southeast China.