Tremella fuciformis (White Snow Fungus): Benefits & Identification

The Tremella species belong to the family known as jelly mushrooms, due to the formation of gelatinous fruit bodies. Tremella fuciformis, is in the order of the Tremellales and the family of the Tremellaceae. It is a tropical and subtropical edible mushroom [1.] also known as snow fungus, silver ear fungus, snow ear, white jelly mushroom, white jelly-leaf and white auricularia; it is known also as yiner or baimuer in China [2.]. First identified in Brazil, Tremella fuciformis is now cultivated widely and can be found throughout Asia; it is one of the most cultivated fungus in China. Tremella fuciformis is found on the dead and fallen branches of broad-leaved trees.

From a dietary perspective, Tremella fuciformis is nutritiously rich in polysaccharides, proteins and fiber; in addition to various vitamins and minerals [3.]. The Tremella fuciformis polysaccharides (TPS) have proven to have positive biological effects, including but not limited to anti-tumorigenic, anti-inflammatory, memory reparation, cancer-therapy side-effect modulation and anti-aging.

Tremella fuciformis Identification and Description

Fruiting body: Whitish in color; almost appearing transparent; jelly-like but quite firm; quite large in size up to 7.5cm across and up to 4cm high; the fruiting body is made up of attractive lobes.

Smell: Pleasantly sweet.

Taste:  Sweet or mild/bland.

Spores:  Smooth and oval.

Spore color:  White.

Edibility:  Edible; one of the most popular fungi to eat in China.

Habitat:  Parasite of Hypoxylon; tropical and subtropical regions; Asia and North Americal (temperate areas).

Tremella fuciformis Benefits

Anti-tumour

The scientific evidence supports the role of the polysaccharides of Tremella fuciformis as a therapeutic in cancer. The anti-tumour properties may arise from promotion of the natural immune system by Tremella fuciformis. These benefits led to the “Tremella Polysaccharide Enteric-coated Capsules” being approved in 2002, by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration (SFDA). These capsules are used to treat cancer patients following chemotherapy or radiotherapy- induced leukopenia [2.], a condition that sees a reduction in white blood cells; these cells are important for protecting against infection and an improvement in side-effects is seen with use of the capsules.

Using a mouse model with implanted sarcoma tumours, Tremella fuciformis demonstrated anti-tumour properties [4.] and in vitro Tremella fuciformis can prevent cell growth. At 50mg/ml the anti-tumour properties increased to 92.1%. Moreover, extracted Tremella fuciformis polysaccharides were able to scavenge for free radicals, crucially needed to prevent damage to the cells, including DNA [5.]. DNA damage can lead to the formation of mutations that lead to cancer.

Anti-oxidant and skin function protection

A study in mice concluded that following UV exposure, skin structural changes lessened including collagen damage, in the presence of Tremella fuciformis. Critically, enzymes involved in protective anti-oxidant pathways were also increased [8.]. The authors of the study proposed that Tremella fuciformis supplements could benefit the function of the skin.

Anti-aging

Anti-oxidant protection is essential to prevent cell damage, reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide can destroy this balance and accelerate aging. In the presence of hydrogen peroxide, Tremella fuciformis is able to suppress damage caused to human skin fibroblasts. Pre-treatment with Tremella fuciformis led to a decrease in reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cell death [9.] demonstrating potential for Tremella fuciformis therapy against oxidative-stress induced skin disease and aging.

Anti-inflammatory

There is evidence in support of Tremella fuciformis on the immune system. Cells pre-treated with Tremella fuciformis polysaccharides and then exposed to inflammation-inducing LPS, showing reduced ROS levels, reduced inflammatory cytokines and a decrease in overall cell inflammation responses. This activity modified the activity of macrophages, a key immune cell involved in the inflammatory response [6.].

Neuroprotective and neurotrophic

Hot water extract of Tremella fuciformis in vitro on cells of neural crest origin were shown to have increased neuronal differentiation activity and neuronal outgrowth, with increased neurite length observed when compared to control. Furthermore, protection against neurotoxicity was observed in an in vitro  Alzheimer’s disease model in the presence of the Tremella fuciformis extract; cells treated with amyloid beta, the protein considered to be highly involved in the degenerative pathology observed in Alzheimer’s disease, showed diminished levels of toxicity in the presence of Tremella fuciformis [1.]

Memory and learning improvement

Memory impairment can result from various conditions, including but not exclusively Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Trimethyltin (TMT) is a powerful neurotoxin that impairs learning and memory in rats, repeated treatment with extract from Tremella fuciformis reduced the TMT-induced changes in learning and memory and also protected against loss of cholinergic neurons, when compared to mice that did not receive Tremella fuciformis [10.]

Radiation damage protection

Following pre-treatment with a polysaccharide extract from Tremella fuciformis, mice given gamma irradiation saw a 50% increase in survival and at 74mg/kg, haemoglobin levels increased and red and white blood cells were significantly restored within 18 days. Furthermore, genotoxicity levels were reduced in the mice that received Tremella fuciformis when compared to irradiation only. This provides evidence for Tremella fuciformis as having protective properties against radiation [7.]

Hypoglycemic

Glucuronoxylomannan (AC) extracted from the fruiting bodies of Tremella fuciformis and fed to mice produced a dose-dependent reduction of plasma glucose and plasma cholesterol. Tremella fuciformis treatment led to reduced liver glycogen and increased stored total lipid in adipose tissue and increased the plasma insulin levels; important in regulating the metabolism of the glucose. Significantly, in a diabetic mouse model hypoglycemic activity was also seen (50mg/kg) [11.]. Further work looking at obese mice administered with exopolysaccharides from Tremella fuciformis showed significant hypoglycemic effects in addition to insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood triglycerides [12.]. This is promising research for the use of Tremella fuciformis as a therapeutic in non-insulin dependent diabetes.

Hypocholesterolemic

Rats that were fed a diet of powdered Tremella fuciformis for 4 weeks showed a significant decrease in total serum cholesterol levels when compared to the controls. A significant decrease in LDL (the bad cholesterol) was observed but this was not seen in this study for HDL (good cholesterol); therefore, the decrease in cholesterol was attributed to the reduction of overall LDL. Furthermore, an increase in the excretion of neutral fecal sterioids and bile acids were seen [13.]. This was supported by subsequent studies with similar results which also saw physiological changes occurring with increased intestinal tissue size and weight [14.].

Tremella fuciformis Dosage

There are no present one-dose fits all. It is suggested that Tremella fuciformis grown in different countries may contain different concentrations of the bioactive ingredients and therefore, have different biological effects [4.] [15.]. Studies have also shown variable doses providing specific effects in different models. The extraction process of the biological components is commonly by hot or cold-water extraction. Hot water extraction may yield the highest level of polysaccharides and be more effective in cancer cell inhibition whilst cold water extraction, may yield highest levels of protein and be more effective in immune-modulation [15.].

Always seek medical advice if pregnant before taking any food supplement. Whilst there is evidence to support the benefits of taking Tremella fuciformis it is not a replacement for traditional treatment it is important to seek and adhere to medical advice before supplementing the diet for medicinal effects.

Tremella fuciformis Side Effects & Toxicity

Presently it doe’s not appear there are any side effects or toxicity related to Tremella Fuciformis. However; it’s important to remember if you are taking any medication supplements can interfere with them. Consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.

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References:

  1. Park, K.J., et al., The Neuroprotective and Neurotrophic Effects of Tremella fuciformis in PC12h Cells. Mycobiology, 2007. 35(1): p. 11-15.
  2. Yang, D., Y. Liu, and L. Zhang, Tremella polysaccharide: The molecular mechanisms of its drug action. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci, 2019. 163: p. 383-421.
  3. Wu, Y.-j., et al., Structure, bioactivities and applications of the polysaccharides from Tremella fuciformis mushroom: A review. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 2019. 121: p. 1005-1010.
  4. Ukai, S., et al., Antitumor activity on sarcoma 180 of the polysaccharides from Tremella fuciformis Berk. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo), 1972. 20(10): p. 2293-4.
  5. Chen, B., Optimization of extraction of Tremella fuciformis polysaccharides and its antioxidant and antitumour activities in vitro. Carbohydrate Polymers – CARBOHYD POLYM, 2010. 81: p. 420-424.
  6. Ruan, Y., et al., Tremella fuciformis Polysaccharides Attenuate Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Macrophages through miR-155. Anal Cell Pathol (Amst), 2018. 2018: p. 5762371.
  7. Xu, W., et al., Protective effect of polysaccharides isolated from Tremella fuciformis against radiation-induced damage in mice. J Radiat Res, 2012. 53(3): p. 353-60.
  8. Wen, L., et al., Effect of polysaccharides from Tremella fuciformis on UV-induced photoaging. Journal of Functional Foods, 2016. 20: p. 400-410.
  9. Shen, T., et al., Tremella fuciformis polysaccharide suppresses hydrogen peroxide-triggered injury of human skin fibroblasts via upregulation of SIRT1. Molecular medicine reports, 2017. 16(2): p. 1340-1346.
  10. Park, H.-J., et al., 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. Behavioural Brain Research, 2012. 229(1): p. 82-90.
  11. Kiho, T., et al., [Polysaccharides in fungi. XXXIII. Hypoglycemic activity of an acidic polysaccharide (AC) from Tremella fuciformis]. Yakugaku Zasshi, 1994. 114(5): p. 308-15.
  12. Cho, E.J., et al., Hypoglycemic effects of exopolysaccharides produced by mycelial cultures of two different mushrooms Tremella fuciformis and Phellinus baumii in ob/ob mice. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol, 2007. 75(6): p. 1257-65.
  13. Cheung, P.C.K., The hypocholesterolemic effect of two edible mushrooms: Auricularia auricula (tree-ear) and Tremella fuciformis (white jelly-leaf) in hypercholesterolemic rats1. Nutrition Research, 1996. 16(10): p. 1721-1725.
  14. Cheng, H.H., W.C. Hou, and M.L. Lu, Interactions of lipid metabolism and intestinal physiology with Tremella fuciformis Berk edible mushroom in rats fed a high-cholesterol diet with or without Nebacitin. J Agric Food Chem, 2002. 50(25): p. 7438-43.
  15. Han, C.K., et al., Comparison of Immunomodulatory and Anticancer Activities in Different Strains of Tremella fuciformis Berk. Am J Chin Med, 2015. 43(8): p. 1637-55.

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