What is Snow Fungus?
Snow fungus is a popular culinary and therapeutic mushroom that has been used in Asian cuisine and Traditional Chinese Medicine for two thousand years. It has long been prized for its medicinal properties and was included in one of the oldest books on traditional medicine called the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (c. 200AD)– a key early Chinese text on agriculture and medicinal plants.
Snow fungus (Tremella mushroom) grows in tropical and subtropical climates including China, Pacific Islands, Nigeria, Hawaii and India. In the wild it grows on fallen and decaying logs and tree trunks, but it can also be cultivated. The fruiting body has an unusual but pretty appearance, being both translucent and gelatinous. This has led to various nicknames such as ‘silver ear mushroom’ and ‘white jelly fungus’.
It has a chewy, supple texture and mild flavour that makes it a popular ingredient in Chinese dishes, particularly sweet dishes such as ‘luk mei’– a dessert soup.
The history of Snow Fungus
Tremella mushroom has a long history of traditional use and was once believed to contribute to ‘a long and unblemished life’ when consumed. Both Chinese and Japanese women used snow fungus for various beauty purposes, including to reduce freckles and promote a glowing, youthful complexion. This is the reason snow fungus is sometimes called the ‘beauty mushroom’.
Tremella mushroom has become more popular in the West in recent years as a medicinal mushroom, backed by research that suggests snow fungus’s benefits may be more than skin deep. According to the book ‘Icons of Medicinal Fungi from China’ (1987), Snow fungus ‘stimulates the heart and nourishes the brain, enriches the kidneys and strengthens semen’.
Modern research studies seem to corroborate these findings, especially regarding snow fungus’ benefits to cardiovascular health and neurological function.
What are some snow fungus benefits?
Snow fungus contains an antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase. This has been linked to the protection of micro blood vessels in the skin. The presence of this enzyme may also improve moisture retention in the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Other reported beauty benefits of Tremella mushroom include:
- Attracts and hold water– helpful in skin products for moisture and film forming
- Anti-melanin production– helpful for skin pigmentation, uneven skin tone and scarring
- Promotes skin elasticity and collagen production
Outside of skin health, the presence of key antioxidants and polysaccharides make snow fungus a winner in other areas too, including:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Inhibits enzyme pathways that contribute to diabetic-related conditions
- Prevents or slows LDL cholesterol oxidation (i.e. protective against plaque buildup in arteries)
- May improve memory
- May protect brain cells against nerve damage and degeneration
- Stimulates key white blood cells for improved immune function
How to use it
Tremella mushroom is usually purchased in a dried form. Despite its name, It should look off-white in colour rather than ‘snow’ white, as the latter may have been bleached before reaching the shelf. It requires rehydrating with room temperature water for at least an hour, and you’ll know when it’s ready because it will have tripled in size and feel soft and spongy to the touch. If it has a hard base, then trim this off before cooking.
Once rehydrated, snow fungus can be steamed, boiled, or stir-fried, and is often used as an ingredient in soups. But be aware that this delicate fungus can easily be damaged, so handle it with care!
Tremella mushroom has a delicate flavour, so avoid using overpowering ingredients or spices. The flavour can be enhanced by adding light, fresh ingredients such as ginger, coriander and light soya sauce.
Although there are no reported side effects or toxicity, pregnant women should avoid taking Tremella mushroom as a precaution.
Snow Fungus supplements
With all these snow fungus benefits, why not try some out for yourself?
Aside from preparing and consuming the actual mushroom, a supplement will always give a higher concentration of active compounds. Mushrooms4Life’s Snow Fungus comes in capsules and powder and contains 100% hot-water extracted mushroom for maximum polysaccharides including beta glucans and proteoglycans. It’s organic and contains no fillers or unnecessary extra ingredients, so it’s about as pure as it’s possible to get without sourcing it yourself!