4 Health Benefits of Wood Ear Mushroom
Updated January 7, 2024.
"Wood ear mushrooms vs black fungus" is a common debate as the terms are often used interchangeably. Although the two mushrooms are different, they are botanical cousins that have almost identical benefits. Wood ear mushrooms are typically sold dried, in powdered form, or as extracts. Dried mushrooms should always be cooked as this destroys bacteria and breaks down the chitin to activate the full range of benefits.
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1. Wood Ear Mushrooms May Benefit Heart Health
One of the most beneficial compounds in many functional mushrooms is high levels of polysaccharides. However, research has shown that wood ear mushrooms also contain polyphenolic compounds that were effective in lowering decreasing concentrations of cholesterol in the blood.
High cholesterol can lead to clogged arteries, increasing blood pressure and putting your heart at risk. Lowering the levels of cholesterol will improve overall heart health.
2. Wood Ear Mushrooms May Boost the Immune System
There are many ways that substances can benefit the immune system, and Wood Ear mushrooms seem to possess more than one of these methods.
Firstly, research has shown that Wood Ear mushrooms seem to exhibit direct antimicrobial capabilities, which means that they are effective in killing or inhibiting the growth of bacteria.
Secondly, one of the most effective ways of boosting the immune system is to improve gut health. Around 70% of the immune response capabilities are located in the gut, so it stands to reason that improving gut balance can improve overall immune health. Studies have shown that Wood Ear mushrooms contain prebiotics that can be beneficial for gut health.
3. Wood Ear Mushroom May Fight Cancer Cells
One of the common benefits across all functional mushroom types is their ability to inhibit and prevent the growth of cancerous tumours, and it seems that Black Fungus is no different. A study published in the Journal of Toxicological Research found that certain polysaccharide extracts of Wood Ear mushrooms exhibited potent anti-tumour activity.
However, the linked study also pointed out the importance of the method of extracting the components of certain mushrooms. It appeared that water-insoluble and alkali-soluble polysaccharides obtained from Wood Ear mushrooms had little to no effect on tumour activity unless they were chemically modified.
4. Wood Ear Mushrooms May Reduce Oxidative Stress
Like their effect on cancer cells, many functional mushrooms are often touted for their contained antioxidants. Accumulation of oxidative stress can cause numerous health complications, as well as contribute to the degenerative effects of aging. Typically, oxidative stress damages cells, proteins, and DNA and is visible in externally manifested symptoms like wrinkles and blemished skin.
It stands to reason that reducing oxidative stress could have numerous benefits, such as:
- Reduced risk of cancer.
- Reduced risk of heart disease.
- Reduced symptoms of aging.
Therefore, It is exciting that Wood Ear mushrooms, in addition to many other functional mushrooms, seem to contain potent antioxidants, as noted by this study. This means that Wood Ear mushrooms may even stimulate collagen production.
Should You Choose Wood Ear Mushrooms Over Other Fungi?
Although a reasonable question, there is, unfortunately, no right or wrong answer. The type of functional mushrooms you ultimately decide to incorporate into your life will depend mostly on the specific benefits you are looking for. Although many functional mushrooms share multiple benefits, each one seems to have at least one that it excels at more than others.
Always remember that functional mushrooms are fungi, which means that individuals with mushroom or mould allergies will likely react negatively to them. Additionally, no studies have ever looked specifically at the side effects of Wood Ear mushrooms, and so you should always exercise caution when deciding whether or not to incorporate them into your life. Monitor yourself closely for wood ear mushroom poisoning (gastrointestinal problems, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps), and contact your doctor if they manifest.