Snow fungus and lung immune function

Snow fungus and lung immune function

Snow fungus (Tremella fuciformis) is a species of mushroom with a very distinctive appearance that looks like white or pale yellow coral in water. It is also known as white fungus, silver ear or white wood ear mushroom or white jelly mushroom.

It has been treasured as a longevity tonic in Chinese medicine as far back as 200 AD in the classic Chinese medicine text Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing. In ancient times, only royalty and wealthy families could afford to consume snow fungus.

Nowadays, snow fungus is well known amongst Chinese for its anti-ageing and beauty properties and commonly consumed in soups and desserts. Quality snow fungus can be very expensive in China and younger people give it as a present to older people as a present on special occasions.

Physical functions of the Lungs in Chinese medicine

Over two thousand years ago, traditional Chinese medicine recognised that the lungs are located in the chest and have a relationship with the nose, throat, large intestine and skin.

The lung is a very tender and moist organ. It likes to be moist and does not like dryness. I remember around thirty years ago when I studied anatomy at university, the teacher showed us a white and clear looking healthy lung, the other a lung damaged by smoking that looked black. It made me realise that the environment and lifestyle is very important for lung health.

The symptoms of the Lungs

Chinese medicine considers the Lungs are the first defence of the body, they help the body to fight against external pathogens. Also, the Lungs support the large intestines for regular bowel movement function and also support the health of the skin. When the Lung is weak or disordered, the body can be affected by the following Lung Qi and Yin Deficiency symptoms:

  • Lack of energy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Looking pale
  • Low immune system function, easy to catch colds
  • Hay fever
  • Dry skin, eczema
  • Constipation
  • Dry nose, nosebleeds
  • Dry cough, dry throat

I suggest if you have any of the symptoms above you can ask your Chinese medicine practitioner about foods which can benefit the Lungs. Snow fungus is one of the foods I suggest you could eat.

Health benefits of snow fungus

Snow fungus has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine as a potent Jing and Qi tonic for thousands of years. It is believed to tonify the lungs, kidneys, heart, brain, stomach, and acts as a powerful tonic for the immune system. Snow fungus has been clinically used to help clear heat and dryness, replenish fluids in the body (Yin deficiency), to treat chest congestion, asthma, constipation, balance blood sugar levels and cholesterol (reduces LDL), and lower inflammation. Its rehydration and fluid replenishment qualities may be the best reasons to support its claims as one of the best beauty foods for the skin (Shahrajabian et al., 2020).

According to Chinese medicine, snow fungus is very suitable for people who have Lung Qi and Lung Yin Deficiency symptoms:

  • Someone who has chronic cough and dry cough with no phlegm
  • Someone who has dry skin or constipation
  • Someone who smokes and has dry throat and dry cough

Modern research of snow fungus health effects

  • Snow fungus polysaccharides stimulate the production of superoxide dismutase (SOD) in the brain and liver. SOD is one of the most important super antioxidant enzymes in the body which can help to protect and regenerate skin.
  • Snow fungus polysaccharides can regulate the expression of sirtuin proteins, which regulate many endocrine functions, protects organism from oxidative stress-related cellular events, promotes DNA stability, and decreases various age-related disorders, such as neurodegenerative disease, metabolic abnormalities, and cancer.
  • Snow fungus polysaccharides play an important role in enhancing immune function by activating macrophages, T-lymphocytes, and B-lymphocytes, regulating non-specific immunity, humoral immunity and cellular immunity.
  • Snow fungus has hydrating and moisturising properties equivalent to that of hyaluronic acid.

See our full list of scientific studies and references below.

Rock sugar and snow fungus soup dessert

Soak 1 or 2 snow fungus in water for 2 to 3 hours. Chop them into small pieces and remove the hard part in the middle. Place into a saucepan with a thumb-sized piece of rock sugar and 3 cups of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

You can also cook the snow fungus without sugar or sweeten it with a few Chinese red dates.

Effects of this recipe: This is a very popular dessert recipe in Chinese culture. It can help Lung function, beautify and moisten skin. You can have it two times a week, especially in very dry or very hot weather.

Snow fungus and pear soup

Soak 1 or 2 snow fungus in water for 2 to 3 hours. Chop them into small pieces and remove the hard part in the middle. Boil the snow fungus together with a chopped whole pear, including the pear seeds in 3 cups of water. Boil together and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the seeds before you drink the soup and eat the pear.

Effects of this recipe: Help to stop a dry cough, bowel movement and balance lung function. You can have this two times a week.

Snow fungus porridge

Soak 1 or 2 snow fungus in water for 2 to 3 hours. Chop them into small pieces and remove the hard part in the middle. Boil with three tablespoons of oats and three cups of water and simmer for 5 minutes. This can be part of your breakfast.

Effects of this recipe: strengthen lung function and help bowel movements.


During a cold or flu, or if you have diarrhoea or aversion to cold, please don’t eat snow fungus.

If you don’t know your body’s constitution please ask your experienced traditional Chinese medicine practitioner before eating.

Food as medicine (A disclaimer)

Our “food as medicine” articles share knowledge about health foods in the context of traditional Chinese medicine diet therapy and practices often dating back thousands of years. We also support this knowledge with references to published scientific research. Please keep in mind that scientific research into the health benefits of foods is still emerging and human research is limited.

Consuming a wide variety of natural foods as part of a balanced diet is most beneficial for health, however, we don’t advise using food alone to treat diseases. Please consult with your doctor or health professional about which foods are suitable for your body or health issues.

What Does The Research Say?

The following insights are obtained from scientific studies, systematic reviews and analysis of clinical trials investigating the efficacy of Snow Fungus.

Scientific References

Browse our collection of scientific research on Snow Fungus. It includes recent and reputable papers published by peer-reviewed journals within the last 10 years.

International Journal of Biological Macromolecules

2021, Jun 1

Tremella fuciformis polysaccharides ameliorated ulcerative colitis via inhibiting inflammation and enhancing intestinal epithelial barrier function
International Journal of Biological Macromolecules

This is the first study to ascertain the underlying mechanism of snow fungus in colitis through multi-path analysis of gut microbiota and metabolites. This further suggest the importance of snow fungus in healing ulcerative colitis and reducing inflammations.

Xu Y, Xie L, Zhang Z, et al Full Article

International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology

2021, Apr 16

A review on the production, structure, bioactivities and applications of Tremella polysaccharides
International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology

Tremella polysaccharide is highly effective in moisturising, gelatinous, anti-inflammatory, promoting wound healing, neuroprotective effects and anti-cancer.

Ma, X., Yang, M., He, Y., Zhai, C., & Li, C. Full Article


2021, Apr 6

Sirtuin 1 and Skin: Implications in Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aging-A Systematic Review

The evidence from numerous studies proves sirtuin 1 significance in both chronological and premature aging as well as its dual role in cancer development. Several botanical compounds hold the potential to improve skin aging symptoms.

Bielach-Bazyluk A, Zbroch E, Mysliwiec H, Rydzewska-Rosolowska A, Kakareko K, Flisiak I, Hryszko T. Full Article

Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology

2021, Mar 9

Tremellafuciformis polysaccharides inhibit UVA-induced photodamage of human dermal fibroblast cells by activating up-regulating Nrf2/Keap1 pathways
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology

The study highlights the efficacy of snow fungus in alleviating skin damage caused by UVA. Hence it is an effective component of cosmetics in reducing the oxidative stress of UVA

Fu H, You S, Zhao D, An Q, Zhang J, Wang C, Wang D, Li M. Full Article

Amazonian Journal of Plant Research

2020, Sep

Chemical compounds and health benefits of Tremella, a valued mushroom as both cuisine and medicine in ancient China and modern era
Amazonian Journal of Plant Research

This study concluded that tremella, which is commonly found in Chinese Medicine and dietary lifestyle, has high therapeutic effects of immune boosting minerals and vitamins. It lowers blood sugar, repair neurological nerves, improve memory and promotes anti-aging agent.

Mohamad Hesam Shahrajabian, Wenli Sun, Hong Shen and Qi Cheng Full Article

Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science

2019, Apr 1

Tremella polysaccharide: The molecular mechanisms of its drug action
Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science

Tremella fuciformis polysaccharide (TFPS) shows efficacy for all types of human diseases in the reported clinical studies. The structure, molecular mechanisms of the immunomodulation, antitumor, anti-oxidation, anti-aging, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, preclinical and clinical efficacy are discussed to provide a general picture of TFPS as a clinically used drug.

Yang D, Liu Y, Zhang L. Full Article

Frontiers in Endocrinology

2018, Oct 15

High Levels of SIRT1 Expression as a Protective Mechanism Against Disease-Related Conditions
Frontiers in Endocrinology

Recent studies have shown that age-related diseases or endocrine system dysfunctions are associated with an increase in SIRT1 expression levels, but with a decrease in their activity. The oxidative stress produced during these processes may lead to compensatory or protective increase in the SIRT1 expression to deal with the decline of the SIRT1 activity.

Elibol Birsen, Kilic Ulkan Full Article

Molecular Medicine Reports

2017, Aug

Tremella fuciformis polysaccharide suppresses hydrogen peroxide-triggered injury of human skin fibroblasts via upregulation of SIRT1
Molecular Medicine Reports

Snow fungus alleviated hydrogen peroxide‑induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in skin fibroblasts via up-regulation of SIRT1 expression. This indicated that snow fungus may act as a potential therapeutic agent for oxidative‑stress‑associated skin diseases and aging.

Shen T, Duan C, Chen B, Li M, Ruan Y, Xu D, Shi D, Yu D, Li J, Wang C. Full Article

Molecular Medicine Reports

2016, Oct 4

Antioxidant and immunostimulatory activities of polysaccharides extracted from Tremella aurantialba mycelia
Molecular Medicine Reports

Compared with CMCP, MCP demonstrated improved antioxidant properties. In addition, MCP induced RAW264.7 macrophage proliferation, NO production and secretion of tumor necrosis factor‑α, interleukin (IL)‑1 and IL‑6. These findings suggest that the total carbohydrate content may contribute to the improvement of antioxidant and immunostimulatory activities of MCP.

Deng C, Sun Y, Fu H, Zhang S, Chen J, Xu X. Full Article

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Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.

  • Franko

    Thankyou . I am a long term smoker and have recently started my journey back to a healthy body . Every piece of information is most helpful . Sincere regards Franko

    9 February, 2011
    • Lalaine Chan

      Thank you for sharing all the knowledge about the white fungus, pear and the rock sugar recipe. It is so amazing!!! I believed in chinese tradition.This is a great help to all people who got a lungs problem and the dry skin skin. once again. i am so thankful.

      1 August, 2012
  • Jacq Choo

    I have asthma due to allergy nose, throat and lung. My lung always produce phlegm because of the said condition. It causes me to whiz while I breath. Eat white fungus can help to boost up my lung condition? I have been eating western medicine and inhaler but still cant stop the phlegm unless I’m on steriod tablet.

    19 September, 2012
  • Marci Kangas

    Where can I find white fungus? I live in Alaska, and would most likely have to order from somewhere! Thank you for ALL of this TCI knowledge and information…..I am new to this and so excited for my journey with TCM to begin. Marci Kangas

    15 October, 2012
  • Asha

    Thank you, my son is 5yrs old with chest congestion from this winter he often get cold due to weather so can i use white fungus and any other medicine to loosen the congestion thank you tell

    19 February, 2014
  • Ping Tan

    Hi Ping, me and my 4 years old son got the cold and dry cough, is that suitable to use the fungus recipe to cook with chicken because I am sure my son will not take the sweet one !
    Thank you for advance !

    12 August, 2016