Snow fungus is one of the wobbly varieties of fungus that is commonly found on various types of trees especially in the Asian countries and also other warm climates across the globe. It is white in color and almost transparent. Snow fungus is commonly knows as wood ear and derives this name from its appearance on decomposing logs, which are an ideal breeding ground for this variety of mushroom. The superior quality of snow fungus, however, is light yellowish-white in color and feels like mucilage when touched. The Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine practitioners have been using snow fungus for over 2000 years now to heal various ailments. It is commonly used to enhance body liquids, to cure dry coughs and also heart palpitations or the trembling nervous system. At the same time, snow fungus is commonly used as a stimulating herb and also as a beauty augmenting medicine. It is widely used for the betterment of the skin tone.
Cultivation of snow fungus is not a very old practice as earlier the mushroom was mainly collected from the nature. However, the wild variety of snow fungus was not rare, but also smaller in size, almost like that of a golf ball. Besides, since snow fungus was rare in the past, it was highly expensive and only members of the royal and noble families could pay for it. For many years, it was commonly believed that since snow fungus grew on trees, it drew its nourishment or sustenance from the wood or decomposing logs.
For several years, people could not farm snow fungus and despite efforts to cultivate snow fungus, they were compelled to collect the mushroom from the natural habitat. Gradually, there were researches to find out why this variety of mushroom cannot be cultivated on wood or decaying logs like Oyster mushrooms, the pom pon mushroom, enoki or shiitake. Another difficulty was that when snow fungus is cultivated without wood, it has a tendency to grow like a variety of yeast. In such cases the cultivators discarded the yeasts or the sub-cultures considering them to be impurities. They were of the opinion that this yeast was just another variety of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (the yeast used by the bakers and brewers) or Candida albicans.
Finally, scientists discovered that the snow fungus species was nothing but mycoparasites clarifying that snow fungus does not consume wood for sustenance, but consumed another variety of fungus that ate wood. It was also found that the host fungus in this case is Hypoxylon archeri, one of the black Pyrenomycetes that is linked to Daldinia concentrica (carbon balls) and Xylaria polymorpha (dead man's fingers). Incidentally, all these fungi develop or grow on decaying wood. Studies on this subject are still on and scientists believe that it is likely that snow fungus does not parasitize Hypoxylon archeri. On the contrary, it transforms the wood or log into a variety that can be used for sustenance.
Cultivation of snow fungus is comparatively simple provided one is aware of the environmental science of the mushroom's growth. The first step includes preparation of substrate normally using sawdust additions with cellulose and some kind of grains like millets. In the next phase, the substrate is packed inside synthetic bags and uncontaminated or sterilized. Once the substrate is cooled it is vaccinated with the mycelium of Hypoxylon archeri and left undisturbed for some weeks so that it is able to grow. And it is during this period that the Tremella culture is inoculated into the immunized substrata. When there is substantial growth, the plastic bags containing the inoculated substrata are place in conditions that would yield the desired results. Normally, they are put in high humid conditions in adequate warmth. A few weeks later you will find snowball-type groups of Tremella produced on the openings or holes made in the plastic bags. Once this is complete, most of the mushroom is dried for sale later. Significantly, the snow fungus has the capability to re-hydrate and regain its original consistency and taste soon and appear to be like fresh.
Having properties of a protective tonic, snow fungus combats infections particularly that which are persistent in nature. In addition, the mushroom has numerous medicinal benefits. During researches scientists have discovered that snow fungus has qualities that fights tumor growth, reduces the intensity of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or harmful cholesterol, safeguards the liver, combats swellings and irritations and also retards the aging process. If someone consumes snow fungus habitually the wrinkles, freckles and stress marks on his/her face will vanish. However, this aspect of snow fungus has not been proved scientifically.
Snow fungus has numerous other health benefits and recent researches have shown that it is especially useful in healing atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and even certain cancerous growths. Below are detailed descriptions of the same.
Atherosclerosis, high blood pressure: Physicians in Japan use snow fungus to heal as well as thwart atherosclerosis, a disease where cholesterol accumulates into the plaques inside the arteries. Hence, physicians avert the disorder by using snow fungus to lower the cholesterol levels in the blood. Although this practice has been continuing for years, so far only one medical examination has established this function of snow fungus. On the contrary, scientific studies on the infection combating quality of snow fungus polysaccharides have established that this variety of mushroom is beneficial in preserving the cholesterol concentration in the cell coatings. It may be noted here that cholesterol is required in the cell linings with the aim to pull it out from the blood tributaries.
Cancer: Several scientific researches conducted on snow fungus have discovered and established that polysaccharides contained in snow fungus is a perfect input that match the receptor locations on particular impervious cells. This function of snow fungus enhances secretion of interferon and interleukin-2 (IL-2) – two vital immune system compounds – and incites the manufacture of germ consuming macrophages. Snow fungus also has the quality to improve and enhance the actions of natural killer (NK) cells and the efficiency of antibodies. Most importantly, snow fungus also lowers the speed at which cancer spreads in the body. It may be noted here that in order to develop and increase, tumors require setting up their own blood vessel arrangement inside the affected area and the chemicals found in snow fungus frustrate a blood compound known as platelet - activating factor (PAF) that reduces the possibilities of blood to thicken or clot and gyrate a fibrin net that aids formation of blood vessels to serve the swellings.
Examinations in the laboratory have show that extracts from snow fungus eliminate cervical cancer cells and also those that are taken from other forms of tumors. It is a well-known fact that snow fungus extracts help in sensitizing the cervix and uterus to emission healing and makes the remedy more effectual. Preventing leucopenia or depleted white blood cell count in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation healing for cancer is one of the most important uses of snow fungus and its derivatives.
Patients or people desiring to have snow fungus can avail it as an extract in an over-the-counter medicine known as Yin Mi Pian. Most importantly, snow fungus can be consumed as a staple diet as like all other jelly fungi; it does not have any toxic properties.