Wood Ear

Auricularia auricula / Auricularia polytricha
(from Medicinal Mushrooms – A Clinical Guide by Martin Powell)

Japanese Name – Kikurage
Chinese Name – Mu Er / (Wood Ear)
English Name – Jews Ear / Judas’ Ear

A. auricula grows throughout Europe, Asia and the United States and is highly valued in Asian cooking for its crunchy, rubbery texture. A type of jelly fungus, it produces fruit bodies that are translucent, brown in colour and ‘ear’ shaped, hence its Chinese name ‘Wood Ear’. Both A. auricula and A. polytricha are considered as species of Mu Er in Chinese medicine and today are used interchangeably1.

In common with other jelly fungi, A. auricula fruiting bodies contain high levels of polysaccharides and these are the main bioactive component, although phenols have also been shown to contribute to the total antioxidant capacity2.

A. auricula is primarily of interest as a functional food for the elderly, with polysaccharide extracts showing particular promise and having been developed as functional food additives for bread3.

Anti-inflammatory – A. auricula polysaccharides have anti-inflammatory activity, which correlates with A. auricula’s traditional use for soothing irritated or inflamed mucous membranes4.

Anti-oxidant
– A. auricula extracts show strong anti-oxidant properties with a positive correlation between levels of phenols and anti-oxidant capacity5-7.

Anti-thromobotic – Polysaccharide extracts of A. auricula inhibit platelet aggregation and increase clotting times in-vitro and in-vivo. Its anticoagulant activity was due to catalysis of thrombin inhibition by antithrombin but not by heparin cofactor II8,9.

Anti-cholesterol – A. auricula polysaccharides have been shown to lower blood total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides and LDL levels and enhance the level of blood HDL, as well as HDL /TC and HDL/LDL ratios, at 5% of feed in rats suffering from hyperlipidemia 10-12.

Cardioprotective – Together with A. auricula’s general anti-oxidant properties, A. auricula polysaccharides shows a strong cardio protective effect, especially in aged mice, enhancing the activity of superoxide dismutase and reducing lipid peroxidation13,14.

CLINICAL SUMMARY

Main Therapeutic application – Cardiovascular support
Key Component – Polysaccharides
Dose – 2-3g/day polysaccharide extract

Caution – Patients on anti-coagulant medication. Owing to possible anti-fertility effects it is recommended that A. auricula not be taken by pregnant or lactating women or those planning to conceive15.

1. Hobbs C. Medicinal Mushrooms – An Exploration of Tradition, Healing and Culture. 1986. Botanica Press, Williams, Oregon.
2. Research progress in Auricularia auricula polysaccharide. Huang X.G, Quan Y.L, Guan B, Hu Y. Science and Technology of Cereals, Oils and Foods. 2010-01
3. Evaluation of antioxidant property and quality of breads containing Auricularia auricula polysaccharide flour. Fan L, Zhang S, Yu L. Li Ma Food Chemistry, 2007
4. Polysaccharides in fungi. XIV. Anti-inflammatory effect of the polysaccharides from the fruit bodies of several fungi. Ukai S, Kiho T, Hara C, Kuruma I, Tanaka Y. J Pharmacobiodyn. 1983;6(12):983-90.
5. Antioxidant capacity of fresh and processed fruit bodies and mycelium of Auricularia auricula-judae (Fr.) Quél. Kho Y.S, Vikineswary S, Abdullah N, Kuppusamy U.R, Oh H.I. J Med Food. 2009;12(1):167-74.
6. Antioxidant and nitric oxide synthase activation properties of Auricularia auricula. Acharya K, Samui K, Rai M, Dutta B.B, Acharya R. Indian J Exp Biol. 2004;42(5):538-40.
7. Antioxidant activity of submerged cultured mycelium extracts of higher Basidiomycetes mushrooms, Asatiani M et al. Int J Med Mush. 2007;9
8. The nontoxic mushroom Auricularia auricula contains a polysaccharide with anticoagulant activity mediated by antithrombin. Yoon S.J, Yu M.A, Pyun Y.R, Hwang J.K, Chu D.C, Juneja L.R, Mourão P.A. Thromb Res. 2003;112(3):151-18.
9. Inhibition of human and rat platelet aggregation by extracts of Mu-er (Auricularia auricula). Thromb Haemost. Agarwal K.C, Russo F.X, Parks R.E Jr. 1982;48(2):162-5.
10. Effect of polysaccharide from Auricularia auricula on blood lipid metabolism and lipoprotein lipase activity of ICR mice fed a cholesterol-enriched diet. Chen G, Luo YC, Li BP, Li B, Guo Y, Li Y, Su W, Xiao ZL. J Food Sci. 2008 Aug;73(6):H103-8.
11. The hypocholesterolemic effect of two edible mushrooms: Auricularia auricula (tree-ear) and Tremella fuciformis (white jelly-leaf) in hypercholesterolemic rats. Kaneda T and Tokuda S. Nutrition Research. 1996;1699(10):1721-1725.
12. Isolation and purification of polysaccharides from wood ear (Auricularia auricular) and their hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic and antioxidant activities. Yi M.A, Tang J, Han C. 2005 IFT Annual Meeting. ift.confex.com 18B-13
13. Chemical characterization of Auricularia auricula polysaccharides and its pharmacological effect on heart antioxidant enzyme activities and left ventricular function in aged mice. Wu Q, Tan Z, Liu H, Gao L, Wu S, Luo J, Zhang W, Zhao T, Yu J, Xu X. Int J Biol Macromol. 2010 Apr 1;46(3):284-8.
14. Auricularia auricular polysaccharide protects myocardium against ischemia/reperfusion injury. Ye TM, Qian LB, Cui J, Wang HP, Ye ZG, Xia Q. Zhongguo Ying Yong Sheng Li Xue Za Zhi. 2010 May;26(2):154-8
15. Anti-fertility action of Auricularia auricula polysaccharide. He B. Chen Q. Zhongguo Yaoke Daxue Xuebao. 1991;22:48-49

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