Tremella mushrooms are one of the most cultivated mushrooms in China and a popular ingredient in skincare products.
Consuming tremella mushrooms is said to slow aging and make skin healthy, supple and soft.
But, does tremella really work?
In this article, you’ll discover what tremella mushrooms are, their history, the wide range of research-backed benefits they offer and how to use them.
What Are Tremella Mushrooms?
Tremella mushrooms (Tremella fuciformis) are unique, edible mushrooms that look more like underwater coral or sea anemones than mushrooms.
Often referred to as the “beauty mushroom,” tremella mushrooms have several names.
These include white mushroom, snow mushroom, silver ear mushroom, snow fungus and white jelly mushroom.
In Japan, they’re known as Shiro Kikurage, meaning “white tree jellyfish,” which describes their appearance well.
Tremella mushrooms belong to the Tremellaceae family that characteristically have a jelly-like consistency giving them the name jelly fungus.
They’re made up of ruffled branching fronds or lobes attached to a central base and are translucent white to pale yellow in color, with a soft jelly-like texture that’s slimy when wet.
Cultivated tremella mushrooms can grow up to 3.94 inches (10 cm) in diameter, but in the wild, they’re smaller, often only the size of golf balls, and seldom get larger than 2.95 inches (7.5 cm) across and 1.57 inches (4 cm) high.
For thousands of years, these medicinal mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine and are known for their hydrating and skin rejuvenating properties.
History of Tremella Mushrooms
The use of tremella mushrooms in traditional Chinese medicine dates back as far as 200 AD.
They were included in the oldest surviving Chinese materia medica, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Farmer’s Classic of Materia Medica).
In ancient times, like many other medicinal mushrooms, tremella mushrooms were reserved for royalty and the wealthy and were used to help boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and treat asthma and dry coughs.
But, they’re best known for their role in skincare and during the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) got the nickname “fountain of youth” mushrooms.
According to legend, Yang Guifei (719–756), an imperial concubine considered one of the most beautiful women in Chinese history, attributed her everlasting beauty to tremella mushrooms.
It’s said she used them regularly to maintain her youthful, supple skin and glowing complexion and was so beautiful that the emperor could not resist her.
Whether the legend is true or not, Chinese women have been consuming whole tremella mushrooms or tremella mushroom extract for centuries to make their skin healthy, moist and soft.
Initially, tremella mushrooms were only harvested in the wild, as although they appeared to grow on dead wood, like many other medicinal mushrooms, they were proving impossible to cultivate.
But, it was finally discovered that they were, in fact, mycoparasites, meaning they did not eat the wood but lived on other fungi that consumed the wood.
With this knowledge, the Chinese finally began cultivating tremella mushrooms in 1894 during the Qing Dynasty.
Where do Tremella Mushrooms Grow?
Tremella mushrooms grow in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, including South and Central America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and parts of North America.
They enjoy humid tropical conditions and you’ll find them growing on dead or dying logs and branches from broadleaf trees.
You may also see small, black bumps on the wood near them. These are the fruiting bodies of the Hypoxylon archeri fungus that tremella mushrooms need in order to fruit.
The exact type of interaction between the two is unclear. Tremella may feed on Hypoxylon archeri, but there’s also a possibility that they don’t feed on them but require them to break the wood down into components they can use.
Tremella Mushroom Benefits
There are so many benefits to consuming tremella mushrooms that many consider them a superfood.
And, if you’re wondering, “What is silver ear mushroom good for?” or, “What are the benefits of snow mushroom?” then you’re in the right place because no matter what you call them, tremella mushrooms have an astonishing range of benefits.
Although these “beauty mushrooms” are best known for their role in skincare, they’re medicinal mushrooms and are full of beneficial compounds that offer numerous health benefits, including:
1. Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease
In a study using rats with high cholesterol levels, tremella mushrooms helped decrease their levels of bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
In high concentrations, these compounds cause health problems and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
2. Helping to Control Blood Sugar Levels
A study using the exopolysaccharides (EPS) in tremella mushrooms showed their ability to significantly lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance.
These results mean tremella is a functional food and could possibly be used to manage certain types of diabetes.
3. Boosting the Immune System
Tremella mushrooms contain compounds that help fight disease by strengthening your immune system.
The beta-glucans, which are polysaccharides in tremella and other medicinal mushrooms, are immunostimulating. They help to boost the immune system by stimulating macrophage activity.
Macrophages are a type of white blood cell that kill bacteria and remove damaged tissue, keeping us healthy.
And, it’s not only the polysaccharides in tremella mushrooms that do this. A 2014 study showed they also contain a protein that stimulates macrophage activity.
4. Reducing inflammation
While inflammation is the body’s natural response to an injury, it should be short-term. Continual high levels of inflammation lead to chronic medical conditions.
The results of these studies suggest tremella mushrooms may be a potential treatment for inflammation-related diseases like heart disease and cancer.
5. Preventing Cell Damage
The polysaccharides in tremella mushrooms are powerful antioxidants that help to prevent cell damage caused by too many free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules produced naturally in the body as a byproduct of metabolism or exposure to environmental toxins like tobacco smoke and ultraviolet light.
Studies show that tremella mushrooms help neutralize the free radicals in your body, reducing oxidative stress and preventing cell and tissue damage.
6. Promoting Brain Health
Research shows that tremella mushrooms have neuroprotective effects and could potentially be used as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The Role of Tremella Mushrooms in Skincare
Many of tremella’s health benefits are due to the high amounts of polysaccharides they contain.
And it’s the polysaccharides that also provide the skincare benefits.
Tremella mushrooms’ gelatinous structure and unique long-chain polysaccharides, with remarkable water retaining and antioxidant properties, make them powerful hydrators.
And, you don’t only benefit from using tremella mushroom extracts externally on your skin.
Eating tremella mushrooms can also assist skin hydration, and in traditional Chinese medicine, they were believed to create youthful, glowing skin from the inside out.
Tremella mushrooms are high in Vitamin D, which helps with skin cell growth and repair, and plays a role in preventing premature aging.
And the antioxidants in tremella break down free radicals, helping to prevent fine lines and wrinkles from forming.
The polysaccharides in tremella form a flexible film on the skin that locks in moisture, smooths skin and makes it more elastic.
They also pull moisture to the skin in a similar way to hyaluronic acid, a common ingredient in many skincare products known for its impressive hydrating properties.
Is Tremella Mushroom Better Than Hyaluronic Acid?
Studies that tested the water retention capacity of tremella polysaccharides compared to that of hyaluronic acid found their capacity to be equivalent.
But, it’s been suggested that tremella mushrooms may be more beneficial as the hydrating molecules in tremella are smaller than those in hyaluronic acid, meaning they’re able to penetrate the skin faster and more effectively.
But most skincare professionals want to see more research before they’ll declare it the best ingredient for skin hydration.
Does Tremella Contain Collagen?
Tremella does not contain collagen but can help support our body’s collagen production.
The polysaccharides found in tremella promote skin collagen synthesis, which helps to boost elasticity and minimize fine lines and wrinkles.
And tremella mushrooms also contain amino acids vital for collagen production, giving the body what it needs for optimum collagen production.
Is Tremella Mushroom Good for Hair?
Yes, tremella mushroom is good for hair for the same reason it’s wonderful for skin, its ability to retain moisture.
The polysaccharides in tremella extracts form a light film over hair strands, locking in moisture and leaving hair silky and soft.
How to Use Tremella Mushrooms
There are many ways to get the benefits of tremella mushrooms, and they’re now widely cultivated in China and other Asian countries.
Fresh tremella mushrooms are not often found outside Asia unless you grow your own, so dried tremella mushrooms or tremella mushroom extracts are the easiest ways to access their health benefits.
Here are some ways to use tremella mushrooms:
Dried Tremella Mushrooms
If you can get hold of whole dried tremella mushrooms, it’s easy to rehydrate them. And, if they’ve been dried correctly, they’ll regain almost the same texture and consistency as fresh tremella mushrooms.
In Chinese cuisine, they’re used in some savory dishes but are best known for their use in sweet dishes, especially a traditional soup-like dessert known as luk mei.
Tremella mushrooms have a very mild flavor and a velvety texture.
Tremella Mushroom Powder
Tremella mushroom powder is easy to find and probably the most convenient way to use tremella mushrooms.
It has a very mild, slightly sweet flavor and, because of its ability to absorb water, works fantastically as a natural thickener in sauces, soups and stews or as a creamer in coffee.
It also works well in smoothies or with yogurt, and because of its mild flavor, you can sprinkle over almost any meal.
If you prefer to take your powder daily in capsule form, tremella mushroom powder capsules are also available.
Tremella Mushroom Extracts and Tinctures
Liquid extracts and tinctures containing tremella mushrooms are another way to incorporate this fungus into your daily routine.
Extracts are concentrated liquids that contain the beneficial water-soluble compounds found in tremella mushrooms.
While tinctures are usually made using a dual extraction process and contain both the water-soluble and alcohol-soluble compounds found in mushrooms.
To take an extract or tincture, squeeze a dropper or two under your tongue once or twice a day or add two droppers full to your coffee or smoothie.
Tremella Mushroom Extract for Skin
More and more skincare brands are including tremella mushroom extract in their anti-aging skincare products, and you’ll find it in a wide range of facial moisturizers and serums.
But, many studies using tremella mushroom extract for skincare used oral intake of tremella, and more research needs to be done to fully understand all its benefits when applied topically.
How to Grow Tremella Mushroom
Tremella mushroom growing is best left to experienced growers as the process can be challenging.
The traditional way of growing tremella mushrooms, and one still used in some parts of China, where they call them silver ear mushrooms, is to grow them on logs using plug spawn.
This video shows how tremella mushrooms are grown commercially in SE China.
Where to Buy Tremella Mushroom
The best place to find tremella mushroom extracts, tinctures or skin products is online.
Several different companies offer organic tremella mushroom products, and if you search for “tremella” on Google or Amazon, there are numerous products available.
Make sure to buy your tremella from a reputable business and look for 100 percent natural products without synthetic ingredients or strange additives.
Like many other medicinal mushrooms, these beautiful and unique mushrooms contain anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant, immunostimulating and anti-aging properties.
What makes them unique is their remarkable water retaining ability and the fact that eating tremella mushrooms assists with skin hydration.
One of the easiest ways to use and enjoy the benefits they offer is tremella mushroom extracts, in liquid or powder form.
To learn more about medicinal mushrooms and their health benefits, visit our Mushroom Education Hub.