Professional Journals
Tiger Milk Mushroom: The Unknown Treasure
Date: 02/10/2020

There are thousands of edible mushroom species, many of which also have medicinal properties. The most famous of these include ling zhi (reishi, ganoderma lucidum), shiitake, maitake, chaga and agaricus blazei murill. They are known to have a wide variety of health benefits, and many of these claims have been demonstrated by scientific research.

What most of us did not know is that Malaysia has a hidden treasure that may be even more powerful than these famous mushroom varieties. This unknown treasure is the tiger milk mushroom (Lignosus rhinocerus). Although it is also found in several other countries, it is considered as our national treasure as the European had first reported its wide use among our aboriginals since over three centuries ago.

According to aboriginal folklore, the mushroom grew where a tigress dripped its milk while nursing her cubs. Hence the local name is "cendawan susu harimau" or "kulat susu rimau" (tiger milk mushroom). Interestingly, in south China, it is called "how gui kou or hurulingzhi" (in Chinese), which means "tiger milk Ganoderma".

It is a medicinal mushroom used as a health tonic for vitality, energy and alertness, and for treating various ailments, especially coughs, colds, asthma and other respiratory problems. It is also used for food poisoning, swollen breasts post-partum, joint pain, liver illness, swollen body parts, and a wide range of ailments.

It is often used together with other medicinal herbs (eg. tongkat ali). In the past, it was recorded that it was used to treat health problems that the European doctors could not cure. 

In the wild, it is rare because the distance between one plant to another may be a few kilometers apart! It grows underground as a tuber ("sclerotium") where it will remain for months, years or even decades. The presence of this sclerotium can only be noticeable when the mushroom sprouts out when the right conditions prevail. The medicinal properties are only found in the underground tuber or sclerotium. All this makes it a precious national treasure!

Because of its scarcity, until recently, not much scientific research could be done even though the medicinal value of tiger milk mushroom is widely known. Fortunately, in 2008 a local scientist succeeded in cultivating it, and soon after, the world's first commercial cultivation and production of tiger milk mushroom was established. There is now sufficient supply for research and making health products.

The research findings showed that tiger milk mushroom is rich in minerals, and contains many active substances such as peptides, polysaccharides (notably β-glucan) and enzymes which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti-coagulation, anti-asthmatic, immuno-modulating, hepato-protective, neuro-protective, and even anti-obesity effects.

In addition, Beta-glucan can help allergies symptoms due to its immune-modulating properties. Immune system normally will try to avoid any possible allergen that enter the body. However, for a body with allergies, they might overreact and it might causes swelling and congestion to happen. So, the Beta-glucan will balance out the effects of the immune system hence aids to reduce the sensitivities reaction. Other than that, previous study also mentioned that tiger milk mushroom can give benefits to respiratory tract infection (RTI) which is common form of contagiousness at every age. Beta-glucan found in tiger milk mushroom was proven to decrease the number of various forms RTI. Some of the active substances are in concentrations higher than that found in the more famous mushrooms, suggesting that it could be more powerful than them!

Studies also show that the nutrient composition of the cultivated strain is higher when compared to the wild variety. This augurs well for the manufacture of health supplements and traditional medicines based on the cultivated source.

Animal studies revealed that its anti-microbial effect is comparable to the commonly used antibiotic amoxicillin in killing Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and its anti-inflammatory effect is even better than the commonly used anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin. It is also more effective than metformin (the most common anti-diabetic drug) in protecting the liver of diabetes-induced rats.

It also contains high concentrations of insoluble fiber that is useful as prebiotics for improving gut health.

Although no clinical studies (ie. studies on humans) have been done yet, with the scientifically verified health effects proven in the laboratory and in animals, and the experience of hundreds of years of its use in traditional medicine, it is reasonable to expect that the benefits will also be proven in humans once the clinical tests are done.

Tiger milk mushroom has been extensively used safely for over hundreds of years with no known toxicity and side effects. This has been scientifically confirmed after various stringent toxicity studies were conducted in rats, and no toxicity was found, even in extremely high doses. 

We all can benefit from its many expected health effects. Some of the suggested uses are for the following conditions:

" asthma

" chronic cough

" nasal and sinus conditions

" respiratory allergy

" joint pain

" skin allergy, eczema 

" wound healing

" inflamed airways tissues and to improve respiratory functions

" help protect the lungs and respiratory system

" help strengthen the immune system, protecting from colds & flu

" help strengthen a weak immune system in the elderly and in those with chronic diseases.

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