Poria is a mushroom that goes by many names: Wolfiporia, Hoelen, Tuckahoe, Indian Bread and Fu ling, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), to name a few. The irony of poria is that it is one of the most widely utilized natural remedies in Asia while it is virtually unknown outside of traditional Chinese medicine practitioners in the West.
Research on this long-used traditional remedy has focused primarily on its kidney and immune activities. A growing number of studies have reported a range of immune actions, including immuno-modulatory, anti-inflammatory (inhibiting 5-LOX, elastase, and leukotriene B4), anti-cancer, anti-tumor, and anti-bacterial. Poria's specific immune actions include macrophage activation, increasing T-cell count, and stimulating interferon production. Much of the most recent research has looked at the effects of the terpenes found in poria that are responsible for anti-viral and anti-proliferative activity.
Exploration of poria's kidney-related actions confirm its traditional TCM use as a kidney tonic. Research with chronic kidney disease has found it to be a diuretic and kidney protective (primarily by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the kidneys) while helping to maintain overall kidney function. One study, using poria as part of the TCM formula Wu Ling San, found it inhibited the formation and aggregation of calcium oxalate, the most common type of kidney stone.1 A nephritis rat study reported poria prevented protein excretion and elevated cholesterol as well as reduced antibody buildup and inflammation in glomerulonephritis.2
Where poria may hold its greatest promise is for its traditional use in treating what is referred to as "damp" in TCM. Damp can best be visualized a thick foggy, humid, slow-moving day. In the brain, damp manifests as "brain fog," kidney as water retention, respiratory tract as excess mucus and phlegm, digestive tract as bloating and poor digestion, and edema and swelling anywhere in the body. Our modern fast-paced stressful lifestyle of multi-tasking and prepared foods is a major contributor to this buildup, leading to widespread health issues and much needed rescue with poria.
When considering a poria mushroom product there are several things to look for:
- Grown in a manner that mirrors nature, in the case of poria, grown on pine logs;
- Utilizes the sclerotium, the part used traditionally and most widely research; and
- Extracted properly using hot water as well as alcohol to extract the polysaccharides and triterpenes respectively.
1. Yu-Cheng Chen, et al. Wu-Ling-San Formula Inhibits the Crystallization of Calcium Oxalate In Vitro. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35:533.
2. Hattori T, et al. Studies on Antinephritic Effects of Plant Components (3): Effect of Pachyman, a Main Component of Poria Cocos Wolf on Original-Type Anti-GBM Nephritis in Rats and Its Mechanisms. Japanese Journal of Pharmacology. 1992; 89-96.
Mark J. Kaylor has been exploring holistic health and healing for close to four decades and is the founder and director of the not-for-profit Radiant Health Project. Mark can be contacted at his website: www.RadiantHealthProject.com.