Wood ear is an astonishing fungus.
It doesn’t look very appetizing, but it’s surprisingly tasty when prepared correctly. Even better, it contains an array of health-boosting compounds that can aid in mental and physical well-being.
Read on to learn more about wood ear mushroom benefits and discover how these fungi can keep you looking and feeling your best.
Read about how to identify wood ear mushrooms.
12 Wood Ear Mushroom Benefits
1. Strong Nutritional Profile
Wood ear mushrooms are delicious and have an impressive nutritional profile. A single ounce of wood ear is just under 80 calories but still manages to pack a powerful punch of vitamins and minerals. Here’s a quick breakdown of the macros:
- Protein: 2.6 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 20 g
Wood ear mushrooms are a substantial source of iron, zinc, and riboflavin. They also deliver selenium, folate, pantothenic acid, and copper, which can be challenging to find in significant amounts from other fungal sources.
If you ever find yourself in a survival situation, forage for wood ear if possible — it may protect you from nutrient deficiency.
2. Supports Gut Health
With over 19 grams of fiber per ounce, wood ear naturally streamlines digestion. It also has a ton of beneficial prebiotic fibers known as beta-glucans, which stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria by providing food for essential gut probiotics.
Wood ear improves overall digestive function and boosts gut health, potentially giving comfort and relief to those with gut flora issues.
3. Boosts Immunity
Wood ear is jam-packed with powerful antioxidants. Not only is it full of vitamins, but it also contains polysaccharides that destroy and prevent the formation of disease-causing free radicals.
We have robust evidence demonstrating that wood ear also regulates the immune system. It contains a compound called glucuronoxylomannan that calms exaggerated immune responses, making it an exciting potential supplement for those with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases.
4. Cancer-Fighting Potential
Chinese medicine practitioners have used wood ear as a cancer treatment for a long time, and they seem to be onto something.
A recent scientific study revealed that wood ear mushrooms destroyed tumor cells in vitro. While this study was conducted in test tubes and not on actual humans, it’s quite promising for the development of new treatments for cancerous tumors.
5. Wound Healing
Many studies on wood ear have revealed it has powerful antioxidant properties. We know that reducing oxidative stress promotes all-around health, and that includes faster healing. But one promising study shows wood ear may work even better than other antioxidant-rich fungi to promote wound closure.
Its polysaccharides stop biological degeneration on a cellular level. When wood ear extract was applied to cells in vitro, it significantly increased the proliferation and activity of fibroblasts and keratinocytes — two crucial elements in maintaining skin homeostasis and repairing wounds.
When given to wounded mice, wood ear stimulated collagen production for healthy scar tissue and rapid skin repair. Mice who got the wood ear showed faster wound healing when compared to a control group, without experiencing abnormal scarring or inflammation.
6. Supports Healthy Skin
Everyone wants young, supple skin. We also want full-bodied hair, strong nails, and a map to the fountain of youth. Wood ear mushrooms can give you everything except the map, with promising research demonstrating their ability to boost procollagen and hyaluronic acid production.
Procollagen is the precursor to collagen, a protein-rich compound commonly taken as a supplement. It may help reduce pigmentation, increase moisture content, and improve overall skin appearance.
It can also strengthen hair, nails, and bones. Hyaluronic acid increases elasticity and moisturizes the skin. It’s a main ingredient in many facial creams, moisturizers, and washes.
7. Promotes Brain Health
Wood ear supports the brain and nervous system by inhibiting beta-secretase (BACE1) activity, a major contributor to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It also contains ergothioneine, a compound used to treat Alzheimer’s and many other conditions. Wood ear extract could potentially slow the spread of degenerative neural diseases like these, though more research is needed to say definitively.
Additional evidence suggests some wood ear species could influence brain activity to inhibit seizures.
In one rodent study, mice given wood ear showed delayed onset of induced seizures and reduced seizure duration. This is pretty exciting stuff and opens up the potential for wood ear to be used as an anticonvulsant medication.
8. Regulates Cholesterol
Cholesterol can be tricky to regulate, especially as we age, but wood ear mushrooms can help. Some studies have shown that administering wood ear extract has a positive effect on cholesterol regulation and could even be used to treat hypercholesterolemia — also known as high cholesterol.
Not only did it lower triglycerides and HDL in mice studies, but it also raised LDL. So, it gives you more of the beneficial cholesterol and less of the bad.
9. Natural Anticoagulant
Anticoagulant medication prevents blood clots that cause heart attacks, strokes, and thrombosis. Wood ear mushroom has demonstrated anticoagulant properties that could act in tandem with triglyceride and cholesterol regulation to vastly improve cardiovascular health and overall metabolic condition.
Taking wood ear extract may be beneficial if you’re at risk for any of these conditions, but always consult your doctor when adding natural supplements. You need to find out how they may interact with your current medications, especially if you’re already taking an anticoagulant.
10. Aids Weight Control
Laboratory research suggests wood ear could help with body fat control. In one study, mice given wood ear extract gained less weight on a high-fat diet than a control group. Even more fascinating, these mice had improved insulin resistance and controlled fat metabolism.
The study is promising for anyone hoping to use wood ear as a natural weight-control supplement. It’s also great news for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes, as the mushroom appears to help regulate blood sugar and improve insulin response.
11. Supports Liver Function
Obesity can wreak havoc on most organs, but the liver is especially at risk. One study investigating wood ear as a treatment for obesity noted it improved liver enzymes, helping the liver stay functional even while at risk for fatty liver disease.
Another study noted that it protected the liver from injury and may have the potential to treat fatty liver. However, fatty liver isn’t the only thing we need to worry about. Liver function, in general, is paramount for everyone, and wood ear’s menagerie of antioxidative polysaccharides and beta-glucans should improve organ function across the board.
12. Antimicrobial Agent
In one study, wood ear demonstrated powerful antimicrobial effects against staph and E. coli bacteria. It shows promise as a supportive treatment or potentially as a replacement for antibiotics, and it could also be helpful in household cleaning and skin-care products, like soap.
The practice of over-prescribing antibiotics has given rise to stronger, more persistent bacteria. While pathogens are becoming resistant to traditional treatments, alternative antimicrobials like wood ear could provide more reliable ways to fight off disease.
While wood ear is incredibly popular in the far east, it hasn’t hit mainstream mycophiles in America the same way.
We should change that!
Now that you know about the powerful benefits of wood ear mushrooms, you’re ready to hit the woods and forage some today.