The new paper is the work of researchers associated with Hangzhou Medical College in China. The paper was published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Phellinus igniarius is known as Willow Bracket Fungus in the West and as Shanhuang in China. The authors of the recent paper called it “an important medicinal and edible fungus in China and other Southeast Asian countries and has diverse biological activities.”
There is little evidence of the fungus being consumed in the West. The species, which some fungus experts maintain is probably a community of fungal organisms and not just one species, forms hard, shelf-like fruiting bodies on the trunks of willow, aspen and birch trees and can persist on the stumps of dead trees for many years.
Packing a punch with tobacco
While the item has not shown up on menus in the West, according to the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse botanist Tom Volk, PhD, the species was in use by Native Americans from before the time of European colonization. According to Volk, tribes burned the fruiting bodies of the fungus and mixed a bit of the ash into their tobacco to enhance the effects of nicotine when smoked.
The focus of this fungal species on gout is a relatively new phenomenon. The main active constituents of the fungus that have anti-gout effects were only identified in a paper published last year.
Gout is a long-term and recurrent metabolic disease. It is characterized by purine metabolism disorders and/or uric acid metabolism imbalances, and it can be caused by genetic factors that make individuals more susceptible (genetics-environment interactions) or by unhealthy diets. It's characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in one or more joints, most often in the big toe.
Comparing wild, cultivated varieties
The researchers noted that the popularity of the fungus in China for use in TCM preparations means the wild form is rare and expensive. But the fungus is also now under cultivation, so one goal of the research was to see if an extract of the cultivated from performed similarly to the wild-sourced version.
The researchers employed “an improved hyperuricaemia rat model induced by yeast extract, adenine and potassium oxonate.” Fifty rats were divided into 5 groups of 10 each, including control groups. The intervention was administration of a 150 mg/kg does of a polyphenolic extract of the wild fungus and an equivalent dose of the domesticated version.
The researchers found both extracts ameliorated the effects of gouty arthritis by down regulating inflammatory markers as well as reducing joint swelling.
In summary, we provided evidence supporting that wild P. igniarius and cultivated P. igniarius have similar active ingredient spectrums and have anti-hyperuricaemia and anti-gout arthritis effects. The shared active compounds and analogous pharmacological activities are expected to promote the development and application of cultivated P. igniarius to fill the shortage of wild P. igniarius. In the future, we focused our research on uncovering the targets and pathways of P. igniarius in the treatment of gout,” they concluded.
Source: Frontiers in Pharmacology
11 January 2022 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2021.801910
Anti-Gout Effects of the Medicinal Fungus Phellinus igniarius in Hyperuricaemia and Acute Gouty Arthritis Rat Models
Authors: Li H, et al.