Allure says it “sounds like something Queen Elsa would order on her pizza.” Tata Harper calls this mushroom “your new skincare superhero.” And The Evening Standard out of the United Kingdom forecast that it will be “making its way onto your shelfie.” So what is the Tremella mushroom — and what’s with all the hype around it all of a sudden?
Let’s learn more about this fluffy, squishy, snow white mushroom and its myriad uses. Tremella mushroom might be the “it” ingredient in skincare in the West, but it’s widely used in China — both in the kitchen and in herbalism.
What is Tremella Mushroom?
Tremella mushroom goes by many monikers, including snow fungus, snow ear, silver ear fungus, chrysanthemum mushroom, witches’ butter, and white jelly mushroom. In Mandarin, its name is bai mu er, while in Japanese it’s shiro kikurage, or white tree jellyfish. Botanically it’s known as Tremella fuciformis. It looks lacy and fluffy, like old-fashioned petticoats, and it can range in color from pure white and translucent to opaque ivory.
Though it looks fluffy, it is a jelly fungus, so expect a fresh one to be slimy and gelatinous. Interestingly enough, while it’s called the snow mushroom, you won’t find Tremella in icy climates. Nope — this mushroom prefers tropical or semitropical locales. (Tremella mushroom has also been cultivated for about 200 years.)
Look for it on broadleaf tree branches that have fallen or have recently died. Tremella mushroom pops up in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of North America and Asia. Tremella is actually a yeast that’s a parasite. It starts out life as a slimy film, but when it finds the right host (certain fungi species), it grows mycelium and eventually develops the fruiting bodies we know as Tremella mushroom.
Tremella is highly valued in Traditional Chinese Herbalism, where it’s used to nourish the brain and enhance beauty.* Tremella mushroom dates back thousands of years in Japanese and Korean herbalism and wellness, too.
As a jelly fungus, it can hold up to 500 times its weight in water. A single gram of Tremella mushroom could hold 500 grams of water! If you’re lucky enough to encounter a fresh Tremella mushroom, give it a gentle squeeze — you’ll be floored by just how much water they can hold.
That super-powered hydration is why the Western skincare industry became enamored of Tremella mushroom in recent years. Skincare brands in Japan, South Korea, and China have used it for a long time, and the hydrating properties of Tremella exceed even hyaluronic acid, one of the other touted hydrating ingredients used in skin care. Look for it on the label of creams marked “revitalizing” and “rejuvenating.”
According to historians, the imperial Concubine Yang (719-756), who was considered to be the most beautiful woman in Chinese history, was the original Tremella mushroom influencer. She used it as part of her facial and body care routine.*
Beyond skincare, Tremella mushroom is quite popular among cooks. In Chinese cuisine, it’s used in some savory preparations, but it is best-known in sweet dishes — like a dessert soup with added traditional fruits like jujubes. While Tremella mushroom doesn’t have much flavor, it does have a lovely, velvety texture. You might also find Tremella in Vietnam, where it’s made into drinks, desserts, and puddings. Look for it at Chinese or Japanese supermarkets, usually in dried form or in prepared foods or drinks.
What are the Benefits of Tremella Mushroom?
We’ve talked about how much water this mushroom can hold — and that’s why you’ll hear it talked about for skin care.* When applied to your skin (along with ingredients that help lock moisture in), Tremella mushroom can help keep it soft and supple.* It also supports production of an enzymes which helps maintain a youthful, healthy appearance.* But beyond your largest organ, what else can Tremella mushroom support?*
In TCM, herbal ingredients are often used to maintain or achieve balance in the body, mind, and spirit.* Due to the mucilaginous, moisturizing qualities of Tremella mushroom, it’s used to support healthy respiration and lung tissue.* Like all mushrooms, it contains beta-glucans to support the immune system.* And, in Korea, it has been studied for brain health, likely due to its supportive properties.* (That’s pretty neat, given that is kinda looks like a brain.)
Plus, it provides good amounts of vitamin D and fiber, too.
4 Fast Facts about Tremella Mushroom
- Tremella mushroom is traditionally used to promote healthy skin, support memory, a healthy metabolism, and bone health.*
- Supports healthy bones and skin health.*
- Supports Qi (vital life force energy), according to Traditional Chinese Herbalism.*
- Supports the immune system, cellular health, lungs, kidneys, and liver.*
Want to try Tremella mushroom? You’re in luck: It just so happens to be one of the 10 mushrooms we use in our much-loved Daily 10 for immune support.* As a reminder, our mushrooms are Certified Organic, and we use only 100% fruiting bodies, extracted in both hot water and 190-proof alcohol.