Poria, also called Fu Ling, is a famous home-grown bulk Chinese herb, which has been used medicinally for about 2,000 years. Owing to its wide range of medical uses and neutral nature, it is honored as dampness-eliminating panacea and one out of Eight Treasures. As a result, this herb is commonly used in not only many clinical formulas but also the production of numerous Chinese patent medicines. What’s more, thanks to its amazing health benefits, it was once used to make a variety of delicacies and snacks for the enjoyment of all members of the royal family.
What is poria?
Also known as Wolfiporia cocos(Schw.) Ryv.& Gibn in Latin name, poria herb refers to the sclerotium poriae cocos, which is the dried sclerotia of Poria cocos (Schw.) Wolf, a fungus in the family Polyporaceae. This herb has a few other common names, such as Indian buead, China root, Fu Ling Pi, tuckahoe, Fu Shen, hoelen, and so on. As a matter of fact, this is a white fungus on wood, in particular on the roots of Japanese red pine and masson pine in the Pinaceae family. Today it is wild or cultivated, mainly produced in Yunnan, Anhui, Hubei, Henan, Sichuan and other places in China. The species that grow in Yunnan, called “Yun Ling”, is better in quality. Us
The common form of poria fungus is its sclerotium, most of which are in the shape of irregular chunk, sphere, compressiform, oblong, or oval. They are in different sizes, usually less than 10cm in the smaller ones and 20cm to 30cm, even larger, in bigger ones. Skin is grayish brown or dark brown, in the shape of shrinking tumor, white with slightly pin inside, and composed of numerous hyphae. Fruiting body looks like mushroom, 0.5 to 2mm in diameter. It has a special odor.
Main chemical constituents of poria sclerotium are triterpenoids, polysaccharide, ergosterol, caprylic acid, undecanoic acid, lauric acid, dodecenoic acid, palmitic acid, dodecanoate, caprylate, and other elements. Triterpenoids mainly include pachymic acid, tumulosic acid, 3β-hydroxylanosta-7.9(11), 24-TCMLIBien-21-oic acid, pachymic acid methyl ester, tumulosic acid methyl ester, polypenic acid C methyl ester, and so on. And polysaccharide mainly includes pachyman, Pachymaran, and gluan H11.
Poria cocos benefits
Poria cocos fungus has long been used medicinally in China, especially in the southern regions. Since ancient times people there are accustomed to grind it into powder as medicine or for health care by consuming it on daily basis. However, then very few family could afford it due to the expensive production cost. Fortunately it is a different story now. Actually this herb is so economical and practical that everyone is entitled its health benefits.
Modern pharmacological actions
1. Diuretic effect. Experiments showed that poria mushroom alone had no diuretic effect at all. However, when used in formula of Wu Ling San, it showed significant diuresis in dogs by intravenous injection and healthy people and rabbit by oral decoction. And increased excretion of sodium, potassium, chloride was found in dogs. But it was reported that the main diuretic herbs in this formula are Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig), Ze Xie (Water Plantain Root), and Bai Zhu (Atractylodes);
2. Antibacterial effect. Experiment in vitro found no bacteriostatic action. Poria extract by ethanol instead of water can kill leptospira in vitro;
3. Effects on the digestive system. This herb can directly relax the isolated rabbit intestine, prevent pylorus ligation-induced gastric ulcer in rats, and reduce stomach acid;
4. Other effects. It can lower blood sugar. Its tincture and infusion can inhibit the isolated toad heart. Poria cocos extract by ether or ethanol can strengthen cardiac contractility. But it showed no antiemetic effect to digitalis induced vomiting.
Proven poria fungus related Chinese herbal remedies
Tradition Chinese medicine (TCM) believes that this herb is sweet and tasteless in flavor and neutral in properties. It covers meridians of heart, lung, spleen, and kidney. Its key functions are percolating dampness and disinhibiting water, strengthening the spleen and stomach, and tranquilizing heart and soothe the nerves. Vital poria uses and indications include difficult urination, edema-induced swelling, choking cough caused by phlegm and retained fluid, vomiting, reduced appetite due to spleen deficiency, diarrhea, palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, forgetfulness, and nocturnal emission, gonorrhea, and so on. Recommended dosage is from 10 to 15 grams in decoction.
Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan (Cinnamon and Poria Pills)
This formula comes from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer). It is basically formulated for women’s abdominal masses, blood stasis-induced amenorrhea, menstrual pain, postpartum lochia, and more. Other herbal ingredients are Cinnamon Twig, Mu Dan Pi (Tree Peony Root Cortex), Chi Shao (Red Peony Root), and Tao Ren (Peach Seed).
Zhu Ling San
Zhu Ling San comes from Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage). It is mainly designed for the binding of water and heat and edema caused by inhibited urination. Other three herbs are Hua Shi (Talcum Powder), E Jiao (Donkey-Hide Glue), and Water Plantain Root;
Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang
Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang is from Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer. It is exclusively for dizziness and palpitations due to phlegm and retained fluid. Other three herbs are Cinnamon Twig, Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes), and Gan Cao (Licorice Root).
Si Jun Zi Tang
Si Jun Zi Tang is from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). It is primarily used for deficiency of spleen and stomach, malaise and fatigue, and reduced appetite and loose stool. Other three herbs are Ren Shen (Ginseng Root), White Atractylodes Rhizome, and Licorice Root.
Gui Pi Tang
Gui Pi Tang is from Ji sheng fang (Formulas to Aid the Living). This prescription is mainly used for heart-spleen deficiency and deficiency of qi and blood-induced palpitations, insomnia, and forgetfulness. The rest basic herbs are Huang Qi (Astragalus Root), Dang Gui (Dong Quai), and Yuan Zhi (Senega Root).
Potential poria side effects and contraindications
Carboxymethyl Pachyman has a low toxicity. Its median lethal dose by subcutaneous injection is 3.13g/kg in mice. But it sees no significant toxicity in dogs’ acute and subacute toxicity tests. However, in large dose, 500 times of the usual dose for people, mice’s body weight was significantly inhibited during the initial two weeks after drug administration. What’s more, it could increase the total number of leukocytes in peripheral blood and also increase the GPT slightly. As for TCM, it shouldn’t be used in case of deficiency-cold induced spermatorrhea.