Wolfiporia extensa (Peck) Ginns (syn. Poria cocos F.A.Wolf) is a fungus in the family Polyporaceae. It is a wood-decay fungus but has a subterranean growth habit. It is notable in the development of a large, long-lasting underground sclerotium that resembles a small coconut.
In China, the Poria mushroom is one of the most commonly prescribed traditional medicine and used in a variety of health conditions, as discussed below.
A review of the in vitro and in vivo effects of Poria was summarized by Li et al. In vitro they observed the effects of extracts of Poria polysaccharides and its derivatives on human cancer cell lines for gastric cancer, breast cancer, Liver and leukemia. Generally, the effect of the Poria extract was concentration dependent and varied between cancer types when the in vitro data was examined. Positive results were particularly seen with the liver cancer cells with cell growth inhibition observed.
A review of studies on cancer cells have suggested that the positive anti-tumor effects seen may be directly linked to the ability of the Poria mushroom to 1) activate immune cells important for innate immunity, leading to an enhancement of natural defense mechanisms 2) Increase cytokines (natural immune modulating factors) to help the cell killing ability of natural killer cells 3) stimulate apoptosis (controlled cell death) and 4) Poria may be able to regulate important enzymes that control the growth and expansion of cancer cells and their ability to become cancerous.
A common cause of liver problems is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the first step of which is hepatic steatosis characterized by the presence of triglyceride (Tg) accumulation; triglycerides are a species of fat. A study observing the effects of Poria in vitro and in vivo showed that cells treated with Poria extract saw a reduction in Tg.
In China Poria is a key component of some anti-depressant treatments including Xiaoyaosan and Banxia Houpu decoction.
Memory Disorders, Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A review of 1498 citations of dementia and memory impairments associated with aging and consistent with the clinical features of Alzheimer’s disease were examined and Poria featured regularly as an ingredient in formulas used to treat the aging memory.
In vitro, examination of ethanol extract of Poria, showed a decrease in inflammatory cytokines (immune system modulators) levels by interfering with gene expression of the molecules. Indicating, anti-inflammatory capabilities important in conditions such as arthritis.
In tradition Chinese herbal medicine Poria is frequently used as a single herb or in concoctions in the treatment of insomnia.
Poria extract is frequently and well known in the treatment of anxiety disorders in traditional Chinese medicine
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
The anti-inflammatory effect of Poria on dermatitis was evaluated on an experimentally induced irritant contact dermatitis and statistically significant anti-inflammatory responses was observed