Kikurage health benefits and side effects

Know in one minute about Kikurage

  • Kikurage or wood ear mushroom is an edible, medicinal, and nutrient-rich mushroom.
  • This mushroom is purplish-brown to black, has a thin, curved, half circled look like an ear.
  • Fresh mushroom has a gelatinous and rubbery texture and is hard, and crunchy in dried form.
  • Rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fat, fiber, and minerals.
  • Due to the low-fat content and an intermediate calorific value, this mushroom is good dietetic food.
  • Full of antioxidants like polysaccharides, flavonoids, proteins, ascorbic acid, and reducing sugars
  • Improve gut health.
  • Treat diabetes, prevent blood clotting and slow down the progression of cancer cells.
  • Reduce swelling, weight, and good for the heart.

Introduction

Kikurage mushrooms (Auricularia auricula-judae) are popular, medicinal, and nutrient-rich fungi. Kikurage mushroom usually grows in clusters on both dead and living wood. It grows mainly in the mountainside, the trunks of Sambucus, Fagus, and Robinia plants.

Kikurage mushroom can also grow well on a wide range of agricultural and industrial organic wastes. However, its nutritional value may depend upon the substrate and cultural condition (1).
The mushroom bodies are thin, curved, half circled, and look like an ear 3 to 12 cm in size. It is waxy and cartilaginous, purplish-brown to black, especially when they are dried. In fresh form, this mushroom has a tough, gelatinous, and rubbery texture but is hard, and crunchy when dried. They don’t have a stem or cap (2).

Common name

Jew’s ear, wood ear, jelly ear, tree ear, black fungus, free ear, black ear, and free jellyfish.

Geographical distribution

It is found in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America (3).

Classification

Kingdom– Fungi

Phylum– Basidiomycota

Class– Agaricomycetes

Family– Auriculariaceae

Genus– Auricularia

SpeciesAuricularia auricula-judae

Nutritional value of Kikurage

It is a low-calorie food with high energy in the fresh matter (113-125 kJ/100g) or dry matter (1442 to 1881 kJ/100 g). Also, an excellent source of carbohydrates (66.1%),) proteins (12.5%), fat (1.7%), and ash (3.6%) (4). Contains flavonoids, alkaloids, saponin, tannin, fiber, and minerals required in the human diet, like Calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and Zinc.
This mushroom is also known as dietetic food due to its low fat, and intermediate calorific value, (5).

Health benefits of Kikurage

Besides their unique jelly texture, taste, and nutrition, they also have therapeutic value.

1. Improve gut health

Ingestion of this mushroom may enhance gut immunity by changing gut microbiota composition. It treats intestinal disease by reducing weight loss, colon damage, and mucosal inflammation that causes patients pain (6).

2. Presence of antioxidants

Kikurage mushroom is rich in polysaccharides, flavonoids, proteins, ascorbic acid, and reducing sugars.
These compounds remove harmful radicals from the body, reduce oxidative stress and enhance immunity (7).
Moreover, it is also used in yogurt to improve the viability of probiotics and increase antioxidant activity (8).

3. Antimicrobial properties

Polysaccharides of this mushroom fight against bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. It also inhibits the growth of Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumonia.
These polysaccharides are also combined with viruses or cells and prevent their adsorption or replication after entering the cell (9).
Furthermore, this mushroom also acts as an antifungal drug that prevents the Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida albicans infection (10).

4. Treat diabetes

Dietary fiber found in this mushroom helps to lower blood glucose levels (6). It also contains polysaccharides that reduce food intake which results in lowering plasma and urinary glucose levels (11).

5. Anti-inflammatory properties

This mushroom polysaccharide reduces swelling and increases collagen synthesis (12). Thus, treat inflammatory diseases like wound healing, edema, and rheumatoid arthritis (13).

6. Good for the heart

Polyphenolic and polysaccharides of this mushroom act as natural antioxidants that decrease bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol levels (14).
Therefore, intake of this mushroom improves heart function and treats hypercholesterolemia (15).

7. Manage weight

Intake of this mushroom reduces body weight and increases iron digestion and absorption (16). Thus, this mushroom improves the blood parameters and body weights of iron deficiency anemia patients (17).

8. Anticoagulation properties

Polyphenolic and polysaccharides compound present in this mushroom that inhibits platelet aggregation and blood clotting (18).

9. Treat cancer

Kikurage mushrooms contain antitumor components (diazane) which slows down the growth of cancer cells, induce apoptosis and improve immune function (19). Thus, consumption of this mushroom fights against bronchoalveolar cancer, sarcoma, and gastric cancer cells (20).

Side effects of Kikurage

1. Risk of allergy

This mushroom contains alpha-mannosidase protein that can cause anaphylaxis, which is a serious, life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction. So, the person who experienced anaphylaxis (severe hypotension) after the intake of this mushroom should avoid its consumption (21).

Recipes

Kikurage cannot be eaten raw, always wash it thoroughly and cooked before consumption. This mushroom can be consumed as a fresh whole fruit body or readily rehydrate from a dried state.
It has a woody, earthy flavor in raw but after cooking, forms gelatinous and easily takes the flavors in the dish.
This mushroom can be used in the form of fast food, instant food, and processed food to make a delicious recipe. For cooking, the dry mushroom should be rehydrated by dipping in a bowl with plenty of hot or cold water.
However, rehydration in warm water (for 1 hour) loses this mushroom texture and flavor than cold water (6 – 8 hours)
Once soaked in water, they become brownish, plump, springy, slightly transparent, and go back to their original size. This rehydrated mushroom could be stored in cold water in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, or even longer. You need to change the water every 1 or 2 days.

Here are a few ways to incorporate this mushroom into the diet

  • It can be used in soups, sauces, stir fry, and pickles.
  • Add mushrooms after the boil (1-2 min.) and drain to make the salad. Combine cucumber, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, sugar, chile pepper, and mushroom in a bowl. include coriander/cilantro to enhance the color and flavor.
  • Added to pasta, ramen noodles, dumplings, scrambled eggs, pizza, and burgers.
  • Cook the mushroom with vegetables like parsley, thyme, potatoes, garlic, green onion, and other herbs to obtain a nice crunchy flavor.
  • Use them in fish, meats such as beef, poultry, and pork.

Q&A

1. What is kikurage?

It is an edible and medicinal mushroom that is very popular in Eastern countries, particularly in Japan, China, and Korea. This mushroom has a high content of carbohydrates, protein microelements, and vitamins, with low fat and intermediate caloric value. It is good for the heart and diabetic patients. It prevents blood clotting and fights against germs like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

2. What is kikurage in ramen?

This mushroom is one of the traditional options for topping in ramen. This thinly sliced mushroom not only adds a rubbery texture but also absorbs ramen noodles and ramen broth flavor. Remember to soak, boil, and pan-fry to remove extra moisture before adding in ramen.

3. How to pronounce kikurage?

It is pronounced as kee-koo-RAH-geh.

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