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Polyporus umbellatus

(Grifola umbellata)

Chinese Name - Zhu Ling (sclerotium)
Japanese Name - Chorei Maitake (fruiting body)

 A close relative of Grifola frondosa (Maitake), P. umbellatus differs from most medicinal mushrooms in that traditionally it has been harvested as a hyphal mass, or sclerotium, which only forms when P.umbellatus is symbiotically associated with Armillaria species1,2.

Li Shi Zhen, in his comprehensive materia medica the Ben Cao Gang Mu (1578), says of this mushroom’s actions, quoting the earlier Shen Nong Ben Cao, ‘dispersing invading vicious factors and facilitating urination. Long term use makes one feel happy and vigorous and look younger’3.

As well as its traditional use as a diuretic, polysaccharide extracts of P. umbellatus show promise as adjuvant nutrition alongside chemotherapy and are licensed in China for use in cancer therapy4. A number of steroids with cytotoxic activity against cancer cells have also been isolated from the fruiting body5-7.

DIURETIC - P. umbellatus is a component of the classical diuretic herbal formula Wu Ling San and a number of compounds have been identified as contributing to its diuretic activity, including triterpenes, ergosterol and d-mannitol8-11.

Comparison with other diuretics, including Poria cocos and caffeine, indicates that P.umbellatus has stronger action with oral administration of 8g aqueous decoction leading to a 62% increase in 6-hour urine output and a 54.5% increase in chloride excretion4.

CANCER - Co-administration of P. umbellatus polysaccharide extracts with chemotherapy is reported to improve treatment outcomes and quality of life indicators in patients with a number of cancers including lung, liver, leukaemia, nose and throat12-14.

In vivo studies confirm increases in survival when given with chemotherapy (119.9% compared to 70.1% forMitomycin C on its own in experimental liver cancer12) and in vitro and in vivo studies show broad effects on the immune system, including TLR4 mediated macrophage activation and increased antibody production12,15-17..

P. umbellatus aqueous extract significantly inhibited the development of bladder cancer in rats exposed to N-butyl-N-(4-hydroxybutyl) nitrosamine, with 61.1% of animals in the treatment group developing cancer compared to 100% in the control group, and it was also reported to be effective in reducing recurrence in 22 patients with recurrent bladder cancer18-20.

In addition P.umbellatus polysaccharides prevented the development of toxohormone-L (a compound produced by cancer cells) induced cachexia (loss of weight, muscle atrophy, fatigue) in rats21, while a number of steroids from P.umbellatus show promise as agents for promoting hair regrowth with low doses of extract (1.28 and 6.4 μg/ml) found to markedly enhance hair growth and lengthen the period of hair growth when applied topically22.



Therapeutic Application - Cancer, fluid retention.

Key Component - Polysaccharides.

Dose - While the sclerotium has traditionally been prescribed as a diuretic in formulae at a dose of 6-15g/day, polysaccharide extracts are preferred for cancer care - 3-6g/day polysaccharide extract.

Caution - Patients on prescription diuretics.



1. Involvement of Ca2+ Channel Signalling in Sclerotial Formation of Polyporus umbellatus. Liu YY, Guo SX. Mycopathologia. 2009;169(2):139-150.

2. Identification of Armillaria species associated with Polyporus umbellatus using ITS sequences of nuclear ribosomal DNA. Gen Kikuchi and HirokiYamaji.Mycoscience. 2010;51(5):366-372.

3. Compendium of Materia Medica (Ben Cao Gang Mu). Li Shi Zhen. Tran. Luo Xiwen. 2003. Beijing:Foreign Languages Press.

4. Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica. Chang HM, But PPH. 1986. Singapore:World Scientific.

5. Studies on constituents of fruit body of Polyporus umbellatus and their cytotoxic activity. Ohsawa T, Yukawa M, Takao C, MurayamaM, Bando H. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1992;40(1):143-7.

6. Cytotoxic steroids from Polyporus umbellatus. Zhao YY, Chao X, Zhang Y, Lin RC, SunWJ. Planta Med. 2010.

7. Simultaneous determination of eight major steroids from Polyporus umbellatus by high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry detections. Zhao YY, Cheng XL, Zhang Y, Zhao Y, Lin R.C, Sun WJ. Biomed Chromatogr. 2010;24(2):222-30.

8. Bioactivity-directed isolation, identification of diuretic compounds from Polyporus umbellatus. Zhao YY, Xie RM, Chao X, Zhang Y, Lin RC, SunW.J. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;126(1):184-7.

9. An anti-aldosteronic diuretic component (drain dampness) in Polyporus sclerotium.Yuan D, et al. Biol PharmBull. 2004;27(6):867-70.

10. Diuretic activity and kidneymedullaAQP1,AQP2,AQP3,V(2)R expression of the aqueous extract of sclerotia of Polyporus umbellatus FRIES in normal rats. Zhang G, Zeng X, Han L,Wei JA, Huang H. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010.

11. Traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and quality control of Polyporus umbellatus (Pers.) Fries: a review. ZhaoYY. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013Aug 26;149(1):35-48.

12. Recent advances on the active components in Chinese medicine. Zhu D. Abstracts of Chinese Medicines. 1987;1:251-286

13. Review on the studies of antineoplastic fungal polysaccharides. Li M. Jiangxi Zhongyiyao. 1985;63:59-61.

14. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Chen JK, Chen TT. Pub. Art of Medicine Press, City of Industry2001:386.

15. Combined effects of chuling (Polyporus umbellatus) extract and mitomycin C on experimental liver cancer. You JS, Hau DM, Chen K.T, Huang HF. Am J Chin Med. 1994;22(1):19-28.

16. TLR4-mediated activation of macrophages by the polysaccharide fraction from Polyporus umbellatus (pers.) Fries. Li X, XuW. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010.

17. Polysaccharide purified from Polyporus umbellatus (Per) Fr induces the activation and maturation of murine bone-derived dendritic cells via toll-like receptor 4. Li X, XuW, Chen J. Cell Immunol. 2010;265(1):50-6.

18. Inhibitory effect of Chinese herb medicine zhuling on urinary bladder cancer. An experimental and clinical study. Yang D.A. ZhonghuaWai Ke Za Zhi. 1991;29(6):393-5,399.

19. Prevention of postoperative recurrence of bladder cancer: a clinical study. Yang D, Li S,Wang H, Li X, Liu S, HanW, Hao J, Zhang H. ZhonghuaWai Ke Za Zhi. 1999;37(8):464-5.

20. Inhibition of urinary bladder carcinogenesis by aqueous extract of sclerotia of Polyporusumbellatus fries and polyporus polysaccharide. Zhang G, Zeng X, Li C, Li J, Huang Y, Han L, Wei JA, Huang H. Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(1):135-44.

21. Inhibitive effect of umbellatus polyporus polysaccharide on cachexic manifestation induced by toxohormone-L in rats. Wu GS, Zhang L.Y, Okuda H. Zhongguo Zhong XiYi Jie He Za Zhi. 1997;17(4):232-3.

22. Studies of the active substances in herbs used for hair treatment. II. Isolation of hair regrowth substances, acetosyringone and polyporusterone A and B, from Polyporus umbellatus Fries. Ishida H, Inaoka Y, Shibatani J, Fukushima M, Tsuji K. Biol Pharm Bull. 1999;22(11):1189-92.