The Health Benefits of Phellinus Linteus

A medicinal mushroom that may boost immunity and fight cancer growth

Phellinus linteus is a type of medicinal mushroom that grows on mulberry trees. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, and alternative health practitioners say the mushroom stimulates the immune system and protects against illness.

Some of its proponents also suggest that Phellinus linteus can help fight some forms of cancer, including breast cancer and lung cancer—a claim that modern science has not confirmed—but studies are ongoing.

Healthy yellow phellinus linteus Mushroom
bong hyunjung / Getty Images

Also Known As

  • Black hoof mushroom
  • Meshima
  • Sanghuang
  • Song gen

Health Benefits

In traditional Chinese medicine, Phellinus linteus is often taken in combination with other medicinal mushrooms (such as reishi and maitake). It contains a number of compounds thought to influence health, including ellagic acid and caffeic acid—two types of natural chemicals with antioxidant effects.

In alternative medicine, Phellinus linteus is said to help with the following health problems:

In addition, Phellinus linteus is said to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

To date, very few clinical trials have tested the health effects of Phellinus linteus. Still, a number of preliminary studies suggest that this mushroom may offer some benefits.

While more research is needed to confirm any health benefits of Phellinus linteus, a 2019 review of published studies note the medicinal mushroom contains bioactive compounds—polysaccharides, triterpenoids, phenylpropanoids, and furans—that may have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antioxidative, and antifungal activities, as well as antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, and neuroprotective effects.

Here's a look at what is known about the potential health benefits of Phellinus linteus.

Cancer

Phellinus linteus shows promise as an alternative anti-cancer agent, according to a report published in Current Medicinal Chemistry in 2008.

In their analysis of the available research on Phellinus linteus, the report's authors also found that it may help increase the effectiveness of existing anti-tumor drugs used in the treatment of cancer.

This research includes a number of preliminary studies showing that extracts from Phellinus linteus might help enhance immune function, curb inflammation, and suppress the growth and spread of cancerous tumors.

More research is needed before Phellinus linteus can be recommended as a treatment for cancer.

Diabetes

Phellinus linteus might help inhibit the development of type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that affects the pancreatic beta islet cells that produce insulin.

In a study published in International Immunopharmacology in 2010, tests on mice demonstrated that polysaccharides (a type of carbohydrate) extracted from Phellinus linteus may help fend off autoimmune diabetes by regulating the expression of cells involved in the immune response.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found hispidin, another compound found in Phellinus linteus, protects beta cells and significantly increases insulin production.

However, the research so far has been limited to cell cultures and animal studies. Tests on humans are needed before Phillinus linteus can be recommended to prevent or treat diabetes.

Eczema

A study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2012 shows that Phellinus linteus might help treat atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema associated with malfunctioning of the immune system.

During the study, scientists examined the effects of Phellinus linteus extract on human cells and on mice. Results revealed that Phellinus linteus might help fight atopic dermatitis by reducing levels of immune cells that play a key role in eczema-related inflammation.

While the research is promising, more studies are needed before Phellinus linteus can be recommended for treating atopic dermatitis.

Possible Side Effects

Although little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of Phellinus linteus, because of its potential immune-modulating effects, there is some theoretical concern that this mushroom could negatively affect people with certain autoimmune disorders.

Men with an enlarged prostate and people with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis should consult their physician prior to taking Phellinus linteus.

Women who are pregnant or lactating should not use Phillinus linteus as its safety in these cases has not been tested.

Selection, Preparation, & Storage 

Phellinus linteus is sold as capsules, as well as a powder that can be mixed with hot or cold beverages or added to recipes. It is also sold as fresh or dried mushrooms that can be used in prepared dishes.

If you can't find Phellinus linteus in a natural-food store or online, you may need to look for products that label it with one of its alternative names (sanghuang, Meshima, song gen, or black hoof mushroom).

It is typically sold in preparations containing other medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi and Chaga. Such products may be named something vague like "mushroom complex" or "mushroom blend," so examine the ingredients list to ensure you're getting what you expect.

There is no standard recommended dose or upper limits set for Phellinus linteus. Follow the dosing and preparation instructions on the package.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated in the United States. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

Look for products sold through reputable U.S. retailers and be cautious of imported supplements.

Common Questions

What do fresh Phellinus linteus mushrooms look like?
Fresh Phellinus linteus mushrooms are also called black hoof mushrooms because they are shaped like a hoof. The top of the mushroom is dark brown with pale red or yellow-brown pores along the sides. Phellinus linteus dries to a dark brown or black top with brown spores. Dried Phellinus linteus is available online while fresh Phellinus linteus may be sold in Asian food markets. 

What does Phellinus linteus taste like?
Phellinus linteus mushrooms are not commonly eaten on their own as they have a bitter taste and a woody texture. Phellinus linteus powder is often mixed with other ingredients to make it more palatable. It may be difficult to eat enough Phellinus linteus for therapeutic benefits due to its unpleasant taste.

A Word From ​Verywell

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend Phellinus linteus as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating cancer or any other serious health condition with a supplement and avoiding or delaying standard care might have harmful consequences. If you're considering using it for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

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  1. Chen W, Tan H, Liu Q, et al. A Review: The Bioactivities and Pharmacological Applications of Phellinus linteusMolecules. 2019;24(10). pii: E1888. doi:10.3390/molecules24101888

  2. Zhu T, Kim SH, Chen CY. A medicinal mushroom: Phellinus linteusCurr Med Chem. 2008;15(13):1330-5. doi:10.2174/092986708784534929

  3. Kim HM, Kang JS, Kim JY, et al. Evaluation of antidiabetic activity of polysaccharide isolated from Phellinus linteus in non-obese diabetic mouse. Int Immunopharmacol. 2010;10(1):72-8. doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2009.09.024

  4. Lee JH, Lee JS, Kim YR, et al. Hispidin isolated from Phellinus linteus protects against hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress in pancreatic MIN6N β-cellsJ Med Food. 2011;14(11):1431-8. doi:10.1089/jmf.2010.1493

  5. Hwang JS, Kwon HK, Kim JE, Rho J, Im SH. Immunomodulatory effect of water soluble extract separated from mycelium of Phellinus linteus on experimental atopic dermatitisBMC Complement Altern Med. 2012;12:159. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-159

Additional Reading