Black fungus is one of the 15 different species of mushrooms found worldwide, with the highest concentration in China. Belonging to the Auricularia family, black fungus is also often called cloud ear fungus or tree ear fungus.
What Is Black Fungus?
As its name suggests, black fungus is often dark brown or black in color. Black fungus mushrooms have a jelly-like consistency and look like shriveled ear lobes. They are commonly sold dried but return to their original gelatin-like texture when reconstituted with water.
Read more: The Best Ways to Cook the Puffball Mushroom
Black fungus thrives in humid climates where you'll often find them growing on tree trunks and fallen logs. Apart from China, Auricularia mushrooms are also cultivated in Hawaii, India and other Asian or Pacific Island countries with a tropical climate.
Although it's often referred to by different names, black fungus is a particular species from the Auricularia family of mushrooms with the scientific name Auricularia polytricha. It is, however, not the same wood as ear mushroom. Despite both originating from the same family, a wood ear mushroom specifically belongs to the Auricularia auricula species of fungi. You'll commonly find it growing on different types of trees and plants. Wood ear nutrition data is similar to that of the black fungus as many mushrooms contain similar components.
Black Fungus Nutrition
Cloud ear or black fungus mushrooms are low in calories and fats but, like other common types of mushrooms, they are high in protein and fiber, as well as minerals and vitamins. There are 284 calories in a 100-gram serving of dried cloud ear fungus, along with 9.25 grams of protein, 70.1 grams of fiber and only 0.73 grams of fat.
Read more: Protein Content in Mushrooms vs. Meat
Black fungus is particularly high in potassium, a mineral and electrolyte required by all cells of the body. A 100-gram serving contains 754 milligrams of potassium. According to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, a diet rich in potassium can help prevent strokes, reduce hypertension and osteoporosis and reduce the formation of kidney stones. Black fungus also contains calcium, phosphorus and magnesium — all important minerals required by the body to properly function.
Black fungus is also a good source of B vitamins with a 100-gram serving containing:
65 percent of your daily value (DV) for vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
39 percent of your DV for vitamin B3 (niacin)
10 percent of your DV for vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
10 percent of your DV for vitamin B9 (folate)
7 percent of your DV for vitamin B6
Benefits of Black Fungus
According to a January 2015 study published in the International Journal of Microbiology, A. polytricha mushrooms contain proteins that function as powerful immune stimulants. Black fungus mushrooms have also been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and have proven to be effective in reducing levels of LDL cholesterol in the body.
The benefits of black fungus mushrooms extend to Western medicine as well. The authors of an October 2015 study published in the journal Molecules explain that one of the black fungus health benefits are its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants like flavonoids help reduce the risk of a variety of conditions in the human body, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Read more: Symptoms of a Mushroom Allergy
In an April 2013 study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, researchers found that consumption of both cooked and raw forms of black fungus were beneficial in preventing the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. And, according to researchers of a February 2019 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, boiling black fungus mushrooms before eating can further enhance their rates of antioxidant activity.
Adding black fungus mushrooms to your diet may also help in reducing the buildup of plaque in arterial walls, prevent the formation of cancer and work as an anticoagulant, as the authors of the January 2015 study in the International Journal of Microbiology explain.
- University of Tennessee Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: "Systematics of the Genus Auricularia With an Emphasis on Species From the Southeastern United States"
- International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms: "Heat-Stable Components of Wood Ear Mushroom, Auricularia Polytricha (Higher Basidiomycetes), Inhibit In Vitro Activity of Beta Secretase (BACE1)”
- USDA FoodData Central: "Fungi, Cloud Ears, Dried”
- Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: “Potassium"
- MyFoodData.com: "Nutrition Facts for Dried Fungi Cloud Ears”
- International Journal of Microbiology: "Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life”
- Molecules: "Antioxidants of Edible Mushrooms”
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: "In Vitro Digestion and Domestic Cooking Improved the Total Antioxidant Activity and Carbohydrate-Digestive Enzymes Inhibitory Potential of Selected Edible Mushrooms”