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What is Fu Ling?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
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Fu ling is an herbal remedy used in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is extracted from a fungus which is found widely around the world. Many cultures, including the Native Americans, used this fungus to treat various health problems. Many Chinese herbalists and markets carry this remedy in a variety of forms, and it is also included in a number of tonics which are designed to promote general health. Harvesting fu ling is not recommended unless you are very familiar with mushrooms.

The fungi that fu ling comes from is called Poria cocos, and is found in the Polyporaceae family. It often colonizes things like tree trunks and roots, with a large mycelium hidden below the surface while the fruiting bodies of the fungus are visible to mushroom hunters. Fu ling happens to favor the ground around pine trees, and it is sought out much like the European truffle. The part of the mushroom which is used is the sclerotium, a hardened compact part of the mycelium which stores up energy for the fungus.

Early Europeans who observed Native Americans harvesting fu ling referred to it as Indian bread or Indian potatoes, since they believed that the fungus was an important staple food. Slaves knew it as Tuckahoe, while others call it Polyporus, in a reference to its family. Another alternate name for fu ling is hoelen. Some herbal companies actively cultivate this fungus in Chinese red pine forests, ensuring a steady supply of the valued herb.

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Fu ling is used as a general purpose yin tonic, promoting health and balance in the body. It also appears to promote urination and generally healthy blood flow, and some herbalists also prescribe it as a sedative, since the yin effects are calming. The remedy acts specifically on the heart, spleen, and kidney meridians, and it is used to treat a variety of conditions which are believed to be associated with these meridians.

Herbal supplements should always be used with care. It is important to remember that herbs like fu ling are only one part of the larger practice of TCM, and that you should ideally see a TCM practitioner if you wish to pursue this method of medical treatment. The practitioner can examine you to form an accurate diagnosis, and a range of treatments may be offered to you in addition to herbal remedies. You should always disclose any drugs and herbal treatments you are taking to a healthcare provider, as this information is very important for safe and accurate treatment.

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Discuss this Article

Saraq90
Post 2

@speechie -- From my experience in finding out about Fu Ling it is just an herb used for various medicinal remedies, which I would find out more as the article suggested from a TCM person.

I have always been wary of fungus, I mean come on, it is fungus! That is the stuff we talked about growing between our toes, but I have found so many good mushrooms to eat and now of course I am learning about how they might be able to heal. Who knew? A healing fungus!

Speechie
Post 1

First, I did not know there were such things we can seek out such as a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.

Second, is fu ling ever eaten just as a food, or is it strictly an herbal remedy? Just from reading this I can imagine that if it was a food it would be crazy expensive, just like those really pricey truffles!

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