Poria (Poria cocos) is a type of mushroom. It’s been used for 2,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Next to licorice root, it’s one of the most commonly prescribed traditional remedies in China.
Poria has caught the attention of researchers. It shows promise as a treatment for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and much more.
The medicinal part of the mushroom is the filaments under the cap. You can buy poria dried or in capsule form.
In this article, you’ll learn what poria’s being studied for, what’s known about it as a treatment, what side effects and risks are possible, typical dosages, how to prepare it, and what to look for in a product.
Also Known As
- China root
- China tuckahoe
- Fu ling
Poria contains several substances thought to promote good health, including:1
- Polysaccharides, which are known to enhance immune function
- Triterpenoids, a class of compounds with antioxidant effects
The mushrooms have several beneficial activities, including:1
Early research suggests that poria may be useful in treating:
- Alzheimer’s disease
Preliminary research suggests that poria mushrooms may help fight Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2021 study on mice showed that poria helped the brain clear beta-amyloid (ßA) from the brain.2 ßA is what forms plaques that cause Alzheimer’s symptoms.
It also improved gut health, which is important in Alzheimer’s due to the brain-gut axis. The end result was that poria improved cognitive function.2
This builds on earlier research that showed Poria extract reduced oxidative stress on biopsied brain cells obtained from rats.
At that time, researchers suggested P. cocos may help shield the brain from the toxic effects of ßA.3 The more recent study not only confirms this but suggests a mechanism.2
Several studies suggest poria may have anti-tumor properties. It may help fight or prevent certain forms of cancer, including:
- Pancreatic cancer4
- Lung cancer5
- Breast cancer6
- Stomach cancer7
- Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL)8
- Metastatic cancer4
A 2018 study reported an extract of P. cocos showed cell-killing abilities in four human lung cancer cell lines.9
A 2020 study found it improved the anti-tumor effect of drug treatment and also reversed drug resistance, which can be a problem in people with cancer.10
Another 2020 study showed a compound from poria mushrooms (pachymic acid) killed breast cancer cells. Researchers noted that pachymic acid has the potential to be used as a low-side-effect treatment.11
Other research has identified a polysaccharide (a type of sugar) in poria as a potential anti-tumor drug.12
The mushroom also appears to make changes to the immune system that help defeat cancer.13
These are all lab or animal studies. We’ll need human trials to know for sure whether poria is a safe and effective cancer treatment.
Poria mushrooms may be effective against type-2 diabetes.
In a 2011 study, researchers found an extract of P. cocos significantly lowered blood sugar levels in mice.14 They credited triterpenes, which are believed to improve insulin sensitivity, for this effect.
A 2016 study showed an herbal blend including poria lessened insulin resistance in rats.15
In theory, taking a poria supplement with meals may reduce blood sugar fluctuations in people with diabetes or insulin resistance. However, this has yet to be proven in research.
Possible Side Effects
While poria has been used for centuries, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Not enough research has been done, especially in humans, to gauge poria’s side effects. Little is known about safety, long-term risks, or possible drug interactions.
Supplements and herbal remedies are largely unregulated in the United States. They don’t have to go through the testing pharmaceutical drugs do.
Imported natural remedies pose a risk of contamination. It’s even possible that they don’t contain the ingredients listed on the product label.
If you experience any side effects (like vomiting or diarrhea) after consuming poria, let your healthcare provider know.
Not much is known about the safety of poria mushrooms during pregnancy or breastfeeding. If you are pregnant or nursing, you may want to err on the side of caution and avoid poria mushrooms in any form.
Dosage and Preparation
No guidelines are established for dosages of poria mushrooms. Studies show low toxicity levels,1 meaning it takes a large amount to cause an overdose.
But beyond that, poria’s side effects profile is generally unknown.
When taken in tablet or capsule form, poria is typically dosed at anywhere from:
- 500 milligrams (mg) once daily
- 1,200 mg twice daily
Never exceed the manufacturer’s dosing recommendations.
Pre-packaged granules usually come in sachets that you mix with boiling water. The flavor is described as sweet, but bland.
To prepare a tonic without the granules, you can steep mushrooms in boiling water.
Some people even make porridges, soups, and rice cakes from reconstituted or powdered mushrooms. transforming the medicinal remedy into a culinary treat.
Poria shows some promise as a treatment for many conditions, including depression, heart disease, liver and kidney damage, and osteoporosis. Little is known about side effects and drug interactions but studies show the toxicity level is low.
Standard dosages aren’t established. Never take more than what the label says. Poria comes in capsules and granules to put in water. Some people cook it into food.
What to Look for
Products used in traditional Chinese medicine may pose safety concerns because they are so loosely regulated. In the past, products have been tainted with heavy metals, pesticides, and even drugs.
When buying poria supplements or powders, opt for well-known brands that have been voluntarily submitted for testing by an independent certifying body like:
- U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)
- NSF International
Certification of herbal supplements is increasing and has been embraced by some larger manufacturers.
Certification guarantees a product contains what its label says it does and is free from contaminants. It does not guarantee safety or effectiveness.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bars manufacturers of dietary supplements from making any unproven or misleading claims about cures or other health benefits. Those kinds of statements could be a red flag that a company isn’t reputable.
If buying imported whole dried poria mushrooms, do not assume they are safe because they come in a sealed container. If there are any signs of mold or moisture, discard them immediately.
Poria cocos has been used in TCM for 2,000 years. It’s showing promise as a treatment for numerous health conditions, especially Alzheimer’s, cancer, and diabetes. It may also have benefits for digestion, insomnia, depression, osteoporosis, and skin aging.
The safety profile of poria isn’t yet established. Toxicity appears to be low. Report any negative side effects to your healthcare provider.
You can take poria as a capsule or tonic, or put it in food. Look for products tested by independent labs.
A Word From Verywell
It’s easy to think of natural products as “safe.” However, they can cause side effects and drug interactions just like pharmaceutical products.
Don’t delay conventional treatment in favor of poria or other alternative treatments. That can have dire effects on your outcome, especially when it comes to cancer.
To protect your health, involve your healthcare provider in all your treatment decisions, including poria and other natural products. They may be able to spot potential problems based on your overall health and what medications you’re taking.