It’s well and truly Chicken of the Woods season in Cape Town. When looking at those bright-orange shelves stacked on an oak stump, most people see a very tasty meal, myself included. But lately I’ve been delving into research regarding the medicinal properties of this easily-recognizable fungus and have been quite surprised the further I dig.
Let’s go beyond the marvelous flavour of this polypore.
- Chicken of the Woods acts as a styptic which inhibits bacterial growth, effective when applied to cuts, scratches, rashes and bruises.
- Lower cholesterol – mycelial extracts of Chicken of the Woods indicates the presence of Lovastatin, a statin drug that naturally occurs in both this fungus and Oyster mushrooms (Pleutorus species).
- Studies show that Laminarin, a water insoluble polysaccharide that is commonly found in seaweeds and algae, is also found in Chicken of the Woods. Laminarin plays a role in the inhibition of human melanoma and induces cell death (apoptosis) among colon cancer cells.
- The polysaccharides mentioned above also display anti-inflammatory properties.
- A compound known as Laertirobin has been isolated from a Chicken of the Woods specimen. Earlier studies revealed that this compound blocks tumor cell division.
- Anti-oxidant activity is present in Chicken of the Woods.
Another surprising use for Chicken of the Woods is as a mosquito repellent, which is quite fitting really because along with the arrival of this fungus in summer comes the mosquitoes. A small, dried piece of this mushroom can be lit and set to smoulder. This method has been documented as being successful in keeping those pesky critters at bay.
To use Chicken of the Woods to its full potential as a medicine, preserve it by cutting fresh specimens into thin slices and leaving them to dry. A tea can later be decocted from the dried slices.
Something to chew over next time you encounter this spectacular fungus!