Taipei, July 5 (CNA) The Lingzhi mushroom, commonly used in East Asia as a health food, was found to be a new species in its genus, a team of Taiwanese and Chinese researchers announced Thursday.
Widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, lingzhi mushrooms are believed to be able to produce health benefits, such as improved liver functions and strengthened immune system.
But according to Wu Sheng-hua, a fungus expert with the National Museum of Natural Science, the popular health food has been mistaken for centuries as another kind of fungus found in Europe.
The findings were the result of three years of research by Wu and two Chinese colleagues, who studied wild lingzhi mushrooms in Taiwan and China.
The study involved DNA profiling of the mushroom species.
"It's really difficult to tell the difference among the fungi in that genus because they are tiny and share very similar biological traits," Wu said.
The team's research will be published in the prestigious Fungal Diversity journal in September, when the species will be re-classified as Ganoderma lingzhi instead of Ganoderma lucidum.
The re-classification of the fungus is expected to present better information about its health benefits and medicinal properties, said Su Ching-hua, former chairman of the Mycological Society of Republic of China.
"Based on the new findings, we might be able to determine very soon whether the lingzhi mushroom is just folk medicine or more than that," Su said.
(By Lee Hsin-Yin)