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The ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and pharmacology of the genus Hericium


Ethnopharmacological relevance

Mushrooms in the genus Hericium are used as functional food and traditional medicines for a long history in East Asian countries such as China, India, Japan, and Korea. Some species of Hericium are called as monkey head mushroom (Houtougu) in China and Yamabushitake in Japan, which are traditionally considered as rare and precious health promoting food and medicinal materials for the treatment of dyspepsia, insomnia, chronic gastritis, and digestive tract tumors.

The aim of the review

This review aims to summarize the ethnopharmacology and structural diversity of secondary metabolites from Hericium species, as well as the pharmacological activities of the crude extracts and pure compounds from Hericium species in recent years.

Materials and methods

All the information was gathered by searching Scifinder, PubMed, Web of Science, ScienceDirect, Springer, Wiley, ACS, CNKI, Baidu Scholar, Google Scholar databases and other published materials (books and Ph.D. and M. Sc. Dissertations) using the keywords “Hericium”, “Traditional uses”, “Chemical composition”, “Quality control” and “Pharmacological activity” (1971–May 2023). The species name was checked with


The traditional uses of Hericium species were summarized, and 230 secondary metabolites from Hericium species were summarized and classified into six classes, mainly focusing on their chemical diversity, biosynthesis, biological activities. The modern pharmacological experiments in vivo or in vitro on their crude and fractionated extracts showed that the chemical components from Hericium species have a broad range of bioactivities, including neuroprotective, antimicrobial, anticancer, α-glucosidase inhibitory, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activities.


The secondary metabolites discovered from Hericium species are highly structurally diverse, and they have the potential to be rich resources of bioactive fungal natural products. Moreover, the unveiled bioactivities of their crude extracts and pure compounds are closely related to critical human health concerns, and in-depth studies on the potential lead compounds, mechanism of pharmacological effects and pharmaceutical properties are clearly warranted.

Tan, Y.-F., Mo, J.-S., Wang, Y.-K., Zhang, W., Jiang, Y.-P., Xu, K.-P., Tan, G.-S., Liu, S., Li, J., & Wang, W.-X. (2024). The ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and pharmacology of the genus Hericium. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 319, 117353.