Lignosus rhinocerus

Introduction of Tiger Milk Mushroom

Lignosus rhinocerus, commonly known as tiger milk mushroom, belongs to family Polyporaceae in the division Basidiomycota. This fungus is geographically distributed only in tropical rainforests in the region of South China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

In Malaysia, the tiger milk mushroom is more often known as “Cendawan Susu Rimau”. It has been used in traditional medicine.

History of the Tiger Milk Mushroom

It all started in 2002 when Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamed, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, announced during his keynote address at the International Biotechnology Convention in Kuala Lumpur that he had finally found a cure for the chronic cough that had plagued him for many years: the Tiger Milk Mushroom.

Mostly falling on deaf ears, these words did have an effect on one person in the audience. Dr Tan Chon Seng, a researcher with MARDI (Malaysia Agricultural Research & Development Institute), vividly recalled that during his youth, his mother would grind a dried mushroom (passed down from his grandfather) into powder and mix it with water for him and his siblings to drink whenever they had a cough, cold or fever. And it worked wonders!

The Tiger Milk Mushroom is native to tropical forests in South East Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Southern China and parts of Australia. As the name suggests and according to aboriginal folklore, this relatively unknown fungus is said to grow on the spot where tiger milk falls to the ground when a mother is feeding her cubs. It has been used in traditional medicine as a health tonic by Aborigines and indigenous populations to treat more than 15 medical ailments, including cough, asthma, bronchitis, joint pain, fever, breast cancer, stomach cancer, food poisoning, healing wounds, indigestion and gastritis. Furthermore, almost every Chinese family in the 1950s and 60s kept Tiger Milk Mushroom in their homes as a handy medicine for cough, cold and asthma. The Malays also used it to treat various ailments including breast, liver and lung cancer.

Tiger Milk Mushroom, a so-called underground fungus, was first brought to light in 1664 when a government agent from Europe was given this mythical product when he sailed to the South East Asian region. Published on 22 June 1664, The Diary of John Evelyn records the name of this product as Lac tygridis, meaning tiger’s milk, and reports that this fungus was used by local people to treat diseases that European doctors could find no cure for.

Subsequently, Sir Henry Nicholas Ridley, the father of Malaya’s rubber industry, went on record in 1890 to say that Tiger Milk Mushroom was an important medicinal mushroom used by the local communities. He even attempted to cultivate it but failed. In the same year, Cooke was the first person to document this fungus scientifically and, based on a specimen found in Penang, named it Fomes rhinocerotis. Today, its scientific name is more commonly known as Lignosus rhinocerotis/L. rhinocerus.


Little Known Facts About Tiger Milk Mushroom

Unlike most, if not all other mushroom species, which mainly grow in groups or dense clusters, Lignosus rhinocerus grows in isolation: you’ll only find one stalk at a time. And that’s not all, what makes it precious and rare is that you won’t or can’t find another stalk within a radius of 5km. And, even if you do happen to find one, chances are that it may have grown to a stage by which it has sprouted out from the ground and produced a stem and cap. Unfortunately, the medicinal properties of L. rhinocerus are only found in the underground tuber or sclerotium. So, by the time the fruiting body has appeared, most of the active compound in the sclerotium will have been depleted.

As a result of its unique growth habit, coupled with deforestation, finding Tiger Milk Mushroom is very much like looking for a needle in a haystack. Plus, with the rampant use of antibiotics and other medications brought about by advances in medical science during the last 50 years, this mythical fungus has slowly faded from people’s memory. Dr Tan Chon Seng realised that if nothing was done to address this issue, Tiger Milk Mushroom would soon become a topic for history books or an artefact in a museum. He wanted to inject new life into this rare medicinal mushroom.

Backed by Science

With a team of trained scientists led by Dr Tan, the company didn’t just stop at the cultivation stage; they wanted the supporting science to speak for itself. Numerous studies have been done so far to verify the efficacy and safety profile of their cultivated Tiger Milk Mushroom (LiGNO TM02 Freeze dried powder). Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Asthma, chronic cough, COPD and bronchitis, etc., are conditions in which the lungs’ airways become inflamed and constricted. LiGNO TM02 contains bioactive agents that have anti-inflammatory effects that can help to unblock the airways by reducing or even removing the inflammation.1

Immunomodulating Effects: LiGNO TM02 is able to stimulate our immune system’s second line of defence to a desired level to fight foreign agents or substances. As a result, our body benefits from stronger immunity to defend itself against respiratory disorders caused by bacteria and viruses.2

Antiproliferative Effects: LiGNO TM02 can inhibit the growth of certain breast and lung cancer cells (without affecting other healthy cells). There is great potential for the product to be used to improve breast and lung cancer treatment, although more studies need to be done to substantiate this particular function.3

Antioxidant Effects: LiGNO TM02 is able to counter some free radicals, thereby preventing oxidative stress, which may be detrimental to the airways and lung function.

Safety Issues

According to OECD guidelines, various stringent toxicity studies have been done and they have not established any adverse change in body weight, liver, kidney, heart, spleen and lung function, and fertility. In addition, screening by The Toxicology Laboratory of the National Poison Center, Malaysia, has also concluded that no corticosteroid was found in the product.

References :

1. S.S. Lee, et al., “Anti-Inflammatory Effect of the Sclerotium of Lignosus rhinocerotis (Cooke) Ryvarden, the Tiger Milk Mushroom,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 14, 359 (2014).

2. K.H. Wong, et al., “Stimulation of Human Innate Immune Cells by Mushroom Sclerotial Polysaccharides,” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 11, 215–223 (2009); K.H. Wong, et al., “Immuno-Modulatory Activities of Mushroom Sclerotial Polysaccharides,” Food Hydrocolloids 25, 150–158 (2010); C. Guo, et al., “Hot Water Extract of the Sclerotium of Polyporus rhinocerus Cooke Enhances the Immune Functions of Murine Macrophages,” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 13(3), 237–244 (2011).

3. M.L. Lee, et al., “The Antiproliferative Activity of Sclerotia of Lignosus rhinocerus (Tiger Milk Mushroom),” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/697603 (2012).

4. Y.H. Yap, et al., “Nutrient Composition, Antioxidant Properties and Anti-Proliferative Activity of Lignosus rhinocerus Cooke Sclerotium,” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 93(12), 2945–2952 (2013).

5. S.S. Lee, et al., “Evaluation of the Sub-Acute Toxicity of the Sclerotium of Lignosus rhinocerus (Cooke), The Tiger Milk Mushroom,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 138, 192–200 (2011): S.S. Lee, et al., “Preclinical Toxicological Evaluations of the Sclerotium of Lignosus rhinocerus (Cooke), The Tiger Milk Mushroom,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 147, 157–163 (2013).

Research from Local University (Malaysia)

  •  According to the study made by UCSI University and the Medical Health Center, Tiger Milk Mushroom was found to help strengthen the human respiratory system.
  • So far there were numerous animal studies made by other researchers, however, in Malaysia, there is only and first human clinical study to find out the effect of the Tiger Milk Mushroom.
  •  The research helps the public to understand the efficacy of lung function improvement and to solve public concerns regarding the toxicity or side effects of the mushroom.

Lung Health Improvement

  •  The ratio of FEV1 to FVC was significantly improved from 67.40 to 85.73, which is equivalent to 27.2% improvement over these 3 months.
  •  Tiger milk mushrooms improved consumer respiratory health,  including the exhale and inhale ability.

Anti-Inflammatory Effect

  • Besides, the results showed that the inflammatory condition of the participant’s respiratory system was significantly improved after supplementation.
  • The reduction in IL-1ß content in serum was 54.9%.
  • Tiger Milk Mushroom is a great anti-inflammatory agent, it also helps to reduce asthmatic symptoms.

Enhance Immune System

  • In addition, Tiger Milk Mushroom was found to improve the human immune system.
  • IgA level increased from 4.83 ng/mL to 10.26 ng/mL (212%), which reflected a significant improvement in respiratory immunity with the supplementation of Tiger Milk Mushroom.
  • This could help consumers to prevent upper respiratory system diseases such as fever.
Clinical Trial Source :

Tan, E., Leo, T. and Tan, C., 2021. Effect of tiger milk mushroom (Lignosus rhinocerus) supplementation on respiratory health, immunity and antioxidant status: an open-label prospective study. Scientific Reports, 11(1)