Ready to roar: Malaysia’s tiger milk mushroom maker targets overseas growth amid domestic popularity
In Malaysia, tiger milk mushroom (Lignosus rhinocerus) has been used as a traditional herbal remedy for immune and respiratory health, especially in the case of chronic cough and sinusitis.
Grown in the tropical forest, its name is related to a folktale – one which claims that the mushroom is grown on the spot exposed to tiger milk when a mother is feeding her cubs.
More attention has been placed on the mushroom due to COVID-19.
Local media Sinchew Daily reported on March 2 that Malaysian consumers were mostly choosing supplements containing assorted nutrients, such as vitamin C added with zinc or elderberries, or those that contain cordyceps and/or tiger milk mushrooms.
This is especially the case for individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, the report said, based on inputs from local pharmacies.
Local tiger milk mushroom supplier Nexus Wise echoed similar observations.
“In the initial phase of the COVID-19 outbreak, there was a lot of interest in the TCM product Lianhua Qingwen, because many do not know what product to take and this is the product that the China government has included as part of its COVID-19 standard therapy.
“Subsequently, traditional herbs such as cordyceps, tiger milk mushroom and vitamin C became popular,” Wansin Leong, sales manager at Nexus Wise told NutraIngredients-Asia.
So far, the company has worked with several local brands in launching products containing their tiger milk mushroom branded TigerPRO.
An example is Bio-Rich, which has incorporated the ingredient, alongside colostrum, immunoglobulin G, black seed, inulin, and honey in its powdered product Colostrum Plus.
The product claims to improve the immunity.
Another interesting offering is Tiger Milk Mushroom Multi Grain powder by Wellness Biotech and Tiger Milk Mushroom Plus capsules by PureMed.
The company is now eyeing overseas growth, but it also acknowledged that awareness of tiger milk mushroom is not as high and that there were regulatory hurdles to overcome.
“This type of mushroom is actually considered as a new mushroom to the overseas customers, including those from Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
“They have not heard about this ingredient before. This is actually like a new concept for them, unlike the more common ones such as cordyceps and reishi mushrooms.
“So, it took us a lot of effort to build the awareness and the market, and most importantly, to educate the consumers on how this tiger milk mushroom can bring an impact to their respiratory and lung health,” Ai Shyien Cheah, regional sales executive said.
As part of its awareness building efforts, the company has also developed a finished product branded TigerPlus.
The powder sachet is recently distributed free-of-charge for awareness building in Vietnam via the e-commerce platform Buy2Sell.
Outside of Malaysia, the company has clients selling tiger milk mushroom finished products in Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Indonesia – with some selling these products as early as 2019.
While the focus is on neighbouring South East Asia countries, the company is also targeting the US market since the ingredient has been approved by the US FDA.
In Malaysia, products containing tiger milk mushroom are approved by the local regulator as a natural product/traditional medicines. Under this category, the products can come in food and dosage forms such as capsules and tablets.
Leong added that the company would usually advise the brands to pair tiger milk mushroom with cordyceps for respiratory health benefits.
Last year, findings of a clinical study on the effects of tiger milk mushroom on respiratory health, immunity and antioxidant status were published.
Published in Scientific Reports, this is said to be the first human clinical trial involving the use of tiger milk mushroom.
TigerPRO was used in the three-month open-label, single-arm, prospective study.
“We are the first in industry who conducted human clinical study on the efficacy of tiger milk mushroom in respiratory and inflammatory studies.
“In our in-house human clinical study, tiger milk mushroom had shown proven results on improving nasal symptoms (sinus allergy, asthma) and antioxidant capacity.
“In particular, there was a 27.2 per cent improvement in pulmonary functions and 40.8 per cent reduction in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-8 in the body,” Cheah said.
She added that the ingredient was different from the common yeast or oat beta-glucan because of its specific linkages of beta-glucans.
A total of 50 subjects between 30 and 50 years old took part in the study, where they took powdered capsule containing 300mg of TigerPro twice daily.
While the findings were promising, the researchers said that there was a need to conduct randomised controlled trial in the future to validate the findings.
The company is cultivating tiger milk mushroom indoors based on a proprietary cultivation technology which it had developed successfully in 2016.
Leong said that this was significant as tiger milk mushroom was usually cultivated outdoors.
The cultivation environment has to be under strict control so as to maximise the bioactives. For instance, the temperature has to stay between 24 and 28 degree Celsius, with a humidity level of between 50 and 65 per cent.
The company took two years to cultivate the mushrooms in its cultivation hub at Seminyih in Selangor, before commercialising the ingredient in 2018.