The researchers from the Republic of Korea concluded that extracts obtained from Poria cocos have the potential to function as a new category of sleep aid, reporting: “After using the trial product containing Poria cocos extracts, participants who were experiencing symptoms of insomnia reported improvements in both the duration of their sleep and the quality of their subjective sleep.”
It has been reported that the prevalence of sleep disorders in the general population is 87%, with the authors of the study hypothesising this is an increasing trend exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When alterations to lifestyle fail, people often turn to sleep-inducing drugs.
However, excessive use of sleeping pills could result in substantial negative side effects such as exhaustion, decreased focus and memory, amplified sensitivity to falls among elderly people, increased risk of accidents, and addiction.
Therefore, herbs and Eastern medicine substances are increasingly being explored as potential sleep-promoting ingredients.
Notably, certain mushrooms, such as Poria cocos (also known as Wolfiporia extensa Ginns), a wood-decay fungus from the Polyporaceae family, and the jannabi mushroom found on pine tree roots, are recognised for their health benefits.
Poria cocos extract, in particular, has shown anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-aging, and cognitive-enhancing properties.
Pachymic acid, found in high concentrations in Poria cocos, plays a key role in its effectiveness. It has been associated with maintaining cognitive and physical balance, promoting mental well-being, and enhancing diuretic function.
Furthermore, Pachymic acid can stimulate serotonin release, demonstrated to alleviate symptoms of anxiousness, stress, and depression, as well as help with the prevention and treatment of insomnia.
Therefore, the new research aimed to assess whether Poria cocos extract can promote sleep.
The study involved 21 insomnia sufferers with a mean age of 55 who were administered Poria cocos extract.
The optimal extraction method utilised a 75% ethanol concentration, and the protocol entailed oral administration of two capsules containing a total of 800 mg of the investigational Poria cocos extract, once daily, 30 min to 1 h before sleep.
Participants were assessed using a sleep questionnaire and polysomnography (PSG), a sleep study method that records brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing during sleep.
Results showed a statistically significant rise in the overall duration of sleep (from 327.395 ± 43.2 min to 356.516 ± 63.21 min, p = 0.014).
Additionally, there was a notable decrease in the level of arousal during sleep (from 76.316 ± 44.78 min to 47.989 ± 42.38 min, p = 0.009), and an improvement in the sleep severity index of the sleep questionnaire test.
The authors note: “The most important thing that was accomplished by the study was providing objective data on the clinical efficacy of Poria cocos extracts.”
They anticipate that further study efforts will give discoveries regarding the amounts of pachymic acid and its precise pharmacological mechanism in promoting sleep.
However, as well as lacking a placebo group, the authors note that the study had limitations, such as a lack of control for various factors affecting insomnia and the need for further research on dosages.
“Efficacy of Poria Cocos Extract on Sleep Quality Enhancement: A Clinical Perspective with Implications for Functional Foods"
Authors: Hyeyun Kim, Heeyong Choi, Byong-Gon Park, Hyo-Jin Ju and Yeong-In Kim