The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 December 2007

Not even the buffet

As Johnny Carson used to say, I did not know this:

In reading the packet I got in the mail about a month ago from Dr. O, one instruction besides the normal when to eat, when not to eat surgical instructions stood out.

"No Chinese food for three days before surgery."

This instruction puzzled me and Anh. Must be the MSG. Nah, maybe it's the fried food. Noodles? Can't be the noodles, it's just flour and water. What about Vietnamese food? Hmm....

Dr. O cleared this up right away. Turns out that a little varmint called "Black Tree Mushroom" can be a strong anti-coagulant — causing uncontrolled bleeding if you eat it before surgery. Using the Internet for fun and profit, I searched trying to find this — nothing on Wikipedia, and search engines didn't come up with much.... I did find one restaurant in SF that served said evil bleeding-causing mushroom, but nothing much else except for the list of Chinese exporters that would bring it in.

Dr. O says that the mushroom is a common ingredient in Chinese food, one that's often undisclosed. So, just say no to Chinese food if you are about to have surgery!

I did find this reference, which doesn't address the health issues but which does give alternate nomenclature:

Wood ear (tree ear, black tree fungus): This is another mushroom for which many health claims have been made. They are usually sold dried but are now becoming available fresh. They are very crunchy and work well in stir fries, casseroles and stews.

Of course, calling it "black tree fungus" cuts down on its perceived desirability, at least to me. Still, I will keep this in mind, since I'm at an age where I can't dodge surgeons indefinitely.

Posted at 5:00 PM to Worth a Fork

This is probably more than you need to know, but wood ear (that's what it's called in Chinese, I did not know it was also "black tree mushroom") contains a polysaccharide that catalyzes the enzyme antithrombin. Antithrombin inactivates coagulation. Wood ear's anticoagulation properties were discovered by a researcher at the University of Minnesota when he noticed that his platelets weren't clotting as well after he ate some Chinese food.

Posted by: sya at 7:23 PM on 1 December 2007

Which, at least, explains the doctor's advice, and thank you.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:31 PM on 1 December 2007

Hmm...I wonder if it interacts badly with blood-thinning drugs? My dad takes Coumadin and eats Chinese food (especially mu shu, which I know contains the mushrooms) from time to time.

I'm not a big fan of mushrooms but I do like them in that dish. Fortunately I don't have any blood-clotting issues.

Posted by: fillyjonk at 1:32 PM on 2 December 2007