Coprinus mushrooms are common wild mushrooms that appear in the summer and the fall. They liquefy as they mature and for this reason have to be eaten soon after they are picked. (If Coprinus mushrooms that you collect turn to black goo before you have a chance to cook them, you can use the liquid as semi-permanent ink.
The most popular species, Coprinus Comatus, is known as the Shaggy Mane or Lawyer’s Wig for the appearance of the surface of the large, white caps. This is a delicious edible that often comes up in large groups. A related species (Coprinus atramentarius), the Inky Cap mushroom, is smaller, less attractive and also edible, but it contains a compound that interferes with the metabolism of alcohol and can cause a violent reaction if you consume alcohol after eating it.
Researchers at the University of Florida reported in 2017 that a shaggy mane mushroom protein known as Y3 could bind with proteins on the surface of a certain type of leukemia cell. This action triggered a cascade of enzymes that killed 90 percent of the leukemia cells, suggesting that the Y3 protein and the mushroom might be promising candidates for new treatments for leukemia.
Lab tests elsewhere have suggested that Coprinus mushrooms have antitumor and antiviral effects, as well as the ability to modulate immune system activity. Some research has found that Coprinus comatus may help lower blood sugar, although so far this has been seen only in diabetic mice. We have no studies documenting any of these effects in humans.
Another health benefit these mushrooms appear to have is their ability to absorb toxic heavy metals from soil, including cadmium, mercury and arsenic. They may be useful in cleaning up contaminated sites. Another plus: the antioxidant properties of Coprinus species can help neutralize pollution-triggered oxidative stress.
Coprinus Comatus is one of several mushrooms included in a line of skin-care products I recently helped develop for Origins. It protects skin health and can help reduce dryness and sensitivity.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Learn more: All About Mushrooms
Yousong Ding et al “Cytotoxic protein from the mushroom Coprinus comatus possesses a unique mode for glycan binding and specificity.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 22, 2017, doi: 10.1073/pnas.170689411