Shaggy Mane Mushroom

Shaggy Mane Benefits & Medicinal Properties
Anti-tumor activity
The water extract of Coprinus comatus was recently identified as containing potent antitumor compounds for breast cancer. Because breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide, and because there is no effective therapy for estrogen-independent (ER-) breast cancer, these findings are highly significant. The antitumor potential of the water extract was shown to manifest itself in three ways:

1) it inhibited the growth of both ER+ and ER- breast cancer cells
2) it induced both ER+ and ER- cells to die (apoptosis)
3) it inhibited tumor colony formation in vitro
(Gu and Leonard, 2006)

An alkaline protein named y3, purified from fruiting bodies of C. comatus, was shown to inhibit a gastric cancer cell line with an IC50 of 12 µg/mL (Wu et al., 2003).

Serum lysozyme activity is used as a general indicator of immune system fitness. In addition to breaking down polysaccharides found in bacterial cell walls, lysozyme can also bind to the surface of some invading bacteria and make it easier for white blood cells to engulf them. Chinese research has shown that polysaccharide solutions extracted from C. comatus and given to mice had the ability to increase serum lysozyme activity (Li et al., 2001).

Hypoglycemic effects
A number of studies have demonstrated that consumption of C. comatus can help regulate blood glucose concentrations. Feeding mice a diet containing powdered dried fruit bodies of C. comatus (one-third of their food intake, by weight) reduced their plasma glucose concentrations and improved intraperitoneal glucose tolerance. Also, body weight gain was halted, even though total energy intake was not substantially reduced. Plasma glucose was marginally lowered 10 hours after intragastric administration of dried C. comatus (3.6 g/kg body weight). The results suggest a slowly generated, mild hypoglycemic effect of C. comatus in normal mice, accompanied by metabolic effects capable of interrupting body weight gain (Bailey et al., 1984).

In other studies, the hypoglycemic activity of fermented mushroom of Coprinus comatus rich in vanadium was investigated. Vanadium salts have insulin-mimetic activity, and vanadium compounds are being studied as potentially orally active replacements for insulin. Vanadium salts mimic most of the effects of insulin in vitro and also induce normoglycemia and improve glucose homeostasis in insulin-deficient and insulin-resistant diabetic rodents in vivo. One study showed that Coprinus comatus fermentation liquid and sodium vanadate inhibited ascension of blood glucose in mice (Han et al., 2003). The blood glucose and the HbA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin – used to measure plasma glucose concentration) of the mice were analyzed. Also, the sugar tolerance of the normal mice was also determined. After the mice were given the vanadium-rich mushroom mycelia, the blood glucose and the HbA1c of hyperglycemic mice decreased, ascension of blood glucose induced by adrenalin was inhibited and the sugar tolerance of the normal mice was improved. Also, the body weight of the alloxan-induced hyperglycemic mice was increased gradually. In the fermented mushroom of C. comatus, vanadium at lower doses in combination with C. comatus, induced significant decreases of the blood glucose and HbA1c levels in hyperglycemic mice (Han et al., 2006).

Polysaccharides extracted from the mycelial culture of C. comatus and administered intraperitoneally into white mice at a dosage of 300 mg/kg inhibited the growth of Sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich solid cancers by 100% and 90%, respectively (Ohtsuka et al., 1973).

Anti-nematode activity
Coprinus comatus is known to contain compounds that kill nematodes (Li and Xiang, 2005). Specifically, this fungus immobilizes, kills and uses free-living nematode Panagrellus redivivus and root-knot nematode Meloidogyne arenaria. It does so by making a structure called a ‘spiny ball’, a burr-like structure assembled with a large number of tiny tubes. Nematodes added to C. comatus cultures grown on nutrient agar become inactive in hours. Electron microcopy shows that C. comatus infects P. redivivus by producing penetration pegs from which hyphae colonize nematode bodies. Within days, the infected nematode is digested and consumed by mycelial hyphae. It is thought that this may be a mechanism to help the fungus thrive in nitrogen-poor environments (Luo et al., 2004).

Antioxidant activity
Over fifty years ago, shaggy-manes were found to contain ergothioneine, a thiol compound with antioxidant properties (List ,1957). The anti-oxidant activity was later confirmed (Badalyan et al., 2003).

The fungal metabolite ergothioneine
The fungal antioxidant metabolite, ergothioneine.

Nutritional Info / Compositional analysis
A study of flavor compounds present in C. comatus (Dijkstra and Wiken, 1976; Djikstra, 1976) revealed a variety of compounds in the water extract from the fruit body, including:

caprylic acid
glutamic acid
n-butyric acid and isobutyric acids (putatively).
Interestingly, a mixture of 37 compounds found in the extract had a stronger flavor than the natural extract, suggesting the presence of compounds that mask or lessen the flavor intensity.

The fatty acid composition (by % of total fatty acids) of C. comatus is summarized in the table below:

Fatty acid type
Fruit body
Saturated fatty acids
Monounsaturated fatty acids
Polyunsaturated fatty acids
Palmitoleic acid
Palmitic acid
Stearic acid
Oleic acid
Linoleic acid
Arachidic acid
(Data from Yilmaz et al., 2006)
Antimicrobial activity

A Russian study has revealed that various strains of the genus (formerly known as) Coprinus, including C. comatus, have antimicrobial activity (Ershova et al., 2001). I’ll post more details once I get my hands on the original article.