Honey Mushroom Benefits and Uses

May 19, 2019

Found growing in temperate regions around the globe, the honey mushroom doubles as a dangerous pathogen to plants yet an edible form of fungi that works well in recipes ranging from pasta to soup. Thanks to its impressive antioxidant content, the honey mushroom has also been shown to have cancer-fighting, blood sugar-lowering properties that could be therapeutic in the treatment of several chronic conditions. Plus, it also happens to be one of the largest living organisms on Earth, with some colonies spanning several miles in diameter.

So what is this medicinal mushroom, how can you identify it and how can it impact your health? Keep reading for everything you need to know about this interesting form of fungi, plus some other fun honey mushroom facts.

What Is Honey Mushroom?

The honey mushroom is a genus composed of several types of parasitic fungi that grow on wood. Armillaria, which is the honey mushroom scientific name, is made up of about 10 different species of mushrooms, including Armillaria mellea, Armillaria ostoyae and Armillaria tabescens.

Where does honey fungus grow?

Honey mushrooms can be found growing in temperate regions around the globe, including areas like Asia, Europe and North America. The mushrooms feed on dead plant material and can cause fungal root rot in trees, which spreads through root-like structures known as  rhizomorphs.

Typically, these species have long life spans and form some of the largest living organisms in the world. Although the honey mushroom size can vary quite a bit, the largest fungal colony in the world is actually of the species Armillaria solidipes, which spans 2.4 miles across the Blue Mountains in Oregon.

Some types, such as the ringless honey mushroom, are edible and considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. However, they must be cooked prior to consumption, as they are actually considered poisonous when raw.

How to Identify Honey Fungus

There are plenty of honey mushroom identification guide websites and resources out there with information on how to identify mushrooms and which ringless honey mushroom lookalikes you should be aware of.

Honey mushrooms can be identified by the stems, which grow together in tight clusters and can range in color from white to yellowish-brown. Depending on the species, some types have a distinct ring under the stem while others are ringless. They can grow in clusters of up to 50 mushrooms, although you’re much more likely to spot them in groups of 10–20. Many people also wonder: Does honey fungus smell? In addition to their unique appearance, honey mushrooms also have a slightly acidic odor that can come in handy when identifying mushrooms.

When mushroom hunting, it’s important to look out for deadly galerina, a honey mushroom lookalike that can actually be toxic to humans. Compared to the honey mushroom, deadly galerina is slightly smaller and usually dark brown in color. It also has tan gills and a convex cap that slowly starts to flatten with maturity.

Honey Mushroom Benefits and Uses

1. Rich in Antioxidants

Honey fungus mushroom is a great source of antioxidants, which are compounds that help neutralize disease-causing free radicals and protect against chronic disease. In fact, in vitro studies show that several specific compounds isolated from honey mushrooms can be effective at scavenging free radicals and preventing oxidative damage to cells.

2. Could Help Fight Cancer Cell Growth

While more research is still needed to determine how honey mushrooms may affect cancer in humans, some studies show that it could help block the growth and spread of cancer cells in vitro. For example, one in vitro study found that armillarikin, a compound found in Armillaria mellea, was able to kill off liver cancer cells. Meanwhile, other research shows that it could even be therapeutic against leukemia and esophageal cancer cells as well.

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