What are the benefits of the Branched Oyster Mushroom?
Branched Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus cornucopiae) are:
- a healing agent towards cancer of the spleen
- nephroprotective (protecting the kidneys from harm)
- a remediator of arsenic poisoning in humans
Pleurotus cornucopiae, also known by the names Branched Oyster, Popcorn Mushroom, and Popcorn Oysters. Pleurotus is Latin for ‘side ear’ and cornucopiae references the horn of Amalthea, the goat that nursed Zeus as a child when he was hidden from his father Cronos on the isle of Crete. Zeus, with god-like strength even as a baby, accidentally broke one of his nurse-maids horns off in a bout of play. Amalthea’s horn inherited her power of providing unending sustenance to its possessor (retrieved from https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/pleurotus-cornucopiae.php). Pleurotus cornucopia was designated with its current classification in 1910 by the French mycologist Léon Louis Rolland. The son of an engineer and a passionate, obsessive mathematician. Rolland’s rapture with numbers consumed him to the point to where he had to give it up for health reasons. He then turned to mycology in 1879, contributing greatly to the field. In 1910, Rolland’s opus, the ‘Atlas des champignons de France, Suisse et Belgique’; it was in this work that the Branched Oyster Mushroom was formally introduced to the field. (retrieved from https://peoplepill.com/people/leon-louis-rolland/).
Pleurotus cornucopia are usually paler than other oysters, found on fallen trunks and branches almost exclusively, and sprout a number of caps from one stem. They did the job of decomposing elms in the aftermath of Dutch Elm disease and are now typically found working on felled Beeches (retrieved from https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/pleurotus-cornucopiae.php).
Due to their vigorous growth and nonchalant attitude towards the substrates they grow on, Pleurotus has been a favorite of researchers seeking to learn more about the life cycles of mushrooms. One interesting example is a study from 1993 that sought to understand where and when lectins form in mushroom fruiting bodies (Kaneko et al, 83). Lectins are proteins that bind carbohydrates together. They enjoy some infamy across the internet as being a type of ‘antinutrient.’ They earn this moniker due to the amount of lectins found in raw plants. In this state, lectins can be toxic. An example of a food that includes toxic lectins are raw kidney beans. Another, made famous by the series Breaking Bad, is ricin – a lectin found in castor plant seeds. Any toxicity lectins possess are inactivated through processing, and preparation through cooking or fermentation. There are no edible mushrooms you should eat raw, so fearing their lectin content isn’t necessary. Lectins are also the precipitators of polysaccharides, meaning they are the agents required for mushrooms to produce their most potent medicinal and nutraceutical molecules — most of which come in the form of polysaccharides.
Returning to the study from 1993, researchers tested the mycelium of Branching Oyster mushrooms and found no lectin content, yet found three in fruiting bodies of P. cornucopiae. These observations aligned with similar studies using different fungi. Lectins only formed when the mycelia converged to create the primordia (simple cells required for trigging growth) necessary to engender the mushroom’s fruiting body. Lectins can be considered one of the alchemical philosopher’s stones of fungi, forming from nothing when the time comes to fruit, and then offering up potent polysaccharides filled with healing molecules in return (Kaneko et al, 85-88).
In the case of our mycoform, those healing molecules have been shown to ameliorate cancer of the spleen, are nephroprotective (protecting the kidneys from harm), and as a potential cure for arsenic poisoning (Suman et al, 1106-1107). Arsenic is lipophilic, meaning it attaches to the lipids (fat cells) in your body. This process causes nitrogenous waste from your body to accumulate in the blood through arsenic toxicity and the disruption of the body’s natural renal functions (Suman et al, 1107). When extracts of P. cornucopiae were given to individuals with arsenic poisoning, renal function improved and protein metabolism returned to normal. Researchers in 2014 theorized this is due to arsenic’s affinity for thiols naturally found in blood plasma and the high concentration of thiols in the extract of Branching Oyster mushrooms. It is stated that arsenic molecules found the fungi’s thiols more attractive and bound with them instead, passing through the body normally at that point instead of accumulating in it (Suman et al, 1110). Essentially, Popcorn Mushroom extract bioremediates the human body of arsenic as it does in soil when found in nature or when cultivated on substrates. This is an astounding assertion to postulate – that remediation mechanisms are present wherever oyster mushrooms are present, even when ingested by mammalian species.
These same bioremediation properties make Pleurotus cornucopiae, along with its cousins, an excellent mushroom to grow on agricultural wastes. It has been successfully cultivated on cottonseed hulls, wheat straw, and on pasteurized switch grass. Switch Grass, also known as Wand Panic Grass, is a dominant native of tall grass prairie is a phytoremediation agent (bioremediation using living plants to remove contaminant from groundwater) itself. Switch Grass is also a strong candidate for ethanol production. Switch Grass that had senesced (died off after the growing season) chopped, milled, and supplemented with 1% limestone has been used as a substrate for live cultures of Pleurotus cornucopiae. It should be noted that substrates of cottonseed hull and wheat straw produced 50% greater yield during this particular study (Royse et al, 85-86).
Once in hand, either through foraging or cultivation, Popcorn Oyster Mushrooms can be used as an alternative protein in Taiwanese-Style Popcorn Chicken, as we are shown in a delicious recipe from thefoodietakesflight.com. Using a
- 1/2 pound of Branching Oyster Mushrooms cut from their stem
- 6 tbsp gluten free all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp Five Spice Powder
- a neutral oil for frying
- onion salt and white pepper to taste
The mushrooms are placed in a bowl and coated with the flour, salt, and Five Spice powder and fried for 4-5 minutes in large pan on high heat (Retrieved from https://thefoodietakesflight.com/taiwanese-style-popcorn-mushrooms-vegan-gluten-free-recipe/) for a delicious and healthful snack.
Both images from Martin Livezey
- Jeeca (2020) Taiwanese-Style Popcorn Mushrooms (Vegan + Gluten Free Recipe). Retreived from https://thefoodietakesflight.com/taiwanese-style-popcorn-mushrooms-vegan-gluten-free-recipe/
- Kaneko T, Oguri S, Kato S I, and Nagata Y (1993) Developmental Appearance of Lectin During Fruit Body Formation In Pleurotus Cornucopiae. Journal of General Applied Microbiology (39) pp 83-90
- Minato K, Ohara A, and Mizuno M (2017) A Proinflammatory Effect of the β-Glucan from Pleurotus cornucopiae Mushroom on Macrophage Action. Mediators of Inflammation. pp 1-9
- O’Reilly P (2016) Pleurotus cornucopiae (Paulet) Rolland – Branched Oyster Mushroom. Retreived from https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/pleurotus-cornucopiae.php
- Royse D J, Rhodes T W, Ohga S, and Sanchez J E (2003) Yield, Mushroom Size and Time to Production of Pleurotus cornucopiae (oyster mushroom) Grown on Switch Grass Substrate Spawned and Supplemented at Various Rates. Bioresource Technology. (91) pp 85-91
- Suman S, Ali M, Kumar R, and Kumar A (2014) Phytoremedial Effect of Pleurotus cornucopiae (Oyster Mushroom) against Sodium Arsenite Induced Toxicity in Charles Foster Rats. Pharmacology & Pharmacy (5) pp 1106-1112