I am still amazed each time I see this mushroom glow in the dark. It has a constant eery greenness that must shine out like a beacon in the forest on a dark night. It was only by chance that I came to discover the luminescence of this mushroom. I had discovered it on a picking trip and decided to take a few of these oyster shaped mushrooms home to learn more about them. I had read that many of the oyster mushrooms are edible. I had also just read the previous day about the fluorescent property of some mushrooms. As life would have it, all this was to prepare me to discover Omphalotus Nidiformis, and as I carried in my box of mushrooms to a dark house, blow me down, the precious oyster was glowing!
It has a creamy, white flesh with a darker tan, grey, brown or even purple coloring on the center, found in clumps on stumps and logs or sometimes just on the ground, but there will be decaying wood underneath. It smells good and looks edible, but is apparently poisonous. It is a true Australian mushroom, rather than an introduced European species. It is nicknamed the Ghost fungus.
Apparently fluorescent mushrooms have been used as headdresses by Shamans, as a primitive torch and to make glow in the dark body paint! But there may be more use to this mushroom in the field of anti cancer medicine.
The ghost fungus is considered to be poisonous. According to wikipedia, it will cause vomiting. but one mans poison, in small amounts can be another man’s cure. Like snake and scorpion venom, mushrooms may possess healing qualities, particularly against cancer. I recently learned that the fly agaric mushroom has been used as an old Russian remedy externally for arthritis and various body pain conditions and internally in small amounts for cancer. This got me thinking about the notion of the term “poisonous”, particularly in relation to mushrooms. How much of the vomiting and gastric response is a detox response.
Call me simple, but I figure if God makes this mushroom stand out like dogs balls, maybe he’s trying to bring it to our attention, right? Well, that was my hunch and with only a brief look at the research, its not far wrong.
Illudin is the compound responsible for the luminescent quality of this mushroom, but it also has antibiotic, antiviral and antitumor properties. In the body, illudin reacts with DNA and blocks transcription, inhibiting the replication of actively dividing cells. A study in 2011 showed that omphalotus nidiformis “demonstrated significant cytotoxic activity toward a variety of cancer cell lines.” In 1990, Michael Kelner et al showed illudin had selective toxicity (ie prefered to attack) “human myelocytic leukemia and epidermoid, lung, ovarian, and breast carcinoma cells of various species of origin.”
Irofulven is a synthesised version of illudin still in the research phase to be used as an anti cancer treatment. For more info on medicinal mushrooms and the irofulven story, there is a good article by Elinoar Shavit here.