Morel Mushroom Health benefits and Side effects

Morel mushroom benefits


Morel mushrooms (Morchella spp. family Ascomycota) are a popular, highly prized, edible, medicinal fungus consumed. This mushroom is commercially grown and exported from China, India, Turkey, Mexico, and the United States known by Morchella. The common name is True morel, Sponge morel. Morel mushroom health benefits are because of antioxidant, antitumor, antimicrobial anti-inflammatory and immunostimulatory, properties. It may be used as a purgative, laxative, body tonic, emollient, and also used for stomach problems, heal the wound, and for general weakness.

Due to its unique flavor, taste, and texture mycelium of all the Morchella species mainly used as a flavoring in soups and gravies. 

The cap of morel (pileus) contains 70 to 80% of the total weight of the fungus and present in different colors like brown, yellow, black, or pale in color (1).  

Originally domestication of Morchella started in 1882. However, the first indoor cultivation of morels was reported by Ower American scientist (2)

Nutritional value of Morel mushroom

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), morel mushroom benefits are due to the rich source of carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, all-important vitamins, minerals, and aromatic compounds with significant antioxidant activity (3).

Compound                                                                   Amounts /100 g.
Water 89.61 g
Energy                                                                    31 kcal
Protein 3.12 g
Total lipid (Fat)s 0.57 g
Carbohydrates 5.10 g
Dietary Fiber 2.8 g
Sugar 0.60 g
Calcium 43 mg
Iron 12.18 mg
Magnesium 19 mg
Phosphorous 194 mg
Potassium 411 mg
Sodium 21 mg
Zinc 2.03 mg
Copper 0.62 mg
Manganese 0.59 mg
Selenium 2.2  µg
Folates 9 µg
Niacin 2.25 mg
Riboflavin 0.20 mg
Pantothenic acid 1.49 mg
Thiamin 0.07 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.13 mg
Vitamin D 206 IU
Vitamin E 0.01 mg

Morel mushroom health benefits

1. Morel mushrooms are rich in nutrients

The main reason for morel mushroom benefits is due to a high amount of nutrients mainly polysaccharides as the active compounds. Sugar, amino acid, fatty, and organic acid and mineral profile and phenolic compounds tocopherols, ascorbic acid, and vitamin D are other important nutrients. The highest amount of nutrients is present in the outer part of the mushroom that is, the cap peel (4).

2. Excellent source of vitamin D

Ergosterol (ergocalciferol) in morel mushrooms is a natural source of vitamin D2 with exposure to UV light. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone health. Deficiency can lead to softening of the bones in children and adults as well as osteoporosis in adults, Thus intake of mushroom improve bone mineralization and prevent osteoporosis (5).

3. Morel mushrooms are great in taste

L-glutamic acid, L-aspartic acid, malic acid, citric acid, acetic acid, succinic acid, and gamma-aminobutyric acid has a key role in umami taste like mouth-drying and mouth-coating oral sensation (6). Thus more mushrooms may be used as foods or food-flavoring materials or in the formulation of health foods (7).

4. Having Morel mushrooms is good for the liver

Morel mushroom contains high amounts of antioxidants which lowered liver weight and hepatic injury. Therefore, morel mushroom mycelium can be used as a therapeutic agent for hepatic disease (8).

5. High in antioxidant

Morel mushrooms contain a large number of biologically active components that prevent oxidative stress-mediated disease through radical scavenging activity. Thus, morel mushrooms may potentially useful in antioxidant therapy and in therapeutic intervention in diseases involving oxidative stress (9).

6. Prevents cell proliferation in cancer

Studies prove that polysaccharides found in Morchella mushrooms inhibit the proliferation and growth of human colon cancer within 48 h of consumption (10).

7. Eating morel mushrooms are good for kidney

Cisplatin and Gentamicin is an antitumor drug that induced kidney injury as a side effect. However, morel mushroom consumption restores the depleted antioxidant defense system as well as prevents tissue lipid peroxidation. Thus morel mushrooms can be used as a nephroprotective agent because it enhances the renal antioxidant system and protects kidney damage (11).

8. Rich antimicrobial properties of morel mushrooms

Morel mushrooms are a good source of Pentadecanoic acid, ergosterol, and other phytochemicals. These are beneficial for protection against different bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, Proteus vulgaris, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (12).

Furthermore, morel mushrooms also protect from fungi such as Candida albicans, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Aspergillus niger. Therefore, morel mushrooms may be used as an antibiotic substance against many resistant bacteria and fungi.

9. Morel mushrooms help in the protection against Leishmania parasite

Leishmaniasis is an important infectious disease caused by protozoa parasites transmitted to humans by the sand fly and infecting macrophages (13).

However, chemotherapy treatments are inadequate by their toxic effects, time taking, and some time parasite cell resistance also develops.  Therefore intake of morel mushroom acts as an anti-Leishmania agent which inhibits Leishmania parasite growth.

10. Immune booster

The presence of polysaccharides in morel mushrooms contains immune-stimulatory properties called galactomannan which enhance both innate immunity and adaptive immunity (14).

Side effects of Morel mushroom

1.  Risk of neurological syndrome due to overconsumption or poorly cooked morels

The neurological syndrome is one type of mushroom poisoning associated with a gastrointestinal syndrome that occurs within 6–12 hours after mushroom intake which lasted up to one day and vanished without sequelae (15)

In this case, people feel tremors or dizziness, inebriation or unsteadiness, ataxia, and visual disturbances. This problem may be due to large quantity consumption or ingestion of poorly cooked morels (16).

2. Toxins in undercooked Morel mushrooms 

Morel mushrooms contain toxins that are heat labile, volatile, and water-soluble. These toxins decrease after boiling and drying but do not remove completely however the person who eats only a few of the cooked mushrooms may ingest sufficiently detoxified amounts so as to remain symptom-free (17).

3. Consumption of false morels

Verpa bohemica and Gyromitra esculenta are also called false morel which is mistaken for the similar-appearing morel mushroom. Therefore false morel may cause significant toxicity symptoms like vomiting, epigastric distress, hepatotoxicity with painless jaundice, and biochemical pancreatitis (18, 19). Moreover, one study also suggested that the intake of raw Gyromitra esculenta resulted in the induction of cancer (20).

How to Clean Morel Mushrooms?

Before cooking morel mushroom has to clean properly  (sand and grit) for this soak them in cold water with salt for 10-15 min. Drain and rinse 2 times again with water to remove the salt. Before storing these mushrooms make sure that the mushrooms become dry completely or it wit perish or degrade very fast.

Edited By: Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati