Mushrooms and mushroom toxins

Just because a mushroom tastes good there is no guarantee that it is safe to eat. Many mushroom species produce natural toxins – some of them are very unpleasant and can lead to severe adverse effects if the mushroom is eaten.

Mushrooms species producing such substances are considered to be poisonous mushrooms. It is not known how many of the more than 10,000 mushroom species to be found in Sweden can be classified as poisonous mushrooms.

There is also insufficient knowledge about how much of the poisonous mushroom you need to eat before you get symptoms and this is due to many different factors, as for example how sensitive you are to the toxin as an individual and your nutritional status.

Poisonous mushroom species

There are very few people who pick poisonous mushrooms with the intention of eating them, but those who do can often give an account of what they have eaten.

Other people suffering from poisoning have probably intended to pick an edible mushroom that has a look-alike poisonous mushroom of another species, and mistakenly collected the wrong mushroom.

There are different types of mushroom toxins that affect the body in different ways.

Some can:

  • affect the nervous system. Examples: Fly Agaric, Panther Cap, Royal Fly Agaric, and some species of Marasmius, Psilocybe, Inocybe and Clitocybe
  • affect the gastrointestinal tract. Examples: Yellow Stainer, Sickener, Livid Pinkgill
  • damage internal organs. Examples: Destroying Angel, Deathcap, Funeral Bell, Deadly Webcap and Fool's Webcap
  • give allergic reactions: Examples: Brown Roll-rim
  • alter the sensitivity to alcohol: Examples: Common inkcapgive a mix of symptoms: Examples: False Morel.

Information on poisoning symptoms and when they occur can be given by Giftinformationscentralen, The Swedish Poisons Information Centre, see the link on the right.

Some advice to reduce the risk of being poisoned by mushrooms

  • Only pick mushrooms you know well.
  • If you are uncertain about what mushroom you are looking at, do not pick it.
  • Cook the mushroom thoroughly.

However, if you have been poisoned you should contact The Swedish Poisons Information Centre. They answer general questions on acute poisoning during the daytime. In an emergency, phone 112 and ask for Poisons Information (24-hour service).

Reviewed 2017-10-20