The wine cap mushroom, so-named for the dark red color, is also known as the king stropharia, Stropharia Rugosoannulata, garden giant, or even Godzilla mushroom. They can get very large, as several of the names imply, but are often more modest; an inch and a half to five inches across is typical. The stem is usually three to six inches long. Thats HUGE!
A popular edible, wine cap is easy to cultivate, since it can grow in ordinary garden beds alongside the vegetables; some gardeners rely on the species to release nutrients from mulch into the soil, to remove pathogens from the soil, and to kill nematode worms that might otherwise attack plant roots.
The primary uses of the wine cap are culinary and as an ally in creating soil health, but there is some indication that they could have medicinal benefits as well.
Wine Cap Mushroom Benefits
Wine cap is not widely regarded as medicinal. Its primary uses are culinary or in gardening. And yet, like many other mushrooms, it contains several chemical substances that have the potential for medicinal use as suggested by modern research. It is possible that in the future, useful medications could be made with substances derived from wine cap mushroom.
The primary use of wine cap is in the kitchen, where it is favored for its unusual potato-like taste. Although it does contain small amounts of protein, calcium, and iron, its most striking nutritional benefit involves what it doesn’t have—no fat, no cholesterol, few calories, and very little sodium. Like most mushrooms, the wine cap is mostly water and fiber, plus it is seldom eaten in large quantities, so the food value of a typical serving is small. The advantage is that the mushroom packs a lot of flavor and texture without adding a lot of extra calories.
Cancer and HIV
A protein isolated from wine cap proved able to inhibit two different lines of cancer cells (a human liver cancer and a mouse leukemia line) and to interfere with a chemical reaction used by the HIV-1 virus. The study was conducted entirely in vitro, with no animal or human research subjects. It’s important to recognize that this study does not suggest that eating the whole mushroom can treat either cancer or HIV infection—the protein in the study was purified and amplified many times beyond what is found in the mushroom. The protein was also not tested against actual HIV-1 virus, only against samples of a substance that the virus creates and uses. The focus of the study was an exploration of the chemical properties of the protein, not its clinical value.
That being said, the study does suggest that the mushroom protein is worth studying for potential medicinal use.
Another study investigated a different wine cap-derived substance, an exopolysaccharide, that has anti-tumor and anti-oxidant properties[viii]. Again, the study was strictly in vitro.
Diabetes, Obesity, and Related Issues
In one study, a group of rats were experimentally given diabetes[ix]. Treatment with a wine cap-derived polysaccharide reduced blood sugar in the rats as well as lowering cholesterol levels and improving several other markers of heath.