March 23, 2023

Poisonous Mushrooms: What To Know

Mushroom poisoning is real — and it can cause liver failure

a death cap mushroom

Mushrooms are marvelous on pizza and magnificent in soups and sauces. They’re also an integral part of the Super Mario Brothers video game universe.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But if you’re about to cook with and eat mushrooms you picked yourself, proceed with caution.

Amateur foragers and backyard gardeners alike need to be on alert for poisonous wild mushrooms. These sneaky fungi can grow next to edible varieties and aren’t dangerous to touch. But consuming even a bite of them can be harmful.

Critical care physician Aanchal Kapoor, MD, describes the major symptoms of mushroom poisoning — and tips for avoiding the foul fungi.

Mushroom poisoning symptoms

Only about 3% of known mushroom varieties are poisonous. The symptoms of poisoning can vary from gastrointestinal discomfort to liver failure and death, depending on the type of toxin ingested.

Acute liver failure from mushroom poisoning isn’t common, but it does happen. And in the majority of cases, it’s because a mushroom hunter or backyard forager misidentified a mushroom.

At first, the most common mushroom poisoning symptoms include:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Diarrhea.

When do poisoning symptoms appear?

If you suspect that you or someone you know has been poisoned by mushrooms, seek immediate medical attention.

Advertisement

In less poisonous varieties, digestive symptoms of mushroom poisoning develop as early as 20 minutes to four hours after you eat. Luckily, these normally pass after the irritant is expelled.

The most common dangerous mushrooms are those belonging to the Amanita genus, especially Amanita phalloides.

Called “death cap” mushrooms, they contain toxic compounds called amatoxins that damage liver cells.

In the case of Amanita poisoning, Dr. Kapoor says initial symptoms usually begin six to 24 hours after ingestion but can be delayed and show up even later than that.

This delay is deceptive. By this time, you’ve completely absorbed the toxins in the mushrooms. After an initial phase of digestive symptoms, you might appear to recover for two to three days — but then, you’ll relapse and can experience liver and kidney failure.

While some people recover fully from mushroom poisoning with timely intervention and appropriate treatment, others experience massive bleeding, which can lead to death. Some people might also require a liver transplant.

How to tell the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms

Mushrooms flourish in warm and soggy weather. That’s why there tends to be a mushroom boom in the spring, including a large bloom of poisonous varieties.

Advertisement

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to identify poisonous mushrooms.

For example, the toxic Amanita phalloides mushrooms are white with umbrella-shaped tops and a cup at the base of their stem. To the untrained eye, they don’t look any more dangerous than supermarket varieties. They might even taste good.

Given the risks, it’s important to be a smart mushroom consumer. Use caution when eating mushrooms collected by you, a friend or anyone without extensive knowledge of wild mushrooms.

Dr. Kapoor recommends not consuming any wild mushrooms that haven’t been identified by an expert. Even washing or cooking poisonous mushrooms won’t make them less dangerous, so if there’s even a tiny question, throw it out. Better yet, stick to mushrooms sold in grocery and specialty stores.

Related Articles

Mug of Coffee with Mushrooms
March 6, 2023
Mushroom Coffee: Is It Healthier Than Your Average Cup of Joe?

Mushroom coffee is expensive and has fewer health benefits than eating whole mushrooms

sweet potato noodles mushrooms spinach
February 21, 2021
Recipe: Sweet Potato Noodles with Spinach and Sesame Mushrooms

Spiralize, saute and serve ― a satisfying meal in minutes

Pot of 3-mushroom barley soup on a cutting board surrounded by bread, berries, and a dish towel
December 23, 2020
Recipe: 3-Mushroom Barley Soup

This satisfying soup has just 1 gram of fat per serving

Scoop of mushroom walnut pate in a white bowl surrounded by crackers and vegetables
October 7, 2020
Recipe: Mushroom Walnut Pate

Delicious, meatless appetizer

Asian Chicken Wraps With Shiitake Mushrooms
July 6, 2020
Recipe: Asian Chicken Wraps With Shiitake Mushrooms

Make these wraps in less than 30 minutes

person speaking with healthcare provider in office
March 4, 2024
Ulcerative Colitis and Your Mental Health

Seeking help through therapy can be an important step in improving your quality of life when you have UC

Physician examines oversized colon with giant magnifying glass, with report in foreground
March 1, 2024
Colon Cancer Screenings: When To Start

If you’re at average risk, it’s recommended that you get your first colonoscopy at age 45

Closeup of people holding up shot glasses
February 15, 2024
What Does Alcohol Do to Your Body? 9 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health

Alcohol affects your whole body, from your liver and immune system to your brain and mental health

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes

Ad