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Edible Wild Mushrooms: 2 Categories & Their Benefits

Edible Wild Mushrooms: 2 Categories & Their Benefits cover
Written by Real Mushrooms - Updated: May 10, 2024

You’ve probably been told to steer clear of wild mushrooms because of the belief that they’re so often poisonous. But the reality is, there are several types of edible wild mushrooms. And, very often, they’re not just edible. Wild mushrooms are also packed full of nutrients and contain several health benefits.

There are two types of edible wild mushrooms: culinary and functional.

Culinary mushrooms are nutritious and can be cooked in a variety of ways.

Functional mushrooms, on the other hand, may or may not be suitable for cooking, depending on their texture. Some are just too leathery or woody to eat. These mushrooms do, however, contain healthful biologically active compounds which, when made into an extract, can help:

  • Improve your sleep quality
  • Support a healthy inflammation response
  • Balance your body’s immune response
  • Relieve occasional worry and blue mood
  • Support a healthy metabolism
  • Maintain balanced blood sugar levels

There are also unique wild mushrooms that are BOTH tasty AND contain medicinal properties.

With a growing interest in holistic nutrition, more people are turning to superfoods like health-promoting mushrooms to boost their immunity and health. With this in mind, you’ll learn about:

  • Two types of culinary wild mushrooms
  • Two types of functional wild mushrooms and their benefits
  • Why Real Mushrooms is the top choice for mushroom supplements

1 - Wild Culinary Mushrooms

Wild culinary mushrooms are a category of mushrooms that you can either cook or take in supplement form.

oyster mushrooms growing on hardwood tree bark
Wild oyster mushrooms are one of nature’s culinary delights, and they also have some impressive environment-cleaning powers

Oyster Mushroom

The oyster mushroom, also called the tree oyster mushroom, is scientifically categorized as Pleurotus sp. Oyster mushrooms are said to have a similar taste to seafood. They’re distinguished by their funnel-shaped cap, whitish-yellow gills, and white flesh.

Oyster mushrooms should not be mistaken for their poisonous look-alikes. Poisonous mushrooms that are often mistaken for oyster mushrooms include:

  • Jack-o’-lantern mushrooms
  • Ghost fungus
  • Funnel mushroom

The table below tells you how to distinguish between a true oyster mushroom and a look-alike.

Table comparing oyster mushrooms to its poisonous lookalikes

Where does this mushroom grow?

Oyster mushrooms grow in forests around the world. You can specifically find them growing on hardwood trees, such as dead or dying oak.

They grow all year round in warmer climates, as well as during the spring and fall in the Northern USA.

What benefits and special qualities do oyster mushrooms have?

Oyster mushrooms can help support the health of your cardiovascular system by enhancing circulation and maintaining blood pressure already within a normal range.

These mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans which show an apparent ability to support a healthy inflammation response and balance your body’s immune response (1).

Oyster mushrooms are also known to promote healthy blood sugar levels. A study involving 30 patients with type 2 diabetes, who ate a minimum of 150 gms of cooked oyster mushrooms daily for seven days, showed a reduction in blood sugar levels of up to 23% (2).

Nature’s Waste-Absorber

Oyster mushrooms have also shown great promise in mycoremediation—the process where mushrooms are used to break down and absorb toxic waste.

In nature, fungi and mushrooms together with their mycelium-based networks (the “root” systems) are the reason our forests consistently regenerate without human interference. They break down waste into non-harmful and even useful materials (10).

Oyster mushrooms are no exception, and now we’re starting to find that they have the ability to break down much more. For instance, they’ve been found to have the ability to eliminate contaminants from both soil and water.

A Chicago-based lab study found that oyster mushroom mycelia were effective at removing E.Coli in water from the Chicago River.

The findings from this study prompted habitat restoration projects to start employing techniques such as planting oyster mushroom mycelia in burlap sacks and placing them in E. coli-infested waters to eliminate the contaminants (11).

In another study, researchers used oyster mushrooms to break down oxo-biodegradable plastic—the material commonly used in manufacturing shopping bags. In this instance, the mushrooms showed their mycoremediation capabilities within 45 days.

They were even able to degrade the synthetic dye in the plastic bags. Remember, synthetic dyes are a major environmental pollutant. Oyster mushrooms were found to be the most effective mushroom species for degrading the dye (12).

Wild sulfur shelf mushroom is also known as chicken-of-the-woods
The sulfur shelf mushroom is very distinctive and is also called chicken-of-the-woods because of its flavor. It’s one of the forest’s edible delicacies that also has some interesting health-supporting compounds

Sulfur Shelf Mushroom

Also known as chicken-of-the-woods and crab-of-the-woods, it’s a sulfur polypore—a species of bracket fungi named for its orange or sulfur-yellow color and shelf-like structure that grows on trees. It is said to taste like lemon-flavored chicken.

Where does the sulfur shelf mushroom grow?

This bracket fungus grows on dead or living hardwood trees, such as oak, hemlock, and cherry trees. It grows from spring through fall and is primarily found in Northern America, Canada, and Europe.

What benefits and special qualities does this mushroom have?

Sulfur shelf mushrooms contain plant compounds which include, cinnamic acid, polysaccharides, and eburicoic acid.

A study conducted on mice showed that eburicoic acid could inhibit abnormal cell growth, promote a healthy inflammation response, and help maintain digestive health (3).

This mushroom is also rich in antioxidants, carbohydrates, proteins, organic acids, and bioactive compounds which can help balance your body’s immune response and overall wells (4).

More Wild Culinary Mushrooms

In addition to oyster mushrooms and chicken-of-the-woods, there’s a rich variety of wild culinary mushrooms you should also consider. These mushrooms make delicious additions to your diet and supply nutrients that will help support your general health and wellness.

Examples of these wild culinary mushrooms include the lobster mushroom, porcini, morels, and chanterelles.

Watch the video below to follow along with Real Mushrooms’ Chief Funguy, Skye Chilton, as he forages for chanterelle mushrooms:

2 - Functional Edible Mushrooms

Functional mushrooms, though inedible due to their bitter taste, still provide health benefits useful for the body. These mushrooms are consumed as supplements in powder or capsule form. Examples include turkey tail and chaga mushrooms.

cluster of brown and white turkey tail mushrooms
Turkey tail mushrooms are one of the O.G. medicinal mushrooms used by many cultures around the world

Turkey Tail

As the name suggests, this type of mushroom resembles a turkey’s tail. It belongs to the polypore variety and comes in various shades of brown, gray, and black.

Polypores are a group of fungi that feed on wood and have large fruiting bodies with tubes or pores on their underside.

Where does this mushroom grow?

Turkey tail mushrooms are a common variety that grow all over the world and on almost every type of tree, whether living or dead.

What benefits and special qualities does the turkey tail mushroom have?

Rich in antioxidants, the turkey tail mushroom is best known for its immune-enhancing properties. Antioxidants help fight the impact of oxidation as a result of excessive free radicals, which could lead to chronic inflammation and cellular damage.

Excessive free radicals have also been linked to certain conditions including abnormal cell growth and heart disorder. Eating foods rich in antioxidants counters the effect of these radicals (5).

One study showed that turkey tail is rich in flavonoids, a particular antioxidant that stimulates the release of protective compounds and also promotes a healthy inflammation response (6,7).

Chaga growing on a birch tree
Chaga is not actually a mushroom, it’s a parasitic fungus that grows in Northern climates, usually on birch trees. It’s been helpful to humans for centuries.


Chaga is a parasitic fungus that mostly grows on birch trees but can also be found on aspen, elm, and alder trees.

Where does this mushroom grow?

Although you can find this mushroom year-round, it thrives most in cold climate regions such as Russia, Alaska, Northern Europe, and Canada.

What benefits and special qualities does this mushroom have?

Chaga has been a part of traditional medicine for centuries in China, Korea, and Russia. They’re said to have a positive effect on the immune system by helping your body fight off free radicals.

Additionally, they also stimulate the production of white blood cells to help fight off harmful microorganisms. Studies conducted on animals showed that chaga mushrooms can help support immune function (8).

Another study showed slowed growth rates on malignant cells cultivated in a test tube when exposed to chaga mushroom. This further supports that chaga mushrooms may be effective against malignant growths (9).

Turkey tail and chaga mushrooms by no means make up an exhaustive list of functional mushrooms. There are many different options comprising a wide selection of mushrooms, all of which have notable benefits—these include:

  • Reishi: These are believed to help balance physical and mental stress, support your body’s immunity, and promote restful sleep.
  • Lion’s mane: These are believed to help support cognitive function, mental clarity, focus, and alertness.
  • Cordyceps: These help support energy, endurance, and vitality. Cordyceps are also believed to help promote the health of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
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“Hybrid” Mushrooms

Some mushrooms straddle the line between functional and culinary. They claim the therapeutic benefits of functional mushrooms and the delectable qualities of culinary mushrooms—the best of both worlds.

Examples of these “hybrid” mushrooms include lion’s mane, maitake, shiitake, cordyceps, and tremella.

Purchase the Purest Form of Mushroom Extracts

Founders of Real Mushrooms holding maitake

At Real Mushrooms, we take pride in providing our clients with the purest mushroom extracts. With over 40 years of experience in growing mushrooms, we’ve perfected our growing and extraction process, allowing us to obtain the purest organic extracts.

“I definitely have noticed an improvement in my memory, and ability to communicate productively and positively.” - JTS

Did you know that the bulk of mushroom supplements sold in North America is usually grain and filler products? A large percentage of mushroom supplements on the market contain myceliated grain with little to no mushrooms in them. This goes specifically against FDA policies.

We don’t claim to sell real mushrooms, we actually do sell you real mushrooms.

Our products are unique because we extract nutrients from the mushroom (fruiting body) and not the mycelium (“root system” that is the vegetative body).

Another added advantage? Real Mushroom products are safe for pets too. Both you and your pets can enjoy the nutritional benefits of our mushroom supplements.

“Using this for my dog as additional support. She has multiple issues including low-grade Mast Cell, severe reflux, and a recent ortho surgery.” - Judi

Additionally, our products are available in both capsule and powder form and are gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and non-GMO.


1. Bashir, K. M., & Choi, J.-S. (2017). Clinical and physiological perspectives of β-glucans: The past, present, and future. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(9), 1906.

2. Dicks, L., & Ellinger, S. (2020). Effect of the intake of oyster mushrooms (pleurotus ostreatus) on cardiometabolic parameters—a systematic review of clinical trials. Nutrients, 12(4), 1134.

3. Wang, J., Sun, W., Luo, H., He, H., Deng, W., Zou, K., Liu, C., Song, J., & Huang, W. (2015). Protective effect of eburicoic acid of the chicken of the woods mushroom, laetiporus sulphureus (higher basidiomycetes), against gastric ulcers in mice. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 17(7), 619–626.

4. Petrović, J., Stojković, D., Reis, F. S., Barros, L., Glamočlija, J., Ćirić, A., Ferreira, I. C., & Soković, M. (2014). Study on chemical, bioactive and food preserving properties of laetiporus sulphureus (bull.: Fr.) Murr. Food Funct., 5(7), 1441–1451.

5. Prasad, S., Gupta, S. C., Pandey, M. K., Tyagi, A. K., & Deb, L. (2016). Oxidative stress and cancer: Advances and challenges. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2016, 1–1.

6. Janjušević, L., Karaman, M., Šibul, F., Tommonaro, G., Iodice, C., Jakovljević, D., & Pejin, B. (2017). The lignicolous fungus trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd (1920): A promising natural source of antiradical and ache inhibitory agents. Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry, 32(1), 355–362.

7. Pérez-Cano, F., & Castell, M. (2016). Flavonoids, inflammation and immune system. Nutrients, 8(10), 659.

8. Ko, S.-kyung, Jin, M., & Pyo, M.-yun. (2011). Inonotus obliquus extracts suppress antigen-specific IGE production through the modulation of th1/th2 cytokines in ovalbumin-sensitized mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 137(3), 1077–1082.

9. Lee, S. H., Hwang, H. S., & Yun, J. W. (2009). Antitumor activity of water extract of a mushroom, inonotus obliquus, against HT-29 human colon cancer cells. Phytotherapy Research, 23(12), 1784–1789.

10. Purnomo A.S., Mori T., Putra S.R., Kondo R. Biotransformation of heptachlor and heptachlor epoxide by white-rot fungus Pleurotus ostreatus. Int Biodeterior Biodegrad. 2013;4:40–44. doi: 10.1016/j.ibiod.2013.02.013. doi:10.1016/j.ibiod.2013.02.013

11. Pini, A.K., Geddes, P. Fungi Are Capable of Mycoremediation of River Water Contaminated by E. coli. Water Air Soil Pollut 231, 83 (2020).

12. Da Luz J.M.R., Paes S.A., Nunes M.D., da Silva M.C.S., Kasuya M.C.M. Degradation of Oxo-Biodegradable Plastic by Pleurotus ostreatus. PLoS ONE. 2013;4(8):69386. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069386. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069386.

Real Mushrooms is the premier provider of organic mushroom extracts, verified for the beneficial medicinal compounds like beta-glucans and free from starchy fillers like grains. With over 40 years of mushroom growing experience, Real Mushrooms prides itself on providing a transparent source of functional mushrooms that you can trust. All the information provided on our blog has been reviewed by our science and medical team.

Disclaimer: The information or products mentioned in this article are provided as information resources only, and are not to be used or relied on to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information does not create any patient-doctor relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. The information is intended for health care professionals only. The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by licensed medical physicians. Please consult your doctor or health practitioner for any medical advice.