Tricholoma Matsutake: The Pine Mushroom Benefits & Identifcation

What is the Matsutake Mushroom?

In the Japanese culture, the matsutake has long been prized for its flavour and distinct taste.  A decade ago, the world market was estimated at US$300 million and retail prices were known to reach US$1250/kg (Yun et al., 1997) which makes it one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world. In Japan – the major market for fresh matsutake – native supply has dwindled and most matsutake is imported, although demand still outstrips supply (Amaranthus et al., 2000). Most of Japan’s supply comes from China, North and South Korea, Canada, the USA, Morocco and Taiwan (Yun et al., 1997). Because of the importance of maintaining mushroom quality during the shipping process, some research has been done on determining the effect of varying CO2 and O2 concentrations on mushroom quality during storage. The optimum storage conditions were a low O2 concentration (2.5%) with 5%-10% CO2 concentration, approximately 100% relative humidity and a temperature of 1°C (Kaji et al., 1993)

In Korea, T. matsutake sold for the market are classified according to their appearance, in a scheme developed by the National Forestry Cooperatives Federation:

1st grade:  highest quality, over 8 cm long with an unopened pileus.
2nd grade: generally 6–8 cm long, but their widths are irregular and their pilei are not opened.
3rd grade: less than 6 cm long or have one-third opened pilei
4th grade: completely opened pilei.

A method has been developed to discriminate between the different grades of Matsutake using metabolomic analysis with proton-NMR and principal component analysis (Cho et al., 2007). The authors demonstrate that the metabolites choline, trehalose, threonine, leucine/isoleucine, succinic acid, alanine, fumaric acid are the components that allow for the discrimination of different grades of raw matsutake.

T. matsutake forms a solid, tight white aggregate of mycelia and mycorrhizas below the litter layer called a “shiro”, which in Japanese means white color, castle or place (Peter, 2006).

The pine mushroom, Tricholoma Matsutake (S. Ito & S.Imai) Singer


Armillaria matsutake S. Ito & S. Imai 1925


Morphological studies (Kytövuori, 1988) suggested, and DNA sequencing analysis has confirmed (Bergius and Danell, 2000) that the so-called “Swedish matsutake”, Tricholoma nauseosum, is the same species as T. matsutake. That being the case, the following synonyms for the former apply to the latter:

Tricholoma nauseosum (A. Blytt) Kytovuori
Armillaria nauseosa A. Blytt
Tricholoma caligatum var. nauseosum (A. Blytt) Bon

The common name matsutake is also sometimes used to refer to the species T. caligatum (Viv.) Rick. and the American species T. magnivelare (Peck) Redhead. Other related species include T. bakamatsutake, T. quercicola, T. fulvocastaneum and T. robustum (Yun et al., 1997).

Common names

Pine mushroom

Bioactive compounds

A number of sterols have been isolated from T. matsutake (Ohnuma et al., 2000):
– (22E)-23-methylergosta-5,7,22-triene-3β-ol
– 5α,6α-epoxy-(22E)-ergosta-8,14,22-triene-3β,7α-diol
– 5α,8α-epoxy-(22E)-ergosta-6,22-diene-3β-ol
– 5α,6α-epoxy-(22E)-ergosta-8(14),22-diiene-3β,7α-diol
– 5α,6α:8α,9α-diepoxy-(22E)-ergost-22-ene-3β,7α-diol
– 3β,5α-dihydroxy-(22E)-ergosta-7,22-diene-6-one
– 3β,5α,9α-trihydroxy-(22E)-ergosta-7,22-diene-6-one
– 3β,5α,9α-trihydroxyergost-7-ene-6-one
– 3β,5α,9α,14α-tetrahydroxy-(22E)-ergosta-7,22-diene-6-one
– (22E)-ergosta-7,22-diene-3β,5α,6β-triol
– ergost-7-ene-3β,5α,6β-triol
– (22E)-ergosta-7,22-diene-3b,5α,6α,9α-tetrol
– (22E)-ergosta-7,22-diene-3β,5α,6β,9α-tetrol

Shortly after, Yaoita et al. (2001) added a couple more to the list:
– 5α,9α-epidioxy-(22E)-ergosta-7,22-dien-3β,6β-diol
– 3β,5α,9α,14β-tetrahydroxy-(22E)-ergosta-7,22-dien-6-one

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Matsutake Mushroom Benefits & Medicinal Properties

Antioxidant/Free-Radical Scavenging Activity/Antiinflammatory

A recent study examined the free radical-scavenging ability (FRSA) and inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) production by various solvent extracts obtained from four grades of pine mushroom (Lim et al., 2007). It was found that extracts from first-grade pine mushrooms had greater FRSA than the other grades, which showed sequentially lower FRSA according to the grade of mushroom; inhibition of NO production showed a similar trend. At a concentration of 2 g/L of extract, the FRSA, which ranged from 30.5% (water fraction) to 60.1% (ethyl acetate fraction), compares favorably to some other medicinal mushroom species, such as Grifola frondosa, Morchella esculenta and Termitomyces albuminosus. Furthermore, the ethyl acetate and butanol fractions (fractions which had the highest levels of phenolics and flavonoids) both substantially inhibited nitric oxide production and suggests that matsutake extract may show promise as an anti-inflammatory agent.


The increase of fat mass associated with obesity is due in part to an increase in the number of fat cells, or adipocytes. This increase in the number of fat cells (hyperplasia) results from recruitment of pluripotent stem cells present in the vascular stroma of adipose tissue. A model cell culture system, using C3H10T1/2 stem cells, has been developed that models this process. T. matsutake was one of several mushrooms (the others were Lentinus edodes, Lyophyllum shimeji, Flammulina velutipes and Grifola frondosa) that demonstrated an heat-labile ability to inhibit the conversion of C3H10T1/2 into adipocytes (Ohtsuru et al., 2000).


Matsutake was shown to have anti-tumor activity back in 1969 (Ikekawa et al., 1969).  A mycelial preparation of this mushroom prepared in bulk culture was shown to have antitumor activity against the in vivo growth of mouse syngeneic fibrosarcoma (Ebina et al., 2002) as well as preventive activity against the formation of azoxymethane-induced precancerous lesions in the colon (Matsunaga et al., 2003).

Mushroom Expert
Fantastic Forage: Wild matsutake mushrooms – by Hsiao-Ching Chou, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month,  September 2000 discusses the American matsutake


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