University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School researchers reported that the mushroom, Rozites caperata, otherwise known as “gypsy”, may provide protection against herpes, influenza A, and other viruses. In vitro test, the mushroom prevented herpes simplex 1 and 2 from growing and it lessened the severity of herpes-related eye disease in mice. The mushroom also blocked influenza A, varicella zoster virus, chicken pox, and a respiratory virus.

According to Curtis Brandt, a medical school professor of ophthalmology, the active part of this mushroom, a compound called RC-183, has been patented. According to Brandt, “This is a novel compound with a structure unlike anything that’s ever been described. We’re hoping our studies of how it works will reveal new information about the way viruses in general replicate.”

Rozites caperata typically grows among the roots of jack pine trees in places like northern Wisconsin and the state of Washington. The mushroom’s properties were initially discovered by clinical virologist Frank Piraino. When Piraino was director of a large urban lab, he experimented with grinding up different kinds of mushrooms that he found around Milwaukee and mixing them with viruses to test the effects. He discovered that the gypsy mushroom had preventive powers, but due to lack of time, he filed away the results. However, when he retired he brought his findings to Brandt.

The Development of the Antiviral Drug RC 28 from Rozites caperata (Pers.:Fr.) P.Karst. (Agaricomycetideae)
The Development of the Antiviral Drug RC 28 from Rozites caperata (Pers.:Fr.) P.Karst. (Agaricomycetideae)

Antiviral Res. 1999 Sep;43(2):67-78. Isolation and partial characterization of an antiviral, RC-183, from the edible mushroom Rozites caperata –