Salt and Limes

The Enemy of Alcohol- Ink Cap Mushrooms

Alternate names: Inky Cap, Alcohol Inky Cap and Common Inky Cap.

Ink Cap Mushrooms have a distinctive black ink rim which is created when the cap and gills begin digesting themselves from the bottom edge upward. They are edible but can be toxic if paired with alcohol (full story below).


First, some boring biochemistry- Alcohol is converted to Acetaldehyde by Alcohol Dehydrogenase. Acetaldehyde is then converted to Acetic Acid by Acetaldehyde Dehydrogenase.

One of the most interesting thing about this mushroom is that it inhibits the enzyme Acetaldehyde Dehydrogenase. This means that if eaten with alcohol (like all food should be), it leads to the accumulation of Acetaldehyde which is a major factor in hangovers. Acetaldehyde can also cause a more immediate onset of facial flushing, nausea and tachycardia. This is the same mechanism as the commonly used medication Antabuse (Disulfiram) which is used to treat Alcohol abuse by making people feel horrible if they drink. Approximately 33% of Asians have genetically low levels of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase which leads to facial flushing and the other symptoms mentioned above after drinking alcohol.

This article was written by Erik Paulson

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