Tour of Truffles: Aromas, Aphrodisiacs, Adaptogens, and More

Mycobiology. 2021 Jul 1;49(3):201-212. doi: 10.1080/12298093.2021.1936766. eCollection 2021.


Truffles are the fruiting bodies of ascomycete fungi that form underground. Truffles are globally valued, culturally celebrated as aphrodisiacs, and highly sought-after delicacies in the culinary world. For centuries, naturalists have speculated about their mode of formation, and in cultures surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, many species have been prized as a delectable food source. Truffle fruiting bodies form underground and emit a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Truffle volatiles are believed to have evolved to attract animals that disperse their spores. The main VOCs identified from truffles include sulfur compounds, such as dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and dimethyl disulfide (DMDS); in addition, 1-octen-3-ol and 2-methyl-1-propanol have been found in most truffle species. Humans use pigs and dogs trained to detect truffle VOCs in order to find these prized subterranean macrofungi. Truffles have pharmacological potential, but until more reliable cultivation methods become available their high price means they are unlikely to see widespread use as medicinals.

Keywords: Truffles; VOCs; aromas; ascomycetes; gourmet fungi.

Publication types

  • Review

Grant support

Research in the Bennett laboratory has been supported by a cooperative agreement from the U. S. Department of Agriculture and a grant from the Eppley Foundation.