When Otzi the Iceman was unearthed, scientists found Fomes Fomentarius in his pouch. This gave scientists the idea that the fungus has been used for various purposes since the dawn of humankind. It is used as mainly as tinder for starting fires. Its hard brackets also made it a good material for making hats, pouches, and other stuff one can usually make with animal leather.
Other names for this fungus include tinder conk mushroom, Amadou tinder, horse hoof fungus, Ice Man fungus, tinder fungus and tinder polypore.
What does Fomes Fomentarius mushroom look like?
The fruiting body of this polypore mushroom is very large. It is shaped like the hoof of a horse, thus one of its alternative names. It normally grows to more than 15 centimeters. The color varies, ranging from grey to an almost black hue. The most common color is brown.
Why is it called a polypore mushroom? Because it has thousands of little pores on the fruiting body of the fungus.
The Fomes Fomentarius mushroom is a parasitic fungus. It first enters a tree host through a broken bark. Once the mushroom establishes itself, it will cause the tree to eventually rot. It stays on the tree even if the tree has already been dead for a long time. The rotting tree provides a continuous supply of food for the fungus.
The Tinder Conk Mushroom fungus typically grows in brackets. Each bracket can grow to 5 to 45 centimeters across and 3 to 25 cm wide. The thickness is typically 2 to 25 cm. the brackets are woody and hard. The upper surface has a horny, hard crust, with grey zones and concentric grooves.
The flesh of Fomes Fomentarius is hard. It has a cinnamon-brown color and fibrous. The smell is slightly fruity with an acrid taste.
This is not an edible mushroom. However, it is rich in active compounds that have numerous health benefits.
Where can Fomes Fomentarius mushroom be found?
Fomes fomentarius is widely distributed. It can be found thriving naturally in southern and northern Africa, eastern portion of North America, and all throughout the Asian and European continent. The growth is at optimal temperatures of 81 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to30 degrees Celsius).
This Tinder Conk Mushroom fungus grows on hardwoods. In the northern regions, this mushroom often grows on birch trees. In the southern areas, tinder conk mushroom more commonly grows on beech trees.
Tinder conk mushrooms growing in the Mediterranean region typically choose oak as their host trees. This mushroom is also known to grow on lime, hickory, cherry, sycamore, hornbeam, alder, willow, poplar, and maple trees. Even softwoods like conifers are known to serve as host to tinder conk mushrooms.
Active Compounds of Tinder Conk Mushroom
Active compounds in Fomes Fomentarius medicinal mushroom include the following:
- Active polysaccharides
- Anti-complementary polysaccharides: MFKF-AP1, MFKF-AP1 beta, MFKF-AP2, MFKF-AP2 beta, and MFKF-NP
- PSK (polysaccharide krestin)
- Betulinic acid
- Matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor compounds
- Triterpene acids
- Melanin-glucan complex (major anti-infective)
Health Benefits of Fomes Fomentarius mushroom
Fomes Fomentarius is more popularly used as tinder for starting fires. But it has numerous alternative medicinal benefits, too, such as:
Betulinic acid in this medicinal mushroom has demonstrated strong antiviral properties. It is so potent that it is now being researched as a potential antiviral treatment for HIV.
This mushroom contains the compound piptamine. This compound has a very potent antibacterial activity. It can kill several bacterial strains, such as E. coli. Ancient texts also revealed that this fungus has been used as a treatment for tuberculosis in 200 AD.
Even from ancient times, Fomes Fomentarius has long been used as a natural material to stop bleeding. Surgeons use it during surgeries to stop bleeding. It is highly absorbent and easily keeps in place, which greatly helps in wound care. Hippocrates even described this mushroom in 5th BC as being used for the cauterization of wounds. This earned the medicinal mushroom the name “surgeon’s agaric”.
The Chinese use tinder conk mushroom as part of the treatment for different types of cancer in Traditional Chinese Medicine. They use it for treatment of throat cancer, cancer of the uterus and stomach cancer.
Its general supportive action on the immune system aids in enhancing the body’s natural anti-cancer ability. It stimulates the various immune cells and processes that discourage cancer and tumor cell proliferation.
This medicinal mushroom has also demonstrated angiogenesis inhibition. Active compounds inhibit the formation of new blood vessels that supply blood to tumor cells. Tumors need an abundant supply of blood in order to proliferate. In the absence of new blood vessels to supply their needs, tumor cell growth is inhibited.
Another study also found that active compounds in tinder conk mushroom showed more anti-cancer actions. These reduced the motility of tumor cells. These compounds also induced morphological changes that further discouraged tumor growth. All these effects only affected tumor cells, and the compounds were non-toxic to the body’s normal cells.