European medicinal polypores--a modern view on traditional uses

J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Jul 3;154(3):564-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.04.030. Epub 2014 Apr 28.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: In particular five polypore species, i.e. Laetiporus sulphureus, Fomes fomentarius, Fomitopsis pinicola, Piptoporus betulinus, and Laricifomes officinalis, have been widely used in central European folk medicines for the treatment of various diseases, e.g. dysmenorrhoea, haemorrhoids, bladder disorders, pyretic diseases, treatment of coughs, cancer, and rheumatism. Prehistoric artefacts going back to over 5000 years underline the long tradition of using polypores for various applications ranging from food or tinder material to medicinal-spiritual uses as witnessed by two polypore species found among items of Ötzi, the Iceman. The present paper reviews the traditional uses, phytochemistry, and biological activity of the five mentioned polypores.

Materials and methods: All available information on the selected polypore taxa used in traditional folk medicine was collected through evaluation of literature in libraries and searches in online databases using SciFinder and Web of Knowledge.

Results: Mycochemical studies report the presence of many primary (e.g. polysaccharides) and secondary metabolites (e.g. triterpenes). Crude extracts and isolated compounds show a wide spectrum of biological properties, such as anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic, and antimicrobial activities.

Conclusions: The investigated polypores possess a longstanding ethnomycological tradition in Europe. Here, we compile biological results which highlight their therapeutic value. Moreover, this work provides a solid base for further investigations on a molecular level, both compound- and target-wise.

Keywords: Fomes fomentarius; Fomitopsis pinicola; Fungi; Laetiporus sulphureus; Laricifomes officinalis; Piptoporus betulinus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Polyporales / chemistry*
  • Polyporales / metabolism