(Tinder, Used for Tinder)
Tinder polypore, False tinder polypore, Amadou, Iceman fungus, Hoof fungus, Hoof Conk, Tsuriganetabe
Where there is Birch, there is F. fomentarius. North-Eastern United States, Alaska, Northern Mainland Europe. Found on Hardwoods.
There is usually only one or two fruiting bodies found per tree. It is a perennial, parasitic mushroom. Each layer of tubing represents a new year of growth. The thin crust is striped with various shades of grey, while the flesh is dark golden-brown, and the pore surface is pale grey to white. The flesh of the fruiting body is also known as the trauma layer. It is this trauma layer that is used as a natural gauze, tinder, and amadou felt.
Spore print – pale yellow
Amadou, derived from a Northern French dialect, meaning “amorous”, or “inflames life”. This meaning is exemplified in the mushrooms historical use as tinder. This word also translates to the english word, spunk, meaning courage, bravery or determination, originally meant spark. (Spunk is a combination of spark and funk). Interestingly, the fungal essence is used for the burnt out artist, to help them get their spark back.
A 5000 year old Iceman, Otzi, was found with this polypore. In 1991 hikers found his preserved remains in a glacier in the Otzal Alps between Austria and Italy. It is thought that he was carrying this mushroom to preserve fire, use as insect repellent, and as his first aid kit.
The name, Fomes fomentarius means, “to use as tinder”. It is extremely flammable, but has a nice slow burn, perfect for long travels through the mountains. Additionally, and a perk for the insect-loved traveler, the smoke produced by the burning of this mushroom works as an excellent insect repellent. In addition to flame and insect deterrent, this mushroom is a powerful hemostat.
There is documentation of Hippocrates using F. fomentarius as a styptic in the fifth century BC. Also used as a styptic by surgeons, barbers and dentists, giving it the name “agaric of the surgeons”. There is also note of the Okanagan-Olville native Americans using this as a styptic, a wound dressing, and a cauterizing agent. They would place a piece of the softened amadou layer over the affected area and ignite. This amadou layer was also used as a wound dressing and styptic throughout Europe. In a German speaking Alpine area in Europe, where this mushroom was called Wundschwamm, F. fomentarius was sold in pharmacies in the form of styptic bandages. While carving the mushroom’s crust off to expose this styptic layer of amadou, I sliced my finger with a serrated knife and there was heavy bleeding. I quickly wrapped a piece of the amadou around my finger. My finger stopped bleeding within minutes, and the amadou stayed on my finger as a nice bandage.
This mushroom was also used in ritual smoking ceremonies, in Germany and Austria, and by the Khanty people in West Siberia. They would burn the fruiting bodies to obtain smoke when a person died. The smoke would burn as to avoid any influence of the deceased on the living. This smoke has also been used similar to moxibustion. The ignited mushroom is placed over different parts of the body to warm the meridians, helping with the movement of blood and qi.
Currently studied as a treatment for esophagus, gastric and uterine carcinoma. Recent research shows distinct antibiotic activity against Bacillus subtillis and staphylococcus aureus with antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus.
Also, anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities have been documented.
How to make the Amadou
Sharp serrated carving knife
Hammer, ideally wide headed, like a Leatherman’s hammer
Washing Soda Solution (sodium carbonate)
- Cut off the crust of the mushroom
This is done carefully with a sharp knife, serrated works well. You want to be careful here to not cut off too much of the trauma layer.
- Cut the off the tubes*
This is done by making deep cuts in the tubes and then cracking them apart, and peeling them away from the trauma layer, careful to not peel too much of the trauma layer off with them. Remaining tubes can be cut away with a knife.
3. Soak trauma layer over night to a week in washing soda solution, or boil for at least 20 minutes
- Pound damp trauma layer
5. Soak again, pound again, and repeat until desired thickness reached.
6. Let the amadou felt (trauma layer) dry out, and use, as you like!
* Don’t throw away the mushroom parts that have been removed from the trauma layer. Simmer these in water and drink as an immune boosting tea, or use the tubes as a candlewick.
Resources for Amadou products:
Resource for F. Fomentarius mushrooms: