Phellinus igniarius

(Made of cork, relating to fire)

Willow Bracket, Fire Sponge


Igniarius was the name given to this cracked and charred looking perennial conk. It is a fitting name. This mushroom looks as though it can withstand the harshest of elements – flames, lightning, rain and even drought. A tough looking mushroom, but a loving one just the same. A spore travels through the air and lands on a tree. A hardwood tree, like a willow or a Birch, whose wood is the most perfect place for mycelium to spread its network and feast. It lands on the trees that have stood for as long as they were meant to stand, for once inhabited by this new mycelium, their fate is sealed and they will not stand much longer. Although the tree’s life is to come to an end, the mycelium fruits, and in this mushroom a new miniature ecosystem emerges. A microscopic city forms in the pores on the underside and the cracked crust is the home of small centipedes, beetles and spiders. Even in this rough, weathered looking fruiting body, there is an abundance of life. The tree will die, but the life inside of the mushroom will continue and eventually the tree will break down and return to the soil. The strength that this mushroom emanates is a suggestion of resilience to the elements, and so by taking this mushroom as medicine, the person may become more resilient too.


Perennial, releases spores throughout summer and fall. Found on hardwoods. Often found on Willow, Salix sp., but also found on Birch, Betula sp. and Alder, Alnus sp.

Active Known Constituents5,9

Three sesquiterpenes: 3S,9R,10S-3-hydroxy-11, 12-O-isopropyldrimene(1), 3S, 9R, 10S-3, 11, 12-trihydroxydrimene and 3S, 4S, 9R, 10S-11, 12, 14-trihydroxydrimene

Three steroids: 24R-ergosta-4, 6, 8, 22-tetraen-3-one, stigmasta-7, 22-diene-3b, 5a, 6a-triol, and 5a, 8a-epi dioxyergosta-6, 22-diene-3b-ol

Fourteen cyclo-dipeptide: cyclo (L-Pro-L-Val) cycle (L-Leu-D-Pro) cyclo (L-Leu-L-Pro), cyclo (ILe-Pro), cyclo (Gly-Leu), cyclo (Phe-Ser), cyclo (Ala-Pro), cyclo (Ala-Phe), cyclo (4-HyP-Phe), cyclo (L-Phe-D-Pro), cyclo (D-Phe-D-Pro), cyclo (6-HyP-Phe), cycle (Gln-Pro), and cycle (Asn-Leu);

Nine other compounds: N-acetyl-phenylalanine, adenosine, phenyldiethanol, o-hydroxy-phenylethanol, benzoic acid, p-methoxybenzoic acid, m-methoxybenzoic acid, hexadecanoic acid, and 3-pyridinecarboxylic acid.

-Naringenin, cyclophellitol, sakuranetin, aromadendrin, folerogrenin, eriodictyol, coumarin, scopoletin, phelligridins, phelligridimers, inniaris A-D, hispolon, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde, protocatechualdehyde, syringic acid, protocatechuic acid, caffeic acid, isoerosterone, octadecyl ferulate.

Spore Print – White

Therapeutic Actions

Antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-viral, hepato-protective, immune-stimulating, immune-modulating

Medicinal Uses

  • Prevented stroke in mice1
  • Hispolon is an active phenolic compound found in Ignarius and when isolated, had significant anti-tumor activity. A study2 was done to look at its effect on lung cancer. Hispolon was found to induce cell apoptosis and GO/G1 cell cycle arrest.
  • Hispolon has also been found to exert anticancer effects on Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).4
  • The water extract is effective against influenza virus A and B, including H1N1, H2N3, and the Avian flu. The extract interferes with events in the virus replication cycle including viral attachment to the target cell.3
  • Ethanol extracts inhibited the proliferation of human hepatocarcinoma cell lines as well as rat heart vascular endothelial cells. When the extract was given in combination with Chemotherapy there was a synergistic effect in the inhibition of the proliferation of hepatocarcinoma.6 This study as well as others 5 suggest hepatoprotective qualities in the ethanol extract.
  • The biologically active compounds that modulate the immune system have been found to have therapeutic value for slowing multiple sclerosis progression in mice.7 After three weeks of being injected with the extract every other day, demyelination and immune cell infiltrations in the spinal cord were examined and there was a significant decrease in the daily incidence rate and clinical score of autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
  • Used as an emmenagogue, invigorates blood circulation9
  • Fruiting body inhibits neuraminidase from H3N2, H1N1, and H5N1 influenza viruses¹¹ (neuraminidase in an important glycoprotein in influenza viruses that cleaves sialic acid from the infected cell surface and releases virus progeny allowing it to then infect other cells – and so neuraminidase inhibitors are well sought after in medicine)

Ethnobotanical Use:

Native Americans made elaborate boxes to hold the ashes of the fungus. These boxes have been collected from many sites along the Alaskan coast. The boxes were made from exceptional materials of bone, ivory and wood. The fungus was burnt to an ash, which was mixed with tobacco and chewed. It was reported that this gave it a powerful kick. It is known now that the alkaline quality of the ash quickened the effects of the nicotine entering the bloodstream. This species is used rather than other polypores because the Native Americans recognized this as having unique properties and gave a kick that other species did not.8 The Yup’ik of Western Alaska called the fungus arak, and the mixture of tobacco and the ash iqmik – “thing to put in the mouth” It has been reported that 52% of first nations people used this fungus.

Arctic tribes boiled the fruiting body and drank the decoction to soothe the stomach.9


One Study10 looked at the best way to extract polysaccharides from the mycelium, and found the optimal conditions for the highest polysaccharide yield were from an aqueous solution of 70 degrees Celsius, for 1.5 hours and the ratio of mycelia to water being 1:6.2.

When I have made extracts with this mushroom I have found it is easiest to use the fresh mushroom, it becomes very woody and hard to process when it is in it’s whole dry form. Look at extraction process for F. pinicola for instructions.

Work Cited

  1. Suabjakyong, Papawee, Ryotaro Saiki, Leo J. L. D. Van Griensven, Kyohei Higashi, Kazuhiro Nishimura, Kazuei Igarashi, and Toshihiko Toida. “Polyphenol Extract from Phellinus Igniarius Protects against Acrolein Toxicity In Vitro and Provides
  1. Qiuge Wu, Yan Kang, Hui Zhang, Hongmin Wang, Yuanhua Liu, Jing Wang, The anticancer effects of hispolon on lung cancer cells, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Volume 453, Issue 3, 24 October 2014, Pages 385-391,
  1. Lee, Sangmoo, et al. “The Anti-Influenza Virus Effect Of Phellinus Igniarius Extract.” Journal Of Microbiology (Seoul, Korea)51.5 (2013): 676-681. MEDLINE Complete. Web. 13 May 2015.
  1. Pei-Ching Hsiao, Yi-Hsien Hsieh, Jyh-Ming Chow, Shun-Fa Yang, Michael Hsiao, Kuo-Tai Hua, Chien-Huang Lin, Hui-Yu Chen, and Ming-Hsien Chien “Hispolon Induces Apoptosis through JNK1/2-Mediated Activation of a Caspase-8, -9, and -3-Dependent Pathway in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Cells and Inhibits AML Xenograft Tumor Growth in Vivo” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2013 61 (42), 10063-10073
  1. Wu, Xiuli, et al. “[Studies On Constituents Of Cultures Of Fungus Phellinus Igniarius].” Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi = Zhongguo Zhongyao Zazhi = China Journal Of Chinese Materia Medica36.7 (2011): 874-880. MEDLINE Complete. Web. 13 May 2015.
  1. Tuzz-Ying Song, Hung-Chi Lin, Nae-Cherng Yang, Miao-Lin Hu, Antiproliferative and antimetastatic effects of the ethanolic extract of Phellinus igniarius (Linnearus: Fries) Quelet, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 115, Issue 1, 4 January 2008, Pages 50-56
  1. Li, Lan, Guang Wu, Bo Young Choi, Bong Geom Jang, Jin Hee Kim, Gi Ho Sung, Jae Youl Cho, Sang Won Suh, and Hyoung Jin Park. “A Mushroom Extract Piwep from Phellinus Igniarius Ameliorates Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis by Inhibiting Immune Cell Infiltration in the Spinal Cord.” BioMed Research International2014 (2014): 1-11. Web.
  1. Blanchette, Robert A. “Fungus ashes and tobacco: the use of Phellinus ignarius by the indigenous people of North America” Department of Plant Pathology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul. Feb 2001: 15 (1)
  1. Rogers, Robert Dale. The Fungal Pharmacy: The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms and Lichens of North America. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2011. Print.
  1. Xia Guo, Xiang Zou, Min Sun, Optimization of extraction process by response surface methodology and preliminary characterization of polysaccharides from Phellinus igniarius, Carbohydrate Polymers, Volume 80, Issue 2, 12 April 2010, Pages 344-349
  2. Kim J, Kim D, Hwang BS, et al. Mycobiology Neuraminidase Inhibitors from the Fruiting Body of Phellinus igniarius. 2016:117-120.