Skip to content
Home » Mushroom

Birch polypore is a medicinal mushroom you should know

Birch polypore is a medicinal mushroom you should know

You have probably seen birch polypores many times during your forest walks. I know I have. They are those very common white or brown hat-shaped mushrooms that grow on birch trees. And perhaps, just like I did, you don’t give them much thought. After all, they are just some tough polypores.

Well, I believe that opinion is going to change.


While it is true that the birch polypore is quite tough and bitter, it also has very interesting medicinal effects with a lot of research put into them.

When I found that out, I started studying them right away.

The currently preferred scientific name is Formitopsis betulina, but until very recently, it was referred to as Piptoporus betulinus.
The currently preferred scientific name is Formitopsis betulina, but until very recently, it was referred to as Piptoporus betulinus.

I was quite amazed by what I found and went to forage a basketful of birch polypores to try birch polypore tea on myself. And, after drinking it for a few days, I am here to share my newfound knowledge and experience with you right now.


Birch polypore is one of those mushrooms with more than one medicinal effect. Not only does it contain the polysaccharides typical for all mushrooms, but it also has other beneficial compounds that it absorbs from the birch tree that it grows on. For this reason, it has some effects very similar to those of the legendary chaga mushroom which also grows on birches.

A young birch polypore.


In  1991, when a glacier in north Italy receded, it revealed a very well-preserved 5300 years old frost-mummy of a hunter, quickly nick-named Ice Man. Scientists squeaked with delight, as this was an exceptional opportunity to study and understand the life of people who lived in Europe thousands of years ago.

Among other stuff this mummified Ice Man had on him were two balls, pierced and threaded on a leather thong. Paleontobotanical analysis proved that they were birch polypore mushrooms.

Scientists assume that the Ice Man used birch polypore to treat abdominal pains that were caused by whipworm parasitesBirch polypore is not only able to kill that type of parasite, but also serves as a laxative, able to rid the Ice Man of the dead parasite bodies from his intestines.

Apparently, birch polypore has been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. But there’s even more to it than the Ice Man could ever imagine.


Probably the most interesting effect for humanity is the potential to fight cancer. In the birch polypore, there are several promising compounds that might be used in the fight. Interestingly, all of them are named after birch (scientific name betula) or the birch polypore (piptoporus):

  1. The betulinic acid has inhibition effects on melanoma cells and doesn’t damage healthy cells.
  2. Betulin has antitumor effects.
  3. The glucan piptoporan has antitumor effects too and can also stimulate immunity.

In Poland, birch polypore is commonly used in folk medicine, especially against stomach cancer. It is foraged in massive numbers. In fact, it almost went extinct in there!

Heart-shaped young birch polypore mushroom


Birch polypore’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects are caused by the antibiotic Piptamine, discovered in the year 2000.

Healers use birch polypore tea or tincture to treat infections, while the pharmaceutical industry is looking into making a marketable antibiotic based on this naturally occurring chemical.


Polyporenic acids A and C contained in the birch polypore inhibit the growth of the bacteria Escherichia colli and Mycobacterium phlei, and help against inflammation and edema as well.


Some nucleic acids in the birch polypore have antiviral effects. Above all, they have the ability to protect the organism from encephalitis, a deadly viral infection transferred by tics.


Birch polypore is probably the oldest known laxative. If you drink birch polypore tea, you need to make it really strong to have that effect.

Many mushrooms have medicinal effects. For an extensive list of effects of various mushrooms, check out this post.


Brown polypore has a firm cap 2-10 inches wide and 1-4 inches tall. At the early stage, it is round and all white, but becomes pale-brown, cracked, and sometimes undulated with age. It has tiny white pores on the bottom side. It only grows on birch.


There are a few similar mushrooms but none of them grow on birch trees. As long you identify the tree properly, you can be sure that you have a birch polypore. Also, none of the look-alikes are poisonous.


Birch polypores grow exclusively on dead or weakened birch trees of the Northern hemisphere. They mostly appear during fall, but you can find them all year.

Birch polypores on a fallen birch tree


Birch trees have white, light-yellow, or light-gray bark with dark horizontal lines and often thin papery plates peeling out. Birch leaves are almost triangular with two rounded corners and a serrated margin.


Whether you intend to make tea or tincture from the birch polypore, you will first need to dry the mushroom. Cut it to slices about 1/4 inch thick and spread them on a sheet of baking paper in a dry warm place. The process of dehydration should take about 36 hours. You will know that the mushrooms are dry when they lose all elasticity.

Birch polypore being dried

Seal the dehydrated mushroom in a jar. If you store it in a cold dark place, the mushroom will keep for years.

Birch polypore mushroom tea

Recipe by Carlos WarrenCourse: TeaCuisine: American, Eastern European, Polish


Prep time


Cooking time







Birch polypore mushroom medicinal tea is popular in folk medicine, especially in Poland.


  • 2 medium-sized pieces of dried birch polypore

  • 2 cups water


  • Cook the dried birch polypore in 2 cups of water for 90 minutes.
  • If water seems to be running out, add more of it.


  • The resulting drink is a slightly bitter tea-like liquid with a mushroomy tone.
  • If you mind the bitterness, add honey, sugar, or some fruit syrup.


The flavor of birch polypore tea was a pleasant surprise to me. I really liked the slightly bitter mushroom flavor. But beware. Using more mushrooms or having them leach for too long results in a disgustingly bitter liquid.

I have not felt the laxative effect of it even after repeated use, nor did my sister who drank it with me once, nor did 2 of my Instagram friends that messaged me about it when I put a photo of the tea in my story.

After 3 days of drinking the tea, I sleep better despite some stress occurring in my life, which makes me feel better. I am unable to judge the other effects of the tea.

I don’t want to drink it for longer because I am afraid the antibiotic effects could hurt my friendly intestinal microorganisms.


As an easy to get and relatively durable material, birch polypore used to be quite popular for various utility uses.


I have never tried this, but applying birch polypore to a bleeding injury is supposed to stop the bleeding.


Entomologists use pieces of flesh from the center of young birch polypores as mounting pads that they pin their collection to. Such pads last for centuries.


The modern man may not use a classic razor anymore, but birch polypore has been used to polish razors for hundreds of years. It is actually called the razor step in some regions.


Back when people were dependant on fire, they needed tinder to make a fire. And before they learned how to make fire, they used tinder to transfer fire. Birch polypore, along with tinder fungi, was typically used to make tinder.


While almost all sources list the birch polypore as inedible, a few people eat very young specimens, before they become tough. Even then, they are mediocre mushrooms at best and not worth a recommendation.

Share this post on social!

Carlos Warren

Growing up in Texas, I was fascinated by the world of science and invention, thanks in large part to my father's work at Dow Chemical Company. However, my true passion lay in the natural world, and I became an expert in organic gardening and composting at a young age. I spent hours studying the microbiological communities in our family garden, using a microscope to define the quality of the soil. My love for farming and gardening led me to explore new techniques and methods, constantly pushing the boundaries of what was possible.