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International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms
IF: 1.211 5-Year IF: 1.394 SJR: 0.433 SNIP: 0.661 CiteScore™: 1.38

ISSN Print: 1521-9437
ISSN Online: 1940-4344

International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms

DOI: 10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v7.i3.60
pages 495-506

Antipox Properties of Fomitopsis officinalis (Vill.: Fr.) Bond. et Singer (Agarikon) from the Pacific Northwest of North America

Paul E. Stamets
University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Fungi Perfecti P.O. Box 7634 Olympia, WA 98507, USA

ABSTRACT

Polypore mushrooms have been used medicinally for thousands of years. The Greek physician Dioscorides first described the use of Fomitopsis officinalis, a wood conk (or agarikon), as a treatment against consumption in 65 AD. Its use as a topical anti-inflammatory agent also spans millennia. Other wood conks such as Ganoderma lucidum (Ling Chi or Reishi) have had a similarly long history of use in Asia. In the past 20 years, wood conks continue to be carefully explored for their immunomodulating and anticancer properties. More recently, mushrooms, including polypores, have been and are being explored for their antimicrobial properties. Of more than 200,000 pharmaceutical and natural products analyzed, and subsequent to the authors’ submitting more than 100 in vitro cultures of mushrooms to the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in coordination with the US National Institute of Health (NIH) and the US Defense Department (DOD)’s Bioshield BioDefense program, several tests show that the author's extracts of cultures originating from rare “old growth” polypore mushrooms demonstrated strong antiviral activity. Within verdant natural landscapes, trees hundreds of years old host ancestral strains of these elusive mushroom species. Species that are now rare, or in some cases thought to be extinct, still reside in the pristine old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest of North America. When clones from these mushrooms were grown in vitro and submitted for antiviral screening, several mycelial cultures produced antimicrobial agents effective against pox and other viruses. Notably, strains vary in their antiviral properties. Our mushroom genomes hold within them great potentials for staving off disease and barely have been explored. The fungal diversity within these genomes may prove critical for isolating the most active strains, similar to the lessons learned from the isolation of Penicillium chrysogenum strains that lead to the commercialization of penicillin, subsequently saving millions of lives. With deforestation, pollution, and industrialization, societies should reevaluate the importance of their natural forests in the context that they hold within them novel medicines of enormous socioeconomic and national defense importance.