The Iceman Mushroom
Piptoporus betulinus, the Birch Poypore, develops from a small white spherical swelling on the side of dead or living birch trees. It quickly grows into a large shelf-shaped mushroom up to 10 inches (25cm) across. Barbers used to 'strop' or sharpen their razors on strips cut from these polypores, and so they are also sometimes called Razor Strop Fungus.
An extremely useful medicinal fungi, Birch Poypore has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It also contains compounds that are effective against intestinal parasites.
Pieces of Birch Polypore were found on the 5000 year old mummy known as Ötzi the Iceman. Ötzi's frozen and mummified body was found in September 1991 by hikers in the Ötztal Alps on the border between Austria and Italy. It is uncertain why Ötzi carried the pieces of Birch Polypore, but he did have intestinal parasites in his gut. Did he use the Birch Polypore as a medicine to help control these parasites?