Chaga, scientifically known as Inonotus obliquus, is a parasitic fungus that grows on tree trunks, particularly those of birch trees. It can be found growing along the northern latitudes of Russia, Scandinavia, Korea, Japan, United States and Canada.
Predominantly, it is found growing in the cold Taiga forests.
The indigenous Siberians have used chaga for thousands of years and there is a long history of chaga being used in folk medicine for treating cancer, gastritis, ulcers and tuberculosis in Russia and northern Europe.
This lumpy, charcoal-colored mushroom has an earthy flavor and can be enjoyed as tea or coffee.
Here are 6 health benefits of chaga mushroom:
- Immune System Support
Chaga is a rich source of beta-glucans, a sub-group of polysaccharides, which are known for their ability to modulate the immune system. This is a fancy way of saying that chaga can either up-regulate or down-regulate the immune function based on what the body needs.
One of the ways our immune system communicates is by using signaling molecules called cytokines. These cytokine molecules act as chemical messengers to help organize and mount an immune response to fight off invading pathogens. Chaga has been shown to increase interleukin-6 (IL-6), a type of cytokine molecule, which can help support immune system function.
- Reduction of Inflammation
In one animal study researchers found that chaga extract can reduce inflammation due to ulcerative colitis by suppressing the expression of pro-inflammatory molecules.
Quorum sensing is a term used to describe the phenomenon of how bacteria communicate with each other. Chaga has been shown to have anti-quorum sensing properties meaning it can disrupt this communication system and prevent bacteria from growing and becoming pathogenic inside the human body.
Chaga has been shown to have anti-viral properties against several viruses including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1, hepatitis C virus, and herpes simplex virus (HSV).
- Cancer Treatment Support
Laboratory and animal studies show that chaga has direct anti-tumor properties and can inhibit progression of cancer. It has been shown to inhibit colon, liver and cervical cancer cell growth as well as melanoma cell growth.
- Improved Physical Endurance
One study found that mice were able to swim longer when given chaga mushroom polysaccharides. The researchers observed an increase in liver and muscle glycogen stores and a decrease in blood levels of lactic acid and urea nitrogen levels. This means chaga may be helpful in improving physical endurance and decreasing fatigue.
Safety and Possible Side Effects
There have been no clinical trials done to evaluate the safety of chaga mushroom in humans.
Some studies suggest chaga has platelet inhibiting properties and may potentiate the effects of blood thinning medications such as warfarin. Chaga may also lower blood sugar levels and may not be appropriate for people taking medication for diabetes.
Chaga is found to be high in oxalates, which may prevent the absorption of certain nutrients and can be toxic in high dosages. One case report of a 72 year-old Japanese woman with liver cancer who ingested 4-5 teaspoons of chaga mushroom powder daily for 6 months resulted in kidney damage.
Please check with your doctor before adding chaga mushroom to your diet.
[Antiviral activity of aqueous extracts of the birch fungus Inonotus obliquus on the human immunodeficiency virus].
Antiviral activity of Inonotus obliquus fungus extract towards infection caused by hepatitis C virus in cell cultures.
Aqueous extract from a Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (higher Basidiomycetes), prevents herpes simplex virus entry through inhibition of viral-induced membrane fusion.
Chaga Mushroom: 5 Health Benefits of This Ancient Medicine. https://draxe.com/chaga-mushroom/
Chaga Mushrooms And Cancer: What Does The Science Say? https://chagahq.com/chaga-mushroom-cancer/
Chemical characterization and biological activity of Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a medicinal “mushroom”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25576897
Effect of Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on physical fatigue in mice. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254627215301266
Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/
Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquusameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in mice. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874112004771?via%3Dihub
The History and Health Benefits of Chaga Mushroom Tea. http://www.ethnoherbalist.com/chaga-extract-mushroom-tea-benefits/