Fungi always played a vital role in the unfolding of life on planet earth.
Their central purpose is to decompose organic material. In the process, they constantly balance the levels of bacteria and other microorganisms in their vicinity.
Common Names: Clinker polypore, Birch mushroom
Pharmaceutical Names: Inonotus Obliquus Polyporus Obliquus
Taste: Sweet and slightly bitter.
Acitive Ingredients: A variety of active triterpenes, including: inotodiol, obliquol, lanosterol, polysaccharies, tannins, steroids, alkaloids, and aromatic acids.
Chaga, (pronounced “tsjaa-ga”) is the Russian name for the mushroom Inonotus obliquus. In the Norwegian language, the name is for this powerful fungi is “kreftkjuke”, which translates literally as “cancer polypore”. This traditional name may be a result of its appearance but it may also shed light on its medicinal properties.
Chaga has been collected because of its medicinal effects for hundreds of years. It is particularly sought after in Russia where the most potent sources are in the northern Taiga forest. Chaga is a mushroom that grows high up on the bark of particular birch trees, types of which also develop in the Eastern United States and Canada.
This potent plant is connected to stories of its healing properties originating in the traditional cultures of Siberia, the Baltic, and Finland. The fruiting bodies of Chaga have been used in traditional Eastern European and Russian folk medicine for the treatment of various diseases. It has been used since the 17th century for the treatment of various cancers. In 1955 it was recommended and approved by the Medical Academy of Science in Moscow for use in the treatment of cancer.
Nobel Prize laureate Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote of the medicinal use and value of chaga in his autobiographical novel “Cancer Ward”, which was based on his experiences in a hospital in a Tashkent Cancer Ward in the 1960’s. In this book the protagonist is released from a prison camp only to be diagnosed with cancer. While undergoing standard treatment with radiation, he seeks out the traditional folk treatment of chaga therapy by a country doctor. Solzhenitsyn’s own cure took place in Tashkent, where he underwent integrated treatment using traditional Scientific developments have reinforced traditional claims regarding chaga. The most recent and definitive analytical work on this amazing mushroom was done by Dr. Kirsti Kahlos. Dr. Kahlos is a pharmacologist at the School of Pharmacy, University of Helsinki, Finland. Kahlos and her colleagues discovered a wide assortment of active triterpenes, which have anti-tumor properties. Of those studied, the most active was identified as inotodiol.
Researchers also found and isolated betulin. Betulin is found in the Birch wood of the trees in which Chaga mushrooms grow. It has anticancer properties. The chaga fungus absorbs and collects the betulin from the birch and converts converts it into a form that can be consumed orally. Other studies of the chaga mushroom have found active polysaccharides. These are common in most mushrooms with medicinal properties such as maitake and shitake. These are the same polysaccharides that are known to stimulate the immune system. Kahlos and other researchers have found significant anti-cancer activity against specific tumor systems and against specific influenza viruses using active elements from chaga mushrooms.
Chaga demonstrated hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) effects in mice with diabetes mellitus (Sun JE 2008). It’s anti-inflam matory and pain alleviating properties are believed to be a result of the inhibition of the inflammation generating nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) (Park 2005). An extract of chaga reduced the oxidative stress in lymphocytes, which are an immune system component, in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (Najafzadeh M 2007). Chaga also exhibited anti-gene-mutation properties (Ham 2009), thus protecting against genetic diseases. A water-based extract of chaga demonstrated pro-apoptotic (cell death) actions against colon cancer cell growth via up-regulation of genes (specifically Bax and caspase-3) and down-regulation of Bcl-2 (Lee SH 2009). Water-based extracts of chaga also inhibited growth of human hepatoma (liver cancer) cells by arresting the cell cycle in Go/G1 phase and by inducing selective death of cancer cells (Youn MJ 2008). The discrimination between healthy cells and cancer cells may be a result of activation from a change in the pH level of the tumor microenvironment (Shashkina MY 2006). Betulinic acid, a constituent of chaga discussed above, is cytotoxic and triggers cell-death through a direct effect on the mitochondria (energy generating element) of cancer cells. With no energy, cancer cells cannot divide. Other cancer cell death inducing factors result in genetic fragmentation; this causes an inability for the cancer to replicate (Youn MJ 2009). Like many medicinal mushrooms, chaga is rich in beta glucans which have immunomodulating activities.
Beta glucans bind to Complement Receptor 3 (CR3) that allows the immune cells to recognize cancer cells as “non-self” (Caifa-Chen WZ 2007). This encourages the body to attack and kill cancerous growths.
(References: References: Caifa Chen WZ, Gao X, Xiang X, et al. Aqueous Extract of Inonotus obliquus (Fr.) Pilat (Hymenochaetaceae) Significantly Inhibits the Growth of Sarcoma 180 by Inducing Apoptosis. Am J Pharmacol Toxicol. 2007. 2( 1): 10-17. Ham SS, Kim SH, Moon SY, et al. Antimutagenic effects of subfractions of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus ) extract . Mutat Res. Jan 10 2009;672( 1): 55-59. Lee SH, Hwang HS, Yun JW. Anti-tumor activity of water extract of a mushroom, Inonotus obliquus, against HT-29 human colon cancer cells. Phytother Res. Apr 15 2009. Najafzadeh M, Reynolds PD, Baumgartner A, Jerwood D, Anderson D . Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Biofactors. 2007;31( 3-4): 191-200. Park YM, Won JH, Kim YH, et al. In vivo and in vitro anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of the methanol extract of Inonotus obliquus. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct 3 2005;101( 1-3): 120-128. Shashkina MY, Shashkin PN, Sergeev AV. Chemical and Medicobiological Properties of Chaga (Review). Pharmaceutical Chemistry Journal 2006. 40( 10): 560-568. Sun JE, Ao ZH, Lu ZM, et al. Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Jun 19 2008;118( 1): 7-13. Youn MJ, Kim JK, Park SY, et al. Potential anticancer properties of the water extract of Inonotus [corrected] obliquus by induction of apoptosis in melanoma B16-F10 cells. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan 21 2009;121( 2): 221-228. Youn MJ, Kim JK, Park SY, et al. Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) induces G0/ G1 arrest and apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells. World J Gastroenterol. Jan 28 2008;14( 4): 511-517.)
Chaga mushrooms are rich in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, including:
- B-complex vitamins
- vitamin D
- amino acids
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