The immunity system is our natural barrier against infections and microorganisms. Inonotus obliquus - known as Chaga - has long been used in traditional medicine as one of the strongest immunomodulating substances. In this article, we will explain its benefits for the body and the additional properties of this interesting vital mushroom.
What is Chaga?
Chaga is a fungus found in the northern hemisphere in Europe, North America, and Asia. Although visually it doesn't look very attractive for consumption, the Chaga mushroom is gaining popularity in the Western world for its potential health benefits. Chaga contains huge amounts of a pigment called melanin. When the mushroom is exposed to sunlight, the outside parts of the mushroom will turn a deep black color, while the inside remains a bright orange color. Chaga has been used as a traditional medicine in Russia and other northern European countries, mainly to boost immunity and overall health state.
Chaga health benefits
The most commonly described health-promoting effects include improving immunity, lowering sugar levels, supporting cancer treatment, supporting cognitive function, and relieving inflammation. Due to its immunomodulatory function, benefits may also be felt in other medical conditions.
Chaga - immune support
Animal studies with the usage of Chaga suggest that this mushroom actually promotes the formation of specialized proteins (cytokines) that stimulate white blood cells. These are essential for fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses. Like other mushrooms, Chaga is rich in important nutrients such as iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper, and phosphorus. All of these nutrients contribute to the improvement of overall health. As a result, this mushroom can help fight infections ranging from minor colds to serious illnesses.
Chaga - diabetes
The Chaga mushroom may prove helpful for people with diabetes and insulin resistance. In animal studies, it lowered blood sugar levels compared to diabetic mice that did not receive the extract in the control group. One study showed a 31% reduction in blood sugar levels within 3 weeks, the results are promising, but keep in mind that they are based on animal models. There is still a lack of measurable human studies in the context of diabetes control properties of Chaga.
According to the study, rats with chemically induced diabetes achieved near-normal blood sugar levels after being fed a solution of Chaga-derived polysaccharides for six weeks. Researchers believe that the solution reduced inflammation of damaged pancreatic cells, allowing the pancreas to function as usual.
Chaga - Cancer
Several animal and test-tube studies have been conducted to determine if Chaga has the potential to prevent and slow the growth of cancer.
One study in an animal model (rodents to be specific) found a 60% reduction in tumor size. This study comes from Japan. Mice with lung cancer were given an intravenous infusion of Chaga for the course of three weeks. According to the researchers, the mice achieved a 25% reduction in tumor size compared to untreated mice. In individuals with metastases, tumor size was reduced by 60%.
The anticancer effect of Chaga is partly due to its high content of antioxidants (mainly triterpenes), which protect cells from free radical damage. This is demonstrated in a test tube study where tumor size reduction was observed for lung, breast, prostate, and colon cancer cells. The potential seems to be significant and we look forward to human studies in the context of Chaga supporting cancer treatment.
Chaga - cholesterol
As is well known, high cholesterol levels negatively affect health, including increasing the risk of various cardiovascular diseases. Several studies have also been conducted to check the possibility to reduce cholesterol levels through the administration of Chaga. Of course, we are talking about the reduction of low-density lipoproteins (LDL). An 8-week study in an animal model showed that the antioxidants contained in the Chaga mycelium reduced LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides levels. In other studies of this type, in addition to lowering LDL, an increase in the HDL fraction was observed.
Chaga side effects
The Chaga mushroom is generally well tolerated and does not cause side effects in healthy individuals. However, it is worth mentioning a few cases in which it can cause some unwanted side effects:
- Chaga contains oxalates and is not recommended for people with chronic kidney problems
- as it lowers blood sugar levels, Chaga preparation should not be used in people with diabetes
- this mushroom is not indicated for people taking blood thinners. Chaga may interfere with the blood clotting process.
- There are no studies on pregnant and breastfeeding women, so it is advisable not to use it during this period.
For ground mushrooms, it is recommended to use 1 to 2 teaspoons of Chaga at a time. It should be brewed for up to 15 minutes and drunk. For chunked mushroom, it should be boiled for a longer time in the water - about 30 minutes. The most convenient way of dosage is the capsule form, then you take 1-2 capsules at a time, depending on the amount of extract per taken capsule.
Where to buy Chaga?
Formulations with Chaga are widely available online, ranging from just powdered Chaga mycelium, coffee with a mixture of the vital mushrooms to dietary supplements with Chaga. When using powdered extracts which are non-standardized for active substances, we often have a problem when it comes to dosage. Standardized preparations, such as Apollo’s Hegemony Chaga, come to our aid so that we know how much we are taking and whether our extract is standardized to the polysaccharides and triterpenes that are the most beneficial substances contained in Chaga.