Referred to as “Gift from God” or even the “King of Herbs,” the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) has been respected for hundreds of years throughout Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, Northern United States, N . C . mountains and Canada. Considering that the 16th century Chaga has been utilized in folk and botanical medicine throughout Eastern Europe. A birch fungus, Chaga grows on living trunks of mature birch trees in cold climates.
The name Chaga (pronounced “cha-ga”) comes from the Russian word for mushroom (czaga) which comes from the term for fungus. In Norway Chaga (kreftkjuke’) results in “cancer polypore” in reference to the fungal appearance and alleged medicinal properties.
Use of reishi spore oil in Chinese medicine extends back many thousands of years where locals within the mountain region of Siberia drank Chaga tea daily, inhaled Chaga and used it topically (on the skin). Over time its popularity spread to the west of the Urai Mountains and Baltic parts of Eastern Europe.
Medicinal Mushrooms to Promote Health
The International Society for Mushroom Science (ISMS) suggest inside their online article, “Products of medicinal mushrooms as a good source of nutritional supplements,” that mushrooms could be useful as nutraceuticals — food or food items that provide health and medical benefits. “These compounds called ‘mushroom nutriceuticals’ exhibit either medicinal or tonic qualities and have immense potential as health supplements… ” writes ISMS.
Research also suggests mushrooms, cultivated molds, Ganoderma Lucidum Extract and lichens may have antiviral, antimicrobial, anticancer, antihyperglycemic, cardioprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Medicinal mushrooms are classified into two species: edible or extracted. Chaga is an extracted species. The extraction process is necessary to make at the very least some of the active components bioavailable, the extent a nutrient (or medication) can be utilized from the body.
Like several natural materials, whole mushrooms have a lot of variability in quality and benefit. Single chemicals may have intense responses along with that, unwanted side effects.
“Nutriceuticals, which are extracted products, occupy a middle ground between these extremes and possess shown to be very useful. However, to have a top quality and trustworthy product is of paramount importance.” (ISM).
Potential Health Benefits of Chaga
Researchers in Japan and China have studied anticancer properties in the polysaccharides present in some mushrooms, including Chaga, and discovered the results much like chemotherapy and radiation, only without unwanted effects. Amongst the meepqi beneficial properties in chaga mushroom extract, the polysaccharides have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory and immune balancing properties which might stimulate the body to produce natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells fight infections and battle tumor growth.
In 1958 researchers in Finland and Russia found Chaga may offer anticancer benefits for breast, liver uterine and gastric cancers along with offer use within hypertension and diabetes. The Russian journal Vestnik Dermatologii i Venerologii reported in 1973 about the benefits of Chaga extract for psoriasis.