Chaga, the Mushroom of Immortality!
Known by the Japanese as ‘the diamond of the forest’, by Siberians as ‘the gift of god’ and ‘the mushroom of immortality’, chaga mushrooms have been widely used as a great herbal medicine for centuries by Siberians and
The Many Nicknames of Chaga
Known by the Japanese as ‘the diamond of the forest’, by Siberians as ‘the gift of god’ and ‘the mushroom of immortality’, chaga mushrooms have been widely used as a great herbal medicine for centuries by Siberians and the Chinese.
What is Chaga?
Chaga mushrooms are non-toxic mushrooms with extremely high amounts of antioxidants. These mushrooms differ from other mushrooms, as they grow by extracting nutrients from living trees instead of dead ones. Chaga mushrooms primarily grow on birch trees and are only found in the coldest locations of the northern hemisphere. In addition to this exclusivity, Chaga mushrooms take at least five years to mature, and are very rare. Also, they cannot be cultivated. Attempts to cultivate them have resulted in significantly reduced and different bioactive constituents.
In addition, out of a hundred trees harvested, only 2 to 3% of the harvested mushrooms are certified as“superior grade”. Many commercial foragers are highly motivated to harvest them because of their high value.
Nutrition Profile of Chaga
Chaga mushrooms contain several beneficial bioactive constituents. Their antioxidant content is among the highest of any herb or fungus in the world.1 They also contain considerable amounts of betulin and betulinic acid, which several studies showto have anti-cancer effects.3 Betulin is also effective to balance and maintain the metabolic system in the body. Aside from these powerful constituents, Chaga mushrooms also contain B vitamins, minerals such as copper,calcium, and zinc, as well as essential enzymes.1 These constituents are essential for daily life, and deprivation of these nutrients will result in reduced immunity and increased risk of disease.
Superiority of Canadian Chaga Mushrooms
Higher Melanin Concentration
Canadian Chaga mushrooms have higher concentrations of melanin than those found in other regions, thus providing more antioxidant activity and anti-cancer effect This is because Canadian Chaga mushrooms receive relatively higher amounts of ultraviolet light compared to those found in other regions. Canadian Chaga mushrooms, as a result, produce more melanin and contain higher concentrations of Vitamin D.1
From Unpolluted Northern Canada
Chaga mushrooms are known to have higher quality nutrients when they are grown in colder regions because they are able to store valuable nutrients in themselves. Despite this fact,most commercially marketed Chaga mushrooms tend to be harvested in warmer climates because it is faster and cheaper. Northern Canadian Chaga Mushrooms are slowly grown in extremely cold weather where there is no environmental contamination. This is why they are better quality than the ones harvested from other regions.
Composition of Chaga Mushrooms
The most valued constituent in Chaga mushrooms is betulinic acid. This acid is naturally formed by the mushroom using the betulin fed from the birch tree that the mushroom resides on. Betulinic acid is effective against lymphatic disorders and tuberculosis, and recent clinical studies have shown that it is also effective against tumors.
Like many other medicinal mushrooms, Chaga mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans, which perform immuno-modulating activity. Since cancer cells consist of our own body cells,the immune system does not recognize them as foreign. Hence, the cancer cells grow without interference from the immune system. Beta-glucans bind to the complement receptor 3 (CR3) that allows the immune cells to recognize cancer cells as foreign, and eliminate them.6 Also, beta-glucans are involved in modulating blood cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that regular consumption of food containing beta-glucans reduces the cholesterol level in the blood, lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.7.
The Chaga mushroom has extremely high levels of Superoxide Dismutase, an antioxidant that works for nearly every single cell in the body.1 Antioxidants benefit health by removing free radicals from the bloodstream. They have a wide range of health benefits. Some studies have shown that antioxidants reduce the signs of aging by minimizing wrinkles and preserving the texture of the skin. They can even protect the skin from sunlight by reducing the incidence of sunburn.
Chaga helps us to ‘adapt’ to our surroundings and respond accordingly without stress. Stress creates havoc on all levels for our general health. When a person faces the ‘change,’adaptogens help a person adapt and respond to that change by stabilizing physiological processes through an alteration of metabolic and hormonal pathways.
Major Benefits of Chaga Mushroom
Boosts Immune System Against Diseases and Infections
The immune system classifies Chaga as an adaptogenic Biological Response Modifier (BRM). It not only stimulates the body’s immune function when necessary, but can also slow it down when it’s overactive. The beta-glucans are widely known to be responsible for their adaptogenic action, but many researchers believe it is actually the synergy between several, if not all, constituents that are responsible for this.Because of this property, Chaga can be used to neutralize the side effects of pharmaceuticals, to compensate for age-related declination of our immune function, and, in general, to help us deal with stresses that negatively impact our daily lives.
Betulinic acid and the phytosterols in Chaga also play an important part in boosting the immune system. Betulinic acid, one of the unique components of Chaga, has demonstrated anti-HIV properties.9 In folk medicine, chaga was often used to treat gastritis and gastrointestinal related problems. Since most ulcers are caused by bacteria such as helicobacter pylori, a well functioning immune system will reduce the risk.
A high quality Chaga extract includes the sclerotium, the outer layer of Chaga. Sclerotium contains a massive amount of a specific fungi-melanin and antioxidants, boosting your immune system further.
Oxidation is a chemical process that happens in our body everyday. Individual cells use oxidation to harmonize and maintain normal body function. Although necessary, at the same time oxidation yields free radicals, which cause damage or death to cells. Free radicals can affect any cell in our body. It can be your brain cells or your liver cells, and this damage is often permanent.
It is important that our cells protect themselves from this damage so they can continue to work in harmony.Antioxidants are molecules that fight oxidation. Simply put, antioxidants minimize and mitigate the oxidizing effect of free radicals. Chaga mushrooms have an extremely high concentration of the antioxidant superoxidedismutase. SOD has the ability to reduce oxidation damage in nearly every single cell in our body.
Supports Cardiovascular Health
There are two forms of cholesterol- LDL (Low- Density Lipoprotein) and HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein). Cholestrol helps with many body functions such as hormone production. However,a high concentration of cholesterol can clog and narrow arteries. HDL could actually work to remove cholesterol from arteries, but LDL could be an artery-clogging plague. High LDL could jeopardize your cardiovascular health by constraining the amount of oxygen arteries carry to the heart. Research has suggested that the betulinic acid which is present in high concentration in Chaga mushrooms can help break down ‘bad’ cholesterol in the bloodstream.1 In addition, studies regarding ß-glucans, a part of the polysaccharides in Chaga, indicate that they can lower cholesterol levels.
1. Ingram, Cass. D.O. Wild Forest Chaga—The King of All Herbs, Mushroom ofImmortality. 2010.
2. Park YK, Lee HB,Jeon EJ, Jung HS, Kang MH. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damagein human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay.Biofactors.2004;21(1-4):109–112.
3. Lemieszek MK et al. Anticancer effects of fraction isolated fromfruiting bodies of Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.)Pilát (Aphyllophoromycetideae): in vitro studies. Int J Med Mushrooms.2011;13(2):131-43.
4. Kim, Yong Ook;Park, Hae Woong; Kim, Jong Hoon; Lee, Jae Young; Moon, Seong Hoon; Shin, ChulSoo (2006). “Anti-cancer effect and structural characterization ofendo-polysaccharide from cultivated mycelia of Inonotus obliquus”. LifeSciences 79 (1): 72–80.
5. JonnalagaddaSC, Corsello MA, Sleet CE. Betulin-betulinic acid natural product based analogsas anti-cancer agents. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013 Dec;13(10):1477-99.
6. 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 JPharmacol Toxicol. 2007. 2(1):10-17.
7. Aarsæther E,Straumbotn E, Rösner A, Busund R. Oral β-glucan reduces infarction size andimproves regional contractile function in a porcine ischaemia/reperfusionmodel. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2012 Apr;41(4):919-25.
8. Hyun KW, Jeong SC, Lee DH, Park JS, Lee JS.Isolation and characterization of a novel platelet aggregation inhibitorypeptide from the medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus. Peptides. Jun2006;27(6):1173-1178.
9. Qian K, BoriID, Chen CH, Huang L, Lee KH. Anti-AIDS agents 90. novel C-28 modifiedbevirimat analogues as potent HIV maturation inhibitors. J Med Chem. 2012 Sep27;55(18):8128-36. Epub 2012 Sep 14. 10. Sawada N, et al. Betulinic acid augments the inhibitory effects ofvincristine on growth and lung metastasis of B16F
10. melanoma cells in mice. BrJ Cancer. 2004 Apr 19;90(8):1672-8.
11. Lu X, Chen H, Dong P, Fu L, Zhang X. Phytochemical characteristics andhypoglycaemic activity of fraction from mushroom Inonotus obliquus. J Sci FoodAgric. 2010 Jan 30;90(2):276-80.
12. Thornton, Dwight. “Fiddlehead Heaven -Harvesting Chaga.” How To Harvest Chaga Mushrooms. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb.2014.
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