Medicinal Mushroom Part 5: Chaga, the Siberian Wonder

I was first introduced to Chaga (under another name), over a campfire talk by a Cree Elder from Northern Alberta, in the late 1980s. I was one of several instructors in a survival course on the lovely Kootenay Plains.  We were gathered to put on a weeklong course on various primitive technologies that could be used as survival skills. The Cree Elder was passing around the circle the ‘cork that lived on birch trees’, one of his most sacred medicinal substances.  With opened ears I listened to all the virtues he shared on that night graced with a full moon. It had been used for many things among the Cree, from fire starter, for carrying sacred coals, to clothing, to one of the most important medicines for a multitude of dramatic diseases.

I kept my attention open to little tidbits of information coming my way over the years, often looking up at the big chunk of the mushroom I had on my office bookshelf.  By the early 2000s we started using it in the clinic on a occasional basis. It wasn’t until I visited Siberia and the indigenous Shaman I was working with really convinced me, that this was one of the more important herbs I could use.

The delicious tea brewed from Chaga encourages compliance with its users. Some have said the taste is somewhere between mild Coffee and Chocolate, with a hint of wintergreen. It’s a nice festive flavor that I am enjoying as I write this blog.  I have even seen it on the menus of funky coffee shops, selling Chaga Lattés and Chaga Cappuccinos.

The other day a client came into the Clinic and asked one of the receptionists if she had ever heard of Chaga and she started to snicker. He asked her what was so funny about his request? She shared that her and five of her co-workers were presently drinking Chaga tea that they had just brewed and would he like some. He had some with joy and bought some to take home, “as much for its taste, as for its medicinal properties.”

Again this brings up the question: are these mushrooms medicines or Super Foods?

We drink coffee for its taste, but we also use it to keep us awake or to help us focus, both clearly medicinal purposes. I weigh in on the side of Super Food.

Chaga has a long and famous history of use in both Eastern Europe, Russia and by Siberian and Northern Canadian Indigenous people for hundreds and even thousands of years. Siberian Shamans called it “the gift from heaven”. Chaga is usually boiled as a tea and used on a regular basis. Some like to call it the ‘King of the Adaptogens.’

This mushroom can be made into an instant tea by adding hot water to ½ to 1 tsp. (depending on strength desired) of the steamed prepared mushroom powder extract, or by boiling chunks of the raw mushroom.  You can also add it to blender drinks, soups, stews, sauces and the like.

Research

  • Used to aid in digestion, it was employed to reduce bloating
  • In Russia, an extract of Chaga is known as befungin and is an approved medicine1
  • Anti-cancer and immune-modulating qualities have been heavily researched2,3,4  
  • It is known to increase survival rates5 of test animals It contains betulin and inotodiol, both of which show promise in leukemia models6,7
  • Employed as one of the strongest antioxidants ever found, giving it quite a reputation8,9
  • Chaga can be used as an anti-inflammatory, reducing pain sensation10
  • Blood sugar regulating properties have also been noticed for this mushroom11
  • Anti-viral12,13

  Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus, Kabanoanatake) has exhibit a wide range of biological functions, including anti-tumor activity; its property as an adaptogen, with its ability to prevent a large range of infectious diseases, is of great interest.14 In 16th century folklore in western Siberia and Russia, the decoction of Chaga mushroom was known to be used as a safe and non-toxic folk remedy to treat cancers and digestive disorders.15,16,17

I have been using it quite a bit for digestive problems, as it helps relieve a bloated feeling. It is effective if the bloated feeling is from the digestive tract or the female area. It works even better if it is used for a combination of the two issues.

Chaga’s constituent betulin is active in reducing Syndrome X (Metabolic Syndrome) by regulating cholesterol, insulin sensitivity and reducing atherosclerotic plaques.18

Herbalist David Winston maintains that it is the strongest anti-cancer medicinal mushroom – with good reason, not only from his own clinical evidence, but also due to the overwhelming research done in several countries. It is most specific for cancer of the digestive tract (stomach, pancreas, liver), but has also shown success for breast, uterine, lung, melanoma, bone and leukemia.19,20,21  Chaga is quite safe to use in conjunction with chemo or radiation therapies.22

It has also been used and shown in studies to be active for:

  • Aging, allergies, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory23
  • Inflammatory bowel disease24
  • Inflammatory skin conditions (psoriasis)25

Dosage:

Myco-feron: 2 – 3 capsules; 3 – 3 times daily

Five mushroom Blend: ½ – 1 teaspoon, twice daily

Chaga Super Food: ½ – 1 teaspoon, twice daily

Chaga chunks: ½ – 1 teaspoon, decocted for 5 – 10 minutes, drink several times daily. (can be reused 2 – 3 times)

  1. Kukulianskaia TA, Kurchenko NV, Kurchenko VP, Babitskaia VG (2002). “[Physicochemical properties of melanins produced by Inonotus obliquus(“chagi”) in the nature and the cultivated fungus]” (in Russian). Prikl. Biokhim. Mikrobiol. 38 (1): 68–72
  2. Taji S, Yamada T, Wada S, Tokuda H, Sakuma K, Tanaka R (November 2008). “Lanostane-type triterpenoids from the sclerotia of Inonotus obliquus possessing anti-tumor promoting activity”. Eur J Med Chem 43 (11): 2373–9.
  3. Nakata T, Yamada T, Taji S, et al. (January 2007). “Structure determination of inonotsuoxides A and B and in vivo anti-tumor promoting activity of inotodiol from the sclerotia of Inonotus obliquus”. Bioorg. Med. Chem. 15 (1): 257–64
  4. Taji S, Yamada T, Wada S, Tokuda H, Sakuma K, Tanaka R (November 2008). “Lanostane-type triterpenoids from the sclerotia of Inonotus obliquus possessing anti-tumor promoting activity”. Eur J Med Chem 43 (11): 2373–9.
  5. Kim YO, Park HW, Kim JH, Lee JY, Moon SH, Shin CS (May 2006). “Anti-cancer effect and structural characterization of endo-polysaccharide from cultivated mycelia of Inonotus obliquus”. Life Sciences 79 (1): 72–80.
  6. Nomura M, Takahashi T, Uesugi A, Tanaka R, Kobayashi S (2008). “Inotodiol, a lanostane triterpenoid, from Inonotus obliquus inhibits cell proliferation through caspase-3-dependent apoptosis”. Anticancer Research 28 (5A): 2691–6
  7. Mullauer FB, Kessler JH, Medema JP (2009). “Betulin is a potent anti-tumor agent that is enhanced by cholesterol”. PLoS ONE 4 (4): e1
  8. Ajith, TA and Janardhanan KK: Indian medicinal mushroom as a source of antioxidant and antitumor agents;  J Clin. Biochen. Nutr. 2007;40:157
  9. Najafzadeh M; Chaga mushroon extract inhibits oxidative DNA danage in lymphcytes of patient; Biofactor; 2007;31:191-200
  10. Park YM, Won JH, Kim YH, Choi JW, Park HJ, Lee KT; In vivo and in vito anti-inflamatory and anti-nociceptive effects of the methanol extract of Inonotus obliquus; J. Med Food; 2007;10”80-90
  11. Mizuno T. (1999), “Antitumor and hypoglycemic activities of polysaccharides from the sclerotia and mycelia of Inonotus obliquus”, International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 1 (1): 301–316
  12. Kahlos, K. et al., 1996. “Preliminary tests of antiviral activity of two Inonotus obliquus strains.” Fitopterapia 6 (4) 344-7.
  13. Mizuno, T., C. Zhuang, K. Abe, H. Okamoto, T. Kiho, S. Ukai, S. Leclerc & L Meijer, 1996. “Studies on the host-mediated antitumor polysaccharides, Part XXVII.” Mushroom Science & Biotechnology 3(2), 53-60.
  14. Bleicher P, Mackin W. Betafectin PGG-glucan: a novel carbohydrate immunomodulator with anti-infective properties. J Biotechnol Healthcare. 1995;2:207–222
  15. Reid DA: Inonotus obliquus (pers. Ex Fr.) pilat in Britain. Trans Br Mycol Soc 67(2) : 329-332, 1976.
  16. Saar M: Fungi in Khanty fork medicine. J Ethnopharmacol 31(2) : 175-179, 1991.
  17. Wasser SP: Medicinal mushrooms as a source of antitumor and immunomodulating polysaccharides. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 60 : 258-274, 2002.
  18. Jing-Jie Tang, Jia-Gui Li, Wei Qi, Wen-Wei Qiu, et al; Inhibition of SREBP by a Small Molecule, Betulin, Improves Hyperlipidemia and Insulin Resistance and Reduces Atherosclerotic Plaques; Cell Metabolism – 5 January 2011 (Vol. 13, Issue 1, pp. 44-56)
  19. Kahlos K, Kangas L, Hiltunen R. Antitumor activity of some compounds and fractions from an n-hexane extract of Inonotus obliquus in vitro Acta Pharm Fennica 1987; 96: 33–40
  20. Burczyk J, Gawron A, Slotwinska M, Smietana B, Terminska K. Antimitotic activity of aqueous extracts of Inonotus obliquus Boll Chim Farm 1996; 135: 306–9
  21. Babitskaya VG, Scherba VV, Ikonnikova NV, Bisko NA, Mitropolskaya NY. Melanin complex from medicinal mushroom Inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.) Pilat (Chaga) (Aphyllophoromycetidae) Int J Med Mushrooms 2002; 4: 139–45
  22. Mi Ja Chung, Cha-Kwon Chung, Yoonhwa Jeong, and Seung-Shi Ham; Anticancer activity of subfractions containing pure compounds of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract in human cancer cells and in Balbc/c mice bearing Sarcoma-180 cells; Nutr Res Pract. 2010 June; 4(3): 177–182.
  23. Park, Y. K., Lee, H. B., Jeon, E. J., Jung, H. S., and Kang, M. H. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay. Biofactors 2004;21(1-4):109-112
  24. Najafzadeh, M., Reynolds, P. D., Baumgartner, A., Jerwood, D., and Anderson, D. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Biofactors 2007;31(3-4):191-200

25  Dosychev, E. A. and Bystrova, V. N. [Treatment o psoriasis using “Chaga” fungus preparations]. Vestn.Dermatol.Venerol. 1973;47 on the host-mediated antitumor polysaccharides, Part XXVII.” Mushroom Science & Biotechnology 3(2), 53-60.

 

2 comments

  1. alan wallis   •  

    Your telephone call concerning medicinal mushrooms was informative and much appreciated. On researching the subject further it seems there are many opinions on the best way to obtain maximum bioavailability : un-extracted mushrooms, alcohol tinctures, hot water extracts. What is marketing and what is reality ?

    • admin   •     Author

      We like to used the 1:1 powder extract (steamed processed) for the economical reasons. We make them into tea, sauces, soups, blender drinks and the like. The solid extract 8:1 – 15:1, which are more concentrated, more convenient, but more expensive. The tincture mushrooms are usually too weak to be effective accept for younger children.

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