Referred to as “Gift from God” or perhaps 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, North Carolina mountains and Canada. Because 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”) originates from the Russian word for mushroom (czaga) which hails from the word for fungus. In Norway Chaga (kreftkjuke’) translates to “cancer polypore” in reference to the fungal appearance and alleged medicinal properties.
Utilization of reishi spore oil in Chinese medicine goes back thousands of years where locals inside the mountain region of Siberia drank Chaga tea daily, inhaled Chaga and used it topically (on the skin). With time its popularity spread to the west in the Urai Mountains and Baltic parts of Eastern Europe.
Medicinal Mushrooms to advertise Health
The International Society for Mushroom Science (ISMS) suggest within their online article, “Products of medicinal mushrooms as an excellent source of health supplements,” that mushrooms may be useful as nutraceuticals — food or food products that provide health and medical benefits. “These compounds called ‘mushroom nutriceuticals’ exhibit either medicinal or tonic qualities and also have immense potential as nutritional supplements… ” writes ISMS.
Research also suggests mushrooms, cultivated molds, chaga mushroom extract and lichens might 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 essential to create at the very least a number of the active components bioavailable, the extent a nutrient (or medication) can be used from the body.
Like all natural materials, whole mushrooms have a great deal of variability in quality and benefit. Single chemicals may have intense responses and with that, uncomfortable side effects.
“Nutriceuticals, which are extracted products, occupy a middle ground between these extremes and have proved to be very helpful. However, to acquire 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 from the polysaccharides seen in some mushrooms, including Chaga, and found the results comparable to chemotherapy and radiation, only without side effects. Among the meepqi beneficial properties in Cordyceps Sinensis Extract, the polysaccharides have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory and immune balancing properties which can stimulate your body to generate 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 as well as offer utilization in hypertension and diabetes. The Russian journal Vestnik Dermatologii i Venerologii reported in 1973 about the advantages of Chaga extract for psoriasis.