Chaga Mushrooms – The Ultimate Superfood and Tonic – Health Benefits of Chaga

Chaga mushrooms

What is a chaga mushroom?

Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a fungi that grows on birch trees and is the most potent antioxidant on this planet. It tops the other famous antioxidants such as green tea, moringa tree and many more.

12 facts about chaga and benefits of chaga / click on the image to enlarge it

12 facts about chaga and benefits of chaga

Click here to see the 12 facts about chaga as a large image

Beneficial health properties of chaga mushrooms

Chaga is a primary adaptogen, cancer fighter, immune system modulator, anti-tumor agent, gastrointestinal tonifier, longevity tonic and genoprotective agent (DNA-shielding).
Chaga’s purifying, detoxifying and healing properties have been known in Russia for centuries. People in Siberia still brew and drink chaga instead of black tea or coffee. Russian scientists have noticed that in areas where people regularly drink chaga tea, the rate of cancerous diseases among local folk have been much lower than in other regions and illnesses connected with stomach are almost unknown there. Many people in Siberia who drink chaga daily, usually live very long and healthy lives, some even over 100 years.

Chaga mushrooms contain: polysaccharides, alkalines, phyto-nutrients, organic acids and many important minerals and micro-elements such as calcium, zinc, magnesium, chromium and others. Various substances found in chaga possess powerful anticancer and anti-tumor properties. Many anticancer properties are now being attributed to beta glucans and melanin. Chaga has a high level of melanin that protects DNA and fights radiation by activating the pineal gland.

According to the Russian Medical Academy, chaga mushrooms:

• have a positive effect against lung and liver cancer
• calm the nervous system
• are proven to positively affect various stomach diseases and ulcers
• stimulate the immune system
• help to reduce blood sugar and fight diabetes

In Russia, chaga was approved for public use against cancer by the Medical Academy of Science in Moscow in 1955. Therefore Russian scientists are very confident about the healing properties of chaga, because numerous studies and clinical trials have been conducted in this country since then.

There is a vast amount of research on the beneficial health properties of chaga mushrooms: (*Further research and references are below)

• Highly valued throughout Asia and Europe as both a health super food, tonic, brain booster and a potent medicine
• Improves health, preserves youth and increases longevity and boosts ‘chi’ (life energy)
• Using chaga mushrooms can help to get rid of stones and sand in kidneys (nephrolith)
• As a result of more than 1600 research studies over the past 40 years – including anti-cancer and anti-tumor research – immune deficiencies, diabetes, HIV, hormonal imbalance in vivo and in vitro studies have been improved
• Siberian chaga mushrooms studies include research into: breast, lung, stomach, melanoma, rectal, liver  and pulmonary cancers, diabetes, ulcers, TB, cardiovascular-related, leukemia, and HIV (see the extensive chaga research below)
• Supportive clinical results: 85% and 78% reduction on lung and breast carcinoma, respectively; 89.9% erythrocytes in bone marrow. Research shows that beta glucans found in chaga can ward off tumors, cardiovascular, immune deficiencies, viral, bacterial, and parasitic diseases

In short, chaga mushrooms are one of the most potent superfoods, tonics and natural medicines available.

Interest in chaga in the West began when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1967 book Cancer Ward introduced his readers to chaga’s use as a traditional Slavic anti-cancer remedy. Another traditional remedy (related to birch trees) for all kinds of health problems (including caner) is birch sap juice which has similar health benefits such as detoxing and antioxidant properties.

Chaga mushrooms and antioxidants comparison table

Chaga mushrooms and antioxidants comparison table

Chaga mushrooms have the highest ORAC score (Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity) for antioxidants ever recorded in any natural food!
Chaga mushrooms extract has 1,104 ORAC units per gram. Compared with other foods rich in antioxidants, such as acai, pomegranates and blueberries, chaga mushrooms much higher in antioxidants, with more capacity to wipe out free radicals. Chaga is the most powerful, concentrated antioxidants known on this planet (my second favourite antioxidant tea comes from the moringa tree and then organic green tea). Antioxidants improve health and slow ageing because, as the National Cancer Institute explains: “Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals.”

Top antioxidant foods (according to researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Ageing at Tufts University):
1. Prunes  2. Raisins  3. Blueberries  4. Blackberries  5. Strawberries  6. Raspberries  7. Plums  8. Oranges 9. Red grapes  10. Cherries
Vegetables: 1. Kale  2. Spinach  3. Brussels sprouts  4. Alfalfa sprouts  5. Broccoli flowers  6. Beetroot  7. Red bell peppers      8. Onions  9. Corn (but best to avoid since all corn is genetically modified now) 10. Eggplant

How to use chaga mushrooms

1) Drink tea made of chaga mushrooms. This is my favourite way. It’s very easy. Get chaga mushroom online or better still try to find it locally (although this might be easier said than done!) Boil a small piece of chaga in a large amount of water for 30 minutes and then drink the tea. If it’s too strong, dilute it with some boiled water. You can reuse it for at least a month! Just add some more water next day and this time boil it for 1-2 minutes and then drink the tea. Keep reusing it until the tea is very weak – i.e. the colour is almost white. If the chaga tea is not too strong it has a very nice taste. I use glass cookware and keep the chaga on my stove all the time, drinking it two to three times a day or whenever I need it. (It’s a great anti-hangover remedy because it’s highly alkaline and detoxing). If you’re not using it continuously, then dry whatever is left over in an oven (NOT microwave oven!) and you can keep it for a long time (otherwise, if you leave it in the open air for a couple of days it will become mouldy!). NOTE: Rinse your mouth after drinking chaga tea – especially when it becomes very dark – because it might colour your teeth if you’re drinking it daily.

2) Chaga mushrooms drops. You can get chaga mushroom in liquid form / drops online – just add it to water.

3) Chaga mushroom tablets. The chaga mushroom tablets are an easy way to take chaga.

4) Chaga mushroom powder is another way to take chaga. Just boil the powder and drink it or pour it into your unadulterated bath water.

But I believe the best way to get the most benefit from chaga mushrooms is to drink the tea.

Other products from birch trees
To completely embrace the birch tree healing properties, I use only xylitol – a healthy sugar alternative made of birch tree and I drink birch juice/sap.

Precautions for use of chaga
There is little evidence of contraindications for using chaga, but one should be aware of taking chaga in conjunction with immune suppressing medicines, the effects of which chaga may negate (e.g. cyclosporin containing products, used after a transplant). Additionally, consuming chaga mushroom in combination with blood-thinning medications may magnify their effects. Chaga may also interact with diabetes medications, which may cause blood sugar levels to fall too low. The long-term use of chaga in people with damaged nervous system may result in hyperexcitability. Chaga is not recommended for use in the case of several intestinal diseases such as chronic colitis or dysentery. Chaga  may magnify the effects of anticoagulant medications such as warfarin and aspirin. Chaga is contraindicated for patients who are using penicillin or glucose given intravenously. It is always best to consult your doctor first, especially if you have some chronic diseases, or are pregnent or using specific medication (especially anticoagulant and hypoglycemic drugs).

How chaga mushrooms look like and where to find them

Chaga mushrooms are quite rare and not easy to find. The grow on birch trees (sometimes chaga is called birch mushroom) and usually like wet terrain, near rivers or streams. Chaga mushrooms like cold weather and are more present in northern parts of countries (Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Canada, etc). If you want to see the range of images of chaga mushrooms just google ‘chaga mushroom’ and click on Images. The chaga specimen below, I found in Poland. I was lucky because it was winter and there were no leaves on the trees so I could spot it easily.

My first chaga mushroom - harvested on 3 Feb 2014

My first chaga mushroom – harvested on 3 February 2014 in Poland

Chaga mushroom broken in half to reveal how it looks inside

Chaga mushroom broken in half to reveal how it looks inside

Jan Cisek and his first chaga mushroom found in Poland

Jan Cisek and his first chaga mushroom found in Poland

Chaga mushrooms are quite rare and difficult to find so I was over the moon when I spotted my first chaga mushroom by the road in Poland (I’ve been looking for chaga for over a year now). It was growing very high on the birch tree, 4 meters above the ground, but I’ve managed to knocked it down with a very long piece of wood.

Where to buy chaga online

Oliveleaf has a selection of chaga mushroom products that are very easy to use.

Chaga mushroom products

Chaga mushroom products

*Chaga mushrooms research and references (a selection)

Some of the research and reference on chaga mushrooms’ healing properties are listed below

Chaga and Other Fungal Resources; Assessment of Sustainable Commercial Harvesting in Khabarovsk and Primorsky Krais, Russia by David Pilz, 2004

Separation of an aqueous extract Inonotus obliquus (Chaga). A novel look at the efficiency of its influence on proliferation of A549 human lung carcinoma cells.
Mazurkiewicz W, Rydel K, Pogocki D, Lemieszek MK, Langner E, Rzeski W. Acta Pol Pharm. 2010 Jul-Aug;67(4):397-406.PMID: 20635536 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINEAnticancer 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.
Chung MJ, Chung CK, Jeong Y, Ham SS. Nutr Res Pract. 2010 Jun;4(3):177-82. Epub 2010 Jun 29.PMID: 20607061 [PubMed – in process]

Optimization of hydroxyl radical scavenging activity of exo-polysaccharides from Inonotus obliquus in submerged fermentation using response surface methodology.
Chen H, Xu X, Zhu Y. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2010 Apr;20(4):835-43.PMID: 20467262 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Chaga supplementation resulted in a 54.9 percent (p < 0.001) reduction of H2O2 induced DNA damage within the patient group and 34.9 percent (p < 0.001) within the control group … Conclusively, Chaga extract reduces oxidative stress in lymphocytes from IBD patients and also healthy individuals when challenged in vitro (Najafzadeh et al., 2007).

Phytochemical characteristics and hypoglycaemic activity of fraction from mushroom Inonotus obliquus.

Lu X, Chen H, Dong P, Fu L, Zhang X. J Sci Food Agric. 2010 Jan 30;90(2):276-80.PMID: 20355042 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Anti-inflammatory effects of Inonotus obliquus in colitis induced by dextran sodium sulfate.

Choi SY, Hur SJ, An CS, Jeon YH, Jeoung YJ, Bak JP, Lim BO. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2010;2010:943516. Epub 2010 Mar 10. Review.PMID: 20300439 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Cancer cell cytotoxicity of extracts and small phenolic compounds from Chaga [Inonotus obliquus (persoon) Pilat].

Nakajima Y, Nishida H, Matsugo S, Konishi T. J Med Food. 2009 Jun;12(3):501-7.PMID: 19627197 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Antioxidant activities of extracts and subfractions from Inonotus Obliquus.

Liang L, Zhang Z, Wang H. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009;60 Suppl 2:175-84. Epub 2009 Jul 1.PMID: 19585318 [PubMed – in process]

Anti-inflammatory effect of Inonotus obliquus, Polygala senega L., and Viburnum trilobum in a cell screening assay.

Van Q, Nayak BN, Reimer M, Jones PJ, Fulcher RG, Rempel CB. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Sep 25;125(3):487-93. Epub 2009 Jul 3.PMID: 19577624 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Progress of research on Inonotus obliquus.

Zhong XH, Ren K, Lu SJ, Yang SY, Sun DZ. Chin J Integr Med. 2009 Apr;15(2):156-60. Epub 2009 Apr 29. Review.PMID: 19407959 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Antitumor activity of water extract of a mushroom, Inonotus obliquus, against HT-29 human colon cancer cells.

Lee SH, Hwang HS, Yun JW. Phytother Res. 2009 Dec;23(12):1784-9.PMID: 19367670 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Oxidative stress response of Inonotus obliquus induced by hydrogen peroxide.

Zheng W, Zhao Y, Zhang M, Wei Z, Miao K, Sun W. Med Mycol. 2009 Dec;47(8):814-23.PMID: 19184774 [PubMed – in process]
Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay
Yoo Kyoung Parka,∗∗, Hyang Burm Leeb,c,∗∗, Eun-Jae Jeona, Hack Sung Jungb and Myung-Hee Kanga,∗ aDepartment of Medical Nutrition, Kyunghee University, 1 Hoekidong, Dongdaemoonku, Seoul 130-701, South Korea

Comparative study of antioxidant activity and antiproliferative effect of hot water and ethanol extracts from the mushroom Inonotus obliquus.

Hu H, Zhang Z, Lei Z, Yang Y, Sugiura N. J Biosci Bioeng. 2009 Jan;107(1):42-8.PMID: 19147108 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Evaluation of antitumor activity of peptide extracts from medicinal plants on the model of transplanted breast cancer in CBRB-Rb(8.17)1Iem mice.

Tepkeeva II, Moiseeva EV, Chaadaeva AV, Zhavoronkova EV, Kessler YV, Semushina SG, Demushkin VP. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2008 Apr;145(4):464-6.PMID: 19110595 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Potential anticancer properties of the water extract of Inonotus [corrected] obliquus by induction of apoptosis in melanoma B16-F10 cells.

Youn MJ, Kim JK, Park SY, Kim Y, Park C, Kim ES, Park KI, So HS, Park R. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jan 21;121(2):221-8. Epub 2008 Oct 25.PMID: 19041933 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE

Inotodiol, a lanostane triterpenoid, from Inonotus obliquus inhibits cell proliferation through caspase-3-dependent apoptosis.

Nomura M, Takahashi T, Uesugi A, Tanaka R, Kobayashi S. Anticancer Res. 2008 Sep-Oct;28(5A):2691-6.PMID: 19035296 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Antimutagenic effects of subfractions of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract.

Ham SS, Kim SH, Moon SY, Chung MJ, Cui CB, Han EK, Chung CK, Choe M. Mutat Res. 2009 Jan 10;672(1):55-9. Epub 2008 Oct 17.PMID: 18992843 [PubMed – in process]

Identification of Inonotus obliquus and analysis of antioxidation and antitumor activities of polysaccharides.

Song Y, Hui J, Kou W, Xin R, Jia F, Wang N, Hu F, Zhang H, Liu H. Curr Microbiol. 2008 Nov;57(5):454-62. Epub 2008 Sep 16.PMID: 18795365 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Lanostane-type triterpenoids from the sclerotia of Inonotus obliquus possessing anti-tumor promoting activity.

Taji S, Yamada T, Wada S, Tokuda H, Sakuma K, Tanaka R. Eur J Med Chem. 2008 Nov;43(11):2373-9. Epub 2008 Feb 8.PMID: 18387711 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) induces G0/G1 arrest and apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells.

Youn MJ, Kim JK, Park SY, Kim Y, Kim SJ, Lee JS, Chai KY, Kim HJ, Cui MX, So HS, Kim KY, Park R. World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan 28;14(4):511-7.PMID: 18203281 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]Free PMC Article

Identification of a novel blocker of IkappaBalpha kinase activation that enhances apoptosis and inhibits proliferation and invasion by suppressing nuclear factor-kappaB.

Sung B, Pandey MK, Nakajima Y, Nishida H, Konishi T, Chaturvedi MM, Aggarwal BB. Mol Cancer Ther. 2008 Jan;7(1):191-201.PMID: 18202022 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

New antioxidant polyphenols from the medicinal mushroom Inonotus obliquus.

Lee IK, Kim YS, Jang YW, Jung JY, Yun BS. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2007 Dec 15;17(24):6678-81. Epub 2007 Oct 25.PMID: 17980585 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Antioxidant small phenolic ingredients in Inonotus obliquus (persoon) Pilat (Chaga).

Nakajima Y, Sato Y, Konishi T. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2007 Aug;55(8):1222-6.PMID: 17666849 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE

Analysis of aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus.

Mazurkiewicz W. Acta Pol Pharm. 2006 Nov-Dec;63(6):497-501.PMID: 17438866 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Isolation and characterization of a novel platelet aggregation inhibitory peptide from the medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus.

Hyun KW, Jeong SC, Lee DH, Park JS, Lee JS. Peptides. 2006 Jun;27(6):1173-8. Epub 2005 Nov 11.PMID: 16289471 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay.

Park YK, Lee HB, Jeon EJ, Jung HS, Kang MH. Biofactors. 2004;21(1-4):109-12.PMID: 15630179 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Antioxidant effect of Inonotus obliquus.

Cui Y, Kim DS, Park KC. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Jan 4;96(1-2):79-85.PMID: 15588653 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
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[Effects of bioglycans from birch fungus Inonotus obliquus on the electrical activity of cells from the cardiac venous sinus of the frog]

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The effect of aqueous extracts from Inonotus obliquus on the mitotic index and enzyme activities.

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Effect of the extracts from fungus Inonotus obliquus on catalase level in HeLa and nocardia cells.

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Antitumor Activity of Triterpenes in Inonotus obliquus.

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