Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
Like so many of its natural counter-parts the health benefits of the Chaga Mushroom, or Inonutus Obliquus, have been known for thousands of years. A 5,300 year-old “Ice Man” mummy discovered in 1991 wore two walnut-sized pieced of Chaga drilled through the middle and tied to his wrists. Known in ancient China and Russia as the “King of Herbs”, Eastern Europeans have been using Chaga mushrooms medicinally since the 16th Century. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s acclaimed novel, Cancer Ward, published in 1968, features a protagonist whose cancer is cured by Chaga Mushrooms. (This fictional account is believed to be autobiographical in nature). Cancer Ward’s success brought Chaga to the attention of the Western world.
Chaga is a dark brown/black mushroom that closely resembles charcoal. It is found on Birch and other trees in Northern Siberia, Northern Japan, Northern Canada and the Northeastern US. Beneath the tough exterior is a softer deep brown/yellow ‘meat’ which contains the bulk of the medicinal qualities. Its taste and smell are earthy, woodsy and some say resembles mild vanilla.
Chaga’s many health benefits include the prevention and treatment for an impressive amount and array of conditions and diseases: various types of cancer, tumours (both malignant and non), respiratory infections and asthma, depression, various gastro-intestinal disorders, viral infections, skin lesions, injury, fatigue and irritability.
Among its various medicinal elements Chaga contains beta glucans, antioxidants and melanin. Beta glucans are potent immune system boosters and assist with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, influenza, and viral infections. Chaga’s antioxidant levels may be the highest yet ever discovered, approximately 50 times that of blueberries. Melanin can be difficult to find in nature, but Chaga possesses a rich amount to assist with skin cancers and other skin conditions. Both the Ancient Chinese and Russians believed applying Chaga cream to the skin gave them fresher, younger looking skin, thus earning it the nickname “Mushroom of Immortality”.
Over 1300 scientific publications have published research on the Chaga mushroom and its medicinal ingredients. In fact, the World Health Organization has announced that a study in Australia demonstrated the mushrooms’ efficacy in treating cancer. A search of PubMed reveals a number of Chaga studies in relation to its ability to fight cancer as well as other conditions. For example, a 2011 Korean study of its immunity-boosting and antibody production in mice concludes, “We suggest that IO (Chaga mushroom) modulates immune responses through secretion of Th1/Th2 cytokines in immune cells and regulates antigen-specific antibody production.”1 The conclusions of the majority of studies are just as positive.
Chaga is usually ingested as a tea or coffee, a tincture, supplement or powder. Its mild taste means it can be added to virtually any food or drink without affecting the flavour. A cream can also be created for use as a topical treatment.
1.PubMed. Inonotus obliquus extracts suppress antigen-specific IgE production through the modulation of Th1/Th2 cytokines in ovalbumin-sensitized mice. Ko SK, Jin M, Pyo MY. Source: Lab of Hygienic Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy, Sookmyung Women’s University, 52 Hyochangwon-gil, Youngsan-ku, Seoul 140-742, Republic of Korea.