Chaga mushroom (botanical name I. obliquus) is basically a medicinal fungus belonging to the Hymenochaetaceae family. This is a parasite that grows on birch as well as a variety of other trees. The sterile conk of this fungus has an irregular formation and its appearance is similar to that of burnt charcoal. It is important to note that the sterile conk is not the fruiting part of this fungus. Actually, it is a mycelium (hyphae that forms the vegetative part of a fungus) mass, which is mostly black in color owing to the presence of large quantities of melanin. The productive fruiting part of the body is rarely present in the form of a resupinate (crustose or bent backward) fungus either on or close to the clinker, which usually appears after the death of the host tree. Also known as Tinder fungus or True Tinder Fungus, this fungus is found growing naturally on birch trees in the northern region of the United States, Canada, North Carolina mountains, Eastern and Northern Europe, Russia, and Korea.
Despite being a mushroom, chaga is somewhat different from the other typical mushrooms. Rather than being squashy like other mushroom varieties, chaga is solid and its color is black. This mushroom has a very close and strange similarity to porous wood.
In Eastern Europe as well as Russian folk medicine, chaga mushroom is believed to be possessing therapeutic properties and currently scientists have undertaken researches regarding its potential for being employed for medicinal purposes.
Since the 16th century, people in Russia as well as Siberia have been using chaga mushroom in folk remedy. Findings of studies undertaken in laboratories on chaga mushroom extract have suggested that this substance has the potential for being used in the future in the form of an antioxidant in immunotherapy. Furthermore, it can possibly also be used in the form of an anti-inflammatory agent.
Antioxidants contained by chaga mushroom are vital, as they combat the free radical production, which occur naturally in the form of a by-product during the normal metabolism, in addition to the consequences of pollutants, such as cigarette smoke and various toxins present in the environment. It is worth mentioning here that free radicals result in oxidation that works on our body in very much the same manner in which iron rusts owing to oxidation. The free radicals are harmful for our body, as they damage the tissues leading to and promoting several additional difficult features of aging as well as promoting the development of specific cancer forms.
A study undertaken by scientists at the Daegu University in Korea in 2009 demonstrated that using the extracts of chaga mushroom slowed down or restrained colon cancer cell growth. The findings of this study have been supported by another study that isolated beta glucans, a substance contained by the extracts of chaga mushroom. It has been found that beta glucans work to support as well as regulate the immune system. In addition, this substance in chaga mushroom extracts also helps our immune system to distinguish the carcinogenic cells from the normal and helpful cells. It identifies the cancer cells as threats, thereby enabling the immune system to combat these carcinogenic cells in a more effective manner and also much earlier.
Findings of many other studies involving chaga mushroom have established that its extracts have a beneficial action on inflammation as well as pain. In addition, chaga mushroom extracts also help us to lose as well as maintain a body healthy weight.
Chaga mushroom (I. obliquus) is extremely bitter to taste. This is the main reason why people do not consume this mushroom variety in any form - raw or cooked. Nevertheless, chaga mushroom is generally combined with other different herbs to prepare herbal teas. Alternatively, they are dried out and pounded into a powder form to make liquid extracts and tablets.
Numerous scientific studies as well as researches have established that consuming chaga mushroom helps to protect our organs and tissues, especially protecting the human lymphocytes DNA from oxidative damages caused by free radicals.
As chaga mushrooms help to stimulate the immune system, they are also effective in combating cancer cells as well as carcinogenic growths. Chaga mushrooms enclose betulin, which is converted to betulinic acid by this mushroom. It has been found that betulinic acid is effective in restraining tumour as well as cancerous growths, eliminating tumour tissues and tumour cells. Hence, people suffering from tumours will find consumption of chaga mushrooms beneficial for their condition.
As far as our general wellbeing is concerned, chaga mushrooms are not only safe, but also very effective. Consumption of chaga mushrooms in medicinal dosages help to enhance our life span, hold-up the signs of aging like wrinkles etc, slow down the aging process and also wrecks the carcinogenic cells.
Application of chaga mushroom extracts to the skin has also been found to facilitate healing rashes and injuries. When taken internally as a tea or powder or inhaled as a smoke, chaga mushroom enhances the immune system, conserves youth, and also supports long life. Therefore, many people consider chaga mushrooms to be an ethereal fountain of youth.
People in primeval Eastern Europe have been employing chaga mushrooms since the 16th century to cure health conditions like tuberculosis, gastritis, ulcers as well as various forms of cancer. In addition, this mushroom has been used to support the general health of people.
Chaga mushroom is known to possess the ability to rectify harmed DNA by means of interferon production. At the same time, it also possesses the aptitude to slow down the oxidation process caused by the detrimental free radicals. Chaga mushroom can also reduce hypoxia (insufficient oxygen in blood) and maximize the body's stability. In addition, consumption of chaga mushroom also helps to cure the metabolic functions at the cellular level.
Chaga mushroom offers several health benefits, including an anti-inflammatory action, stimulating the metabolic process in the brain tissues, preventing carcinogenic growths and also boosting "chi" or life energy. Moreover, chaga mushroom extract is also known to be effective in eliminating kidney stones and sand. This mushroom also facilitates the body in combating HIV, immune deficiencies, diabetes and also hormonal imbalances.
Chaga mushrooms are found growing in the wild on birch and other trees in extremely cold environments. The growth of this mushroom (basically a fungus) is very sluggish, which suggests that in the long run, it is not a very dependable bioactive compound resource. People have attempted to cultivate this mushroom on various occasions, but all such endeavours have led to very poor and distinctly diverse bioactive metabolite production. It was found that either the secondary metabolites were missing or even when present, they were in extremely diverse proportions. Generally, the potency of cultivated chaga mushroom was found to be remarkably less.
Moreover, cultivated chaga brings about a smaller assortment of phytosterols, especially lanosterol - an intermediary in ergosterol as well as lanostane sort of triterpenes. However, this effect was partly overturned when silver ion, a substance that inhibits ergosterol biosynthesis, was added.
Furthermore, cultivated chaga mushroom does not contain any amount of betulinic acid, which is a bioactive triterpene. When in the wild, chaga mushrooms mainly grow on birch trees and obtain betulin from the bark of the tree, which contains a maximum of 22 percent of this compound.
Humans are not able to absorb betulin properly, even when this compound is administered intravenously. Moreover, the bioavailability of betulin is very limited. Nevertheless, chaga mushroom possesses the aptitude to transform betulin into betulinic acid. Many sources on the Internet assert that the betulinic acid in chaga mushroom is bioavailable, even when you take it orally.
Chemical analysis of chaga mushroom has shown that melanin and triterpenoids are responsible for most of its medicinal properties. However, chaga acid contained by this mushroom is considered to be its most potent weapon. Scientists in Russia assert that chaga acid helps to normalize metabolism, while having a healing action on all the organs as well as tissues in the human body.
Chaga mushroom encloses a substance called superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is considered to be its most powerful constituent. Superoxide dismutase is not a common enzyme, but is classified under a group of chemicals that work to prevent cell damage due to the harmful free radicals. Among all known foods, chaga mushroom contains the highest amount of SOD.
In addition, chaga mushroom is loaded with phenolic compounds that possess a potent protective action on the skin and the tissues. It is also rich in other nutrient contents, such as flavonoids, a variety of B vitamins, and betulinic acid.
Chaga mushroom is basically an adaptogen. In other words, this mushroom helps to normalize as well as regulate the various systems in our body. It responds to the particular conditions of the body, thereby restoring the balance of the body. However, it is not prudent to use it in excessive dosages. In order to treat your medical conditions, you should drink one cup (250 ml) of an infusion or tea prepared from this mushroom thrice every day. Alternatively, you may drink the infusion as per your wish. It is an excellent substitute of coffee.
It is quite easy to prepare chaga tea. Add a handful of dried chaga mushroom to one litre of water and bring it to boil. Allow the mixture to seethe for about 10 minutes. Filter the liquid and keep the chaga for reuse. You can reuse the chaga mushroom twice again. You can prepare a more potent chaga tea by using more chaga or allowing the liquid to simmer for a longer period. During the winter months you may add one cinnamon stick and additional chai spices to prepare a more flavourful chaga tea. Some people also pound the dried out chaga mushrooms and use the powder raw in smoothies.
Similar to several organic medicines, the extract obtained from chaga has the potential to interact with other specific medications. In fact, diabetic patients using insulin should stay away from chaga mushroom or its extract. It has been documented that this parasitic plant has a hypoglycemic effect and this may possibly augment the impact of insulin. Treatment with chaga extract is also contraindicated for individuals who are using anti-coagulant medications to cure hypertension or cardiovascular diseases. Prior to starting any alternative therapy to cure any health problem, it is essential that you check with your physician.
While harvesting chaga mushrooms for therapeutic purposes, you should ensure that you only collect the wild-crafted mushrooms. In other words, only chaga mushroom growing in the wild and not cultivated should be picked. It is worth mentioning here that only chaga mushrooms that are collected from living birch trees possess the entire active compounds for which chaga is famous.