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. Considering that 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”) comes from the Russian word for mushroom (czaga) which is derived from the term for fungus. In Norway Chaga (kreftkjuke’) translates to “cancer polypore” in reference to its fungal appearance and alleged medicinal properties.
Use of reishi spore powder in Chinese medicine goes back many thousands of years where locals inside the mountain region of Siberia drank Chaga tea daily, inhaled Chaga and tried it topically (on the skin). As time passes its popularity spread for the west from the Urai Mountains and Baltic areas of Eastern Europe.
Medicinal Mushrooms to advertise Health
The International Society for Mushroom Science (ISMS) suggest inside their online article, “Products of medicinal mushrooms as an excellent source of nutritional supplements,” that mushrooms could be useful as nutraceuticals — food or food products which provide health insurance and medical benefits. “These compounds called ‘mushroom nutriceuticals’ exhibit either medicinal or tonic qualities and have immense potential as nutritional supplements… ” writes ISMS.
Research also suggests mushrooms, cultivated molds, chaga mushroom extract and lichens may have antiviral, antimicrobial, anticancer, antihyperglycemic, cardioprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Medicinal mushrooms are classified into two species: edible or extracted. Chaga is surely an extracted species. The extraction process is essential to make a minimum of some of the active components bioavailable, the extent a nutrient (or medication) can be used by the body.
Like all natural materials, whole mushrooms have a lot of variability in quality and benefit. Single chemicals may have intense responses along with that, uncomfortable side effects.
“Nutriceuticals, that are extracted products, occupy a middle ground between these extremes and also have proved to be very helpful. However, to obtain a high 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 located the results similar to chemotherapy and radiation, only without negative effects. Amongst the meepqi beneficial properties in Ganoderma Lucidum Extract, the polysaccharides have shown to have strong anti-inflammatory and immune balancing properties which may stimulate our bodies to create 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 in addition to offer use in hypertension and diabetes. The Russian journal Vestnik Dermatologii i Venerologii reported in 1973 about some great benefits of Chaga extract for psoriasis.