Of all the different kinds of tree growths, chaga is widely considered as the densest in terms of nutrient contents. Siberians are among those who have been enjoying the health benefits of chaga. They call it “Mushroom of Immortality” and “Gift from God”. They use it for tea and it gives them long life. Some even live to be more than 100 years old despite the harsh conditions of the Siberian region. This can be attributed to regularly taking chaga.
The Chinese and the Japanese also used chaga for centuries. The Chinese considered it as the “King of Plants”. The Japanese referred to it as the “Diamond of the forest”.
What does Inonotus obliquus look like?
Chaga is also known as a clinker polyphore. It does not look much like a mushroom. It looks more like a black canker on a tree. Its surface is very hard, deeply cracked and dense. At times, hints of yellow inside can be seen. The surface of chaga looks as if it has been burned.
The flesh inside the chaga mushroom has a yellow to yellow-brown color. It may have a few flecks of white mixed in. The texture is corky and a bit pebbly. The surface has a dark brown to black color. The surface can be brittle. A few pieces may easily fall or rub off.
Where can I find Chaga Mushrooms?
Chaga prefers to grow in harsh environmental conditions. It thrives in the northern climate, found north of the 45th parallel. The conditions are harsh in this region. Summers are harsh and winters are extremely cold. But these harsh conditions are what allows chaga to develop its unique roster of bioactive compounds.
Chaga is most often found starting to grow on scarred birch trunks. It can be found all year long and lives for many years. It prefers to live on yellow or white birch trees. There are reports of chaga growing on hardwoods such as hornbeam and beech. Those growing on birch have the best medicinal qualities.
For centuries, chaga has been used by Siberians. They use it as tea and a tonic.
What are the active compounds of Chaga?
Chaga is rich in bioactive compounds that promote several health benefits. The active compounds include:
- Triterpenes, specifically Betulin and Betulinic acid
- Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
- Phytosterols such as ergosterol, lanosterol, inotodiol and fecosterol
Benefits of Chaga Mushroom
Chaga is traditionally taken as tea to improve health. It has been used for centuries to improve the quality of life and promote longevity.
Research on the mushroom’s bioactive components revealed that it does promote the following benefits:
Supports the functioning of the immune system
The abundance of beta-d-glucans in chaga mushrooms is responsible for its immune-enhancing effects. This compound helps in balancing and regulating the various functions of the immune system. It will boost immunity when needed and reduce when necessary. It can stimulate specific immune cells to respond quickly when the need arises, such as during active infections. It can also reduce immune responses to prevent any negative impact, such as reduction in inflammatory responses. This ability makes this mushroom a natural BRM or biological response modifier.
Helps in cancer prevention and treatment
Further research into the properties of chaga has found that its influence on the immune system shows promise as a cancer treatment. Chaga has the ability to activate certain cells of the immune system that can fight against the initiation of cancer.
Chaga’s direct influence on the immune cells also helps in cancer treatments. It has been proven that chaga can reduce the negative side effects of cancer therapies like chemotherapy through compensation.
Phytosterols in chaga contribute to the anti-cancer benefits. The abundance of compounds like fecosterol, inotodiols, ergosterol, and lanosterol has shown positive effects on viral compounds known to cause cancerous growths.
Positive effects on the cardiovascular system
A lot of the bioactive compounds of chaga have positive impact on cholesterol levels and blood pressure. For instance, polysaccharides promote better cardiovascular health. Betulin and betulinic acid help break down the bad LDL cholesterol in the blood. This will lead to reduced LDL levels. This will lower the risk for cardiovascular diseases like stroke and atherosclerosis. Beta-d-glucans also have this effect in the body.
Other effects include better blood sugar control and antioxidant properties. The bioactive compounds, such as SOD can help in fighting the negative effects of free radicals on the cells. Phytosterols and beta-d-glucans help in normalizing blood sugar levels and improving insulin actions.