Inonotus obliquus

The chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) has been used in Siberia and Russia for its medicinal properties since the 16th century.

Chaga is a parasitic fungus that grows on hardwood trees – particularly birch trees – in cool climates.

It can be found in the forests of Russia, Northern and Eastern Europe, Korea, parts of Canada and in the northern United States. From the family Hymenochaetaceae, chaga has a worldwide reputation as one of the most medicinally valuable fungi.

In China, it is called “King of all Plants.” The Siberians call it “Gift from God.” In Japan it is referred to as the “Diamond in the Forest.” Its Norwegian title –”kreff juke”—translates to “cancer polypore.”

The chaga mushroom extracts nutrients from the birch tree over the course of its growth. By the time the mushroom reaches maturity it is nutritionally dense, filled with phytochemicals (plant chemicals). It is hard and black in appearance and contains high concentrations of melanin.

Moscow’s Medical Academy of Science has identified the mushroom as a powerful adaptogen – a compound that can help mitigate and protect against the effects of stress.



Mycological Alchemy

Chaga Mushroom Adaptogenic Benefits

Adaptogens are non-toxic, natural substances that help the body adapt to stress and restore balance.

Uncontrolled, chronic stress is a major risk factor in the development of many preventable diseases.

One of the main definitions of an adaptogen is that is provides non-specific support for the body to help combat stress.

The chaga mushroom’s host of beneficial phytochemicals is sometimes used to explain the mushroom’s purported adaptogenic role. Chaga mushrooms contain:

  • Flavonoids, phenols and antioxidants;
  • Various B complex vitamins, including high amounts of niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2) and pantothenic acid (B5);
  • Minerals, including: copper, manganese, iron, zinc, potassium and calcium;
  • Up to 30 percent chromogenic complex, a powerful generalized tissue protector;

Chaga Mushroom and Superoxide Dismutase

Researchers have observed that components of the chaga mushroom exhibit strong antioxidant properties. Chaga contain high levels of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD), which may explain some of the mushroom’s purported antioxidant effects.

Further, while SOD supplements are available, they are not readily absorbed by the body. In contrast, wild chaga extract, usually taken as a tea, has been observed to be quickly absorbed.

SOD is an enzyme that breaks down oxygenated molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are largely responsible for cellular degradation and are thought to be one of the primary causes of the aging process.

Research is underway to investigate if SOD is effective in disrupting the progression of diseases related to free radical damage.

SOD is present in every living cell and is responsible for regulating a number of important processes in the human body. Using supplements like Chaga offers a simple way to increase endogenous SOD levels.

Bovine SOD is used in clinical settings when supplemental SOD injections are prescribed by physicians. Such injections are often used for:

  • Diminishing general inflammation and associated swelling;
  • Minimizing damage after heart attacks;
  • Treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and various sports injuries;
  • Treating interstitial cystitis, an adverse kidney condition;
  • Improving kidney transplant rejection rates;
  • Treating certain lung disorders in newborn infants;
  • Relieving gout pains;
  • Increasing the effectiveness of some radiation treatments;
  • Counteracting certain pesticide-based poisonings, especially paraquat toxicity

SOD stops the oxidative actions of singlet oxygen molecules. Singlet oxygen causes cellular damage to various tissue types through its oxidizing effects. This is the same type of oxidation that causes metals to rust.

SOD neutralizes the ionic charge of singlet oxygen, eliminating its potential to cause further cellular abnormalities.

Clinical Trials for Chaga Benefits

Although research is ongoing, there is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of chaga in conventional Western medicine practice. However, chaga remains a common and popular treatment throughout Russia.

In the 1950s, the USSR conducted large clinical trials to investigate the effectiveness of numerous adaptogens. More than 500,000 people participated in over 3,000 separate experiments conducted by some of the nation’s top scientists.

Chaga was observed to be one of the most powerful adaptogens studied. Based on these studies, it was commonly used in Russia as a vehicle to gain mental and physical advantages for their soldiers, scientists, astronauts and military leaders.

Chaga Mushroom Side Effects

Chaga is generally well tolerated and adverse effects are not commonly reported. However, components of the mushroom may interact with some prescription drugs. Chaga is not recommended for pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers in light of insufficient evidence of safety.

As with all supplements, be sure to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before you start chaga mushroom supplementation, or any supplement program.

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