Chaga mushroom has traditionally been used in the treatment of cancer and other serious ailments. Preliminary research shows it has many beneficial properties.
Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is somewhat different from most other medicinal mushrooms. This parasitic fungus grows on birch trees and eventually results in the death of its host. The outwards visible growth, also known as tinder conk for its use in igniting fire, is solid, black and crumbly, resembling a big lump of charcoal.
Chaga was completely unknown in the western world, until Russian author and later Nobel laureate Alexandr Solzhenitsyn introduced it to the world in his novel Cancer Ward, whose protagonist is cured of cancer with the help of Chaga. Cancer Ward is thought to be autobiographical, as Solzhenitsyn suffered from cancer himself.
Besides cancer, in folk medicine Chaga mushroom has been used in the treatment of various stomach problems, tuberculosis, hypertension, viral infections, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Recently it has attracted attention as a potential therapy for HIV infection.
Chaga Mushroom Research
Based on studies Chaga has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunostimulating, anti-nociceptive (pain-relieving) and antiulcer properties. In a Japanese study Chaga extract displayed higher antioxidant activity than other tested medicinal mushrooms. It also has activity against blood clots and hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar).
Chaga mushroom has been shown to have anticancer activity in e.g. hepatoma (liver cancer), gastric cancer, uterine cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, cervical cancer and lung cancer. It appears to downregulate the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthases iNOS and COX-2 by downregulation of the inflammatory mediator NF-kappa-B.
Downregulation of NF-kappa-B may explain some of the anti-inflammatory and anticancer action of Chaga mushroom. It also means Chaga could have use in the treatment of a wide variety of chronic conditions from Alzheimer’s disease to rheumatoid arthritis. Chaga mushroom also inhibits xanthine oxidase, which can be helpful for treatment of gout.
Limitations of Research
The problem is that pretty much all studies on Chaga mushroom have been performed in vitro – on cell lines. A few studies have been done on animals. No actual clinical studies on humans have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
Things that work well in vitro do not always perform so well in vivo (in the body). For example, many dangerous chemicals kill bacteria – or cancer cells – in the test tube, but would be much too toxic for humans in effective doses. Others may have limited or no absorption from the gastrointestinal tract.
Practical Use of Chaga Mushroom
Chaga mushroom can be found in the wild in Northern climates in birches. While Chaga may also grow in other trees, these growths are not thought to be as useful, as many of Chaga’s benefits originate from the way it concentrates substances in the birch.
Traditionally Chaga has been consumed as a tea, which tastes quite similar to ordinary tea or coffee. After crumbling the mushroom it is brewed for several hours or even days to extract the active ingredients. Some sources recommend boiling this concoction for maximum efficacy, others advise against boiling.
For many people a more practical approach would be to purchase a Chaga supplement. Only a few companies currently manufacture Chaga mushroom supplements. Some websites also sell dried Chaga conks. The proper dosing of Chaga mushroom is unknown.
Based on the limited research, Chaga mushroom may well be worth a try for people with e.g. poorly treatable cancer, though expecting a cure would be unrealistic. Chaga mushroom is often claimed to be “free of side effects because it is natural”, but being “natural” does not automatically make anything free of adverse effects.
Whether Chaga could affect the metabolism of other drugs or supplements is not known, so those who are on any medication should be careful. One should always discuss the use of any such supplements with one’s doctor.
Read more at Suite101: Benefits and Properties of Chaga Mushroom: Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus Obliquus May Treat Cancer | Suite101.com http://suite101.com/article/benefits-and-properties-of-chaga-mushroom-a139845#ixzz1zhKzA0RH