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1. Chaga 2. General description3. Botanical name4. Common names5. Active ingredients6. Use7. Cultivation8. Warning9. Continue reading

Chaga

General description

Chaga is a mushroom and is known as a mushroom with great medicinal value. It has been used for a very long time to promote health and combat disease. In terms of habitat, Chaga is only found in cold areas, including Russia (mainly Siberia), Canada, the northern USA, Korea and northern Europe. Chaga grows exclusively on dying birch trees. Hence its Dutch name: birchweather fungus. Chaga grows all year round and parasitizes the birch tree by using it as a host. The tree can survive for a while but eventually dies. Autumn or winter are the most suitable times when the mushroom can be spotted, as it is not hidden from view by the foliage of the tree during this period. 

The appearance of Chaga is like a black mass of 4 to 40 cm, sticking to the trunk of the tree. Contrary to what many people think, the visible part is not the fruiting body, but the network of mycelium wires, which is very strongly interwoven. Usually the mycelium network is hidden from view by spreading under the ground, for example. With Chaga this is visible, while the fruiting body is very seldom seen and only occurs when the tree on which Chaga occurs has died. On the inside Chaga is yellow or brownish in color and cork-like in structure. 

Botanical name

Inonotus obliquus

Common names

Black mass, cinder conk

Active ingredients

Chaga contains several interesting ingredients, which together have a synergistic effect. This means that the active ingredients reinforce each other in their effect. 

Chaga contains among others polysaccharides, sterols and betuline/betulinic acid. These ingredients each have their own specific effect, but together they provide a strong antiviral and strengthening effect for the immune system. In this way, Chaga has a beneficial effect on the healing process for various serious diseases, such as immune-related diseases, infections and inflammations. Furthermore, Chaga contains very few calories. 

Polysaccharides: Chaga contains several polysaccharides that are currently used in scientific research as an effective anti-cancer drug. The polysaccharides present in Chaga have anti-inflammatory properties and help to increase resistance. Especially when it comes to protection against cancer, these substances have a beneficial effect. In parts of Asia, including Japan, China and Korea, medication for the treatment of cancer based on the polysaccharides present in Chaga has existed since the 1980s. This medication is recognized and prescribed by doctors. Also in Russia there is a permitted anti-cancer drug that has been on the market since 1955. 


Betulinic acid: Betulin is a substance found in the bark of birch trees. Chaga ingests this substance and converts it into betulinic acid. This betulinic acid is then present in the fungus and available in this way. Scientific research shows that betulinic acid has a strong anti-cancer and cancer-destroying effect. It is being investigated whether this substance can become part of cancer therapy and chemotherapy. Betulin also has the property of breaking down cholesterol in the bloodstream. 

Several studies show that Chaga indeed has a cancer-inhibiting effect, as more research is needed to substantiate this. 

Chaga also contains a certain type of melanin, a substance that is mainly found in the sclerotium. This substance has a strong anti-oxidant effect. 

Chaga also contains several important nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. The mushroom contains a complex of vitamin B, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium, zinc, iron and dietary fiber. 

As an antioxidant, Chaga can influence the aging process. Oxidative stress occurs when the body is exposed to too many free radicals. This happens when the body is exposed to too much sun and pollution. As a result, the skin deteriorates and ages faster. To slow down this process, antioxidants can help to strengthen and rejuvenate the body.  Oxidative stress can cause serious diseases in a further stage, including cancer. This happens when the body cannot protect itself enough and gets too little help. 

Chaga as an antioxidant also has the ability to lower cholesterol in the blood. Too high a cholesterol level is linked to cardiovascular diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. 

Chaga stimulates the body in the production of certain cytokines, special proteins that help the body strengthen the immune system. In this way, Chaga promotes white blood cells, which help the body to eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses.

Use

Chaga has been used as a medicinal mushroom for a very long time. Since the sixteenth century the mushroom has been used in Russia and Northern Europe for the treatment of diseases. As a strong antioxidant it has many uses and is used for serious diseases, including cancer. Even before scientific research was conducted into the active substances, it was already known that the fungus can successfully treat various serious diseases, including the growth of malignant tumors. 

Chaga is also used for other conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, skin problems and AIDS. 

To make the ingredients of Chaga active, it is necessary to heat them. This method of extraction has been used for centuries. Traditionally this is done by soaking the dried mushroom in hot water. This tea can be drunk in this way. In Russia this is called 'zavarka', or tea concentrate. Another traditional way is to soak the dried mushroom in vodka for two to four weeks. This alcohol mixture can then be used as a medicine. Traditionally, Chaga is also often ground into a fine powder and drunk as a tea. The Khanty people, from Western Siberia, are seen as the first people to use Chaga for medicinal purposes. They were said to make tea from the mushroom in the above mentioned way, to stimulate the digestion. It would also make them feel full, for example in times of fasting. According to certain sources they would also smoke Chaga, because it would improve the health of the lungs. They would also make a soap made from Chaga, ash and fat. This would help to soften the skin and treat sores. From the Khanty people the use of Chaga spread through areas that now belong to modern Russia. So hunters took Chaga to improve their capacity and endurance. The mythical emperor Shen Nun Pen Ts'ao Ching crowned this medicinal mushroom 'King of herbs'. This stimulated its use in Asia. 

In 1950, a number of clinical studies took place in Moscow in which it was shown that Chaga could indeed have a beneficial effect on the immune system. In 1955 more studies took place in the Soviet Union, again demonstrating that Chaga had great potential as a medicine and should be named as such. This was decided by the USSR Ministry of Health. Around the same time they tried to grow Chaga on an industrial scale by artificially grafting it on birch trees. This turned out not to be possible, Chaga can only be harvested in the wild.

In 1958 more studies took place in the Russian Medical Institute and the use of this mushroom was officially used as a medicine. 

Chaga can be taken in the form of a supplement. This is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to quickly and efficiently take in a daily quantity of the active ingredients. Chaga can be taken in the form of capsules, whereby the mushroom is dried and ground into a powder. Extractions based on alcohol are also available. Nowadays Chaga as a supplement is often combined with other medicinal mushrooms, such as Cordyceps mushroom. 

Cultivation

It is not possible to cultivate Chaga yourself. The mushroom can only be harvested in the wild, in order to maintain its active ingredients and medicinal power.

Warning

People with an autoimmune disease can overreact to Chaga, because of its strong anti-inflammatory effect. In this case, consult a doctor first. 

Continue reading

Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide - Martin Powell
Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide - Martin Powell
 

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