The Northern regions of the globe can be harsh, inhospitable to life. Winters are long and cold; snow may leave all but the trees hidden beneath it's frozen mass. Summers serve as an opportunity to prepare for the looming freeze which is just around the corner immediately after the first thaw. For a few months resources are abundant. Salmon migrate inland to spawn, berries are abundant, and mushrooms fruit. Then winter is back, introducing a period of want and vulnerability.
Walking through a forest of birch trees (which are often composed of just a single organism), one may not give a glance toward the often large black growths protruding from the trunks like festering wounds. Smaller chaga specimens may appear to be old cuts, as they fill in as a similar rough black substance. Yet to the trained eye, the prized medicinal fungus is easy to recognize. Beneath the rough black outer shell is a squishy, golden-orange core.
Simply pry off a bit of the outer layer, and you'll know if it is chaga because the inside of the 'black gold' isn't replicable by anything other than chaga.
Within the stark gold color found beneath the black shell are held some of the most powerful nutrients on our planet. The most abundant and impactful of which are the antioxidants which it holds. We with our modern wisdom are not the first to learn to use the powers of vitality given from this organism as siberian chaga extracts in the form of teas have been used for hundreds of years. We are however the first to begin to understand how it operates in our cells. Here we examine some of the incredible wealth of health benefits we stand to gain with Chaga, the Black Gold.
Traditionally, medicinal properties have been extracted from chaga with warm or cold water. We now have more effective extraction techniques like alcohol extraction, for example, but they are often used in tandem with these water extraction methods. That is why you will often see “Dual Extracted” chaga products. Understanding this helps us to understand what is extracted from chaga in this dual extraction process.
Chaga mushrooms are the most powerful source of antioxidants in the world - up to 7 times as potent as acai, a popular antioxidant supplement. The impact of this powerful source of antioxidants is impressive. For centuries, chaga (Inonotus obliquus) has been known as an immune booster in Siberia and other regions of Northern Europe. It has been used as a treatment for inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Inflammation is a response from the immune system that is meant to fight disease. In the short term, inflammation is an effective way to do this. In the long-term, inflammation can be harmful and lead to heart disease, arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions. Studies suggest chaga extract can positively impact the immune system by reducing long-term inflammation and fighting harmful bacteria and viruses.
Our immune system is regulated by cytokines which are specialized proteins that are used by the body to modulate immune response. Some cytokines are beneficial to our immune response while some are potentially harmful. Chaga helps produce beneficial cytokines and stimulates white blood cells which are critical in fighting disease. With these two harmonious functions, chaga mushrooms can play a major role in helping the body fight disease. Studies have also shown that chaga can prevent the production of harmful cytokines. These proteins cause inflammation and their prevalence in excess can cause inflammation to become harmful and potentially become chronic. (Further Reading:link, link, link, link)
Animal and test-tube studies show that chaga can prevent and slow cancer growth. In a study in mice with cancer, chaga supplements resulted in a 60% reduction in tumor size and in a test-tube study, chaga extract prevented the growth of cancer in human liver cells, lung cells, breast cells and prostate and colon cells. (Further Reading: link, link, link, link)
The cancer-fighting effect from the antioxidants in chaga is likely due to its ability to eliminate free radicals in the body’s cells. In particular, chaga contains the antioxidant triterpene. Studies have shown that triterpene has the ability to kill cancer cells. (Further Reading: link, link)
Blood sugar has been shown in studies to decrease in subjects taking chaga extracts. This effect can be vital in managing diabetes. In fact, a recent study in obese, diabetic mice observed that chaga extract reduced blood sugar levels and insulin resistance compared to diabetic mice who did not receive the supplement meaning that chaga may help manage diabetes. For example, another study in mice showed around a 30% decrease in blood sugar levels after being given chaga extracts for only 3 weeks. (Further Reading: link, link)
Chaga extract has also been shown to positively impact cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of heart disease. In an eight-week study in rats with high cholesterol, chaga extract reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing antioxidant levels.
As with anything taken to supplement health, there are potential risks. Talk to your doctor before trying chaga especially if you are on blood thinning medications or have blood thinning or autoimmune disorders.
Chaga has incredible properties that can be extremely beneficial for a wide range of health impacts. But don’t take our word for it. Further Reading:
Chaga overview: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chaga-mushroom
Other studies/sources: (link, link).
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