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If you peruse the internet relating to health topics for a while, you may come across some articles espousing the various benefits of Chaga for cancer; but what is Chaga?
Inonotus obliquus or more commonly known as Chaga mushrooms, generally grow on the trunks of birch trees and are indigenous to northern Europe, Asia, and other places in the northern hemisphere with a cold climate. They are also called birch canker polypore and cinder conk, among other names.
Chaga mushrooms occurring as parasitic growth on the trunk of trees, especially birch trees, resemble a charcoal-like appearance. They produce a woody growth structure on the tree known as a conk, which absorbs all the nutrients from its wood.
Though Chaga mushrooms impersonate charcoal on the outside, its inside core is orange in color.
How to Consume Chaga Mushroom?
Though falling under edible fungus, Chaga mushroom is appropriately reflective of its unappetizing appearance and is extremely bitter.
Chaga mushrooms are rarely used as ingredients in cooking and are generally consumed as tea or coffee. Nowadays, Chaga supplements are also available for consumption while also being an ingredient in some dietary supplements.
The Potential Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
A mainstay in the traditional medicine of Russia and countries of northern Europe for centuries, Chaga mushrooms are thought to have numerous health benefits.
The Chaga mushroom powder was brewed and consumed as a herbal tea in the old days and thought to act as a cure for various ailments.
Now, let us take at some of the potential benefits of Chaga mushrooms for your health;
1. Boosts the Immune System
Chaga mushrooms are thought to regulate cytokine production in the body, promoting the formation of favorable cytokines while stopping the production of harmful cytokines. A study conducted on mice led to findings suggesting that Chaga mushrooms can regulate cytokine production in the body.
Cytokines act as chemical messengers of the body’s immune system and play a key role in stimulating the white blood cells, which are necessary to fight off infections in the body, ranging from common colds to serious illnesses.
Chaga mushrooms also help enhance the immune system’s strength by containing beta-glucans, a naturally occurring carbohydrate.
2. Fight Inflammation in the Body
When combating an illness, the body often deploys inflammation as a defense to fight off the infection. However, this initial inflammation response can often lead to chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or heart disease.
A study conducted on mice found that Chaga extracts lessened inflammation and limited gut damage by hindering the production of harmful cytokines in the body. Thus Chaga mushroom may help to reduce and prevent chronic inflammation in the body.
3. Preventing and Fighting Cancer
Researchers and scientists are seriously looking into the possibility that Chaga mushrooms may prevent cancer or slow down its growth within the body.
Chaga mushrooms can ward off cell damage in the body caused by free radicals or oxidative stress, being naturally rich in antioxidants. Oxidative stress is a known cause of cancer, as well as several other diseases.
A study conducted in 2010 had findings that suggested that extract from Chaga mushrooms could stunt the growth of some types of cancer cells in a petri dish. The same study also found that in mice, Chaga mushroom extracts could slow down the growth of tumors.
We will look at the possible ways that Chaga mushrooms can help to prevent or fight cancer in further detail later on in the article.
4. Reduce Cholesterol Levels in the Body
Chaga mushrooms, rich in antioxidants, can help reduce and regulate the cholesterol level in the body. High cholesterol levels may lead to heart disease, and thus, Chaga mushroom can be used as an effective preventive measure against it.
A study on mice found that Chaga mushroom reduced LDL, known as the body’s bad cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and increased antioxidants.
In contrast, another study in 2017 found that Chaga mushrooms supplemented their reduction of the LDL cholesterol level in the body by increasing the level of HDL, the good cholesterol in the body.
5. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Chaga mushrooms may have a role to play in controlling diabetes and obesity. In a study conducted on diabetic mice in 2008, it was found that Chaga supplements reduced their blood sugar levels by 31% over three weeks.
Another study found that Chaga extract in diabetic, obese mice led to decreased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance compared to the diabetic mice who did not receive Chaga extract.
6. Lowering Blood Pressure
Oxidative stress is a known cause of high blood pressure, and people suffering are more susceptible to heart diseases and more at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Chaga mushrooms, being rich in antioxidants, can help lower and regulate blood pressure levels in the body.
7. A Superfood- Rich in Nutrients
Besides being rich in antioxidants, Chaga mushrooms also contain many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin D, rubidium, cesium, amino acids, copper, selenium, potassium, iron, and calcium, among other things, and hence, are highly nutritious.
8. Liver Damage Protection
Chaga mushrooms may help protect the liver against certain diseases or control some liver-related conditions. A study found that Chaga extract could stave off the effects of tert-butyl hydroperoxide(a harmful organic compound known for causing liver damage) on liver tissue and thus prevent harm to the liver.
As already mentioned before, Chaga mushrooms being rich in antioxidants can help combat oxidative stress and thus, may help in managing chronic liver ailments like a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which can be aggravated by oxidative stress.
Studies in mice have also found that Chaga mushrooms may help deal with fatigue and improve gut health.
While the potential benefits of Chaga mushroom have been stated above, it is to be noted that there is still a lack of extensive research on the effects of Chaga mushroom on the human body, and thus consulting with your doctor is recommended before including them in your regular diet.
Benefits of Chaga for Cancer
Now let us take a detailed look at the benefits of Chaga mushrooms in dealing with different types of cancer:
1. Benefits of Chaga for Cancer: Effect on Colon Cancer
An experimental study conducted on HT-29 human colon cancer cells found that the ethanol extract of Chaga mushroom impeded cell progression in HT-29 human colon cancer cells. The findings of this study suggest that Chaga mushroom may potentially be a natural anti-cancer ingredient.
Another experimental study found that the hot water extract of Chaga mushrooms exhibited a limiting effect on the spread of human HT-29 colon cancer cells.
In an experimental and animal study conducted in 2015, it was found that the ergosterol peroxide found in Chaga mushrooms stopped the spread of colorectal cancer cell lines and effectively prevented colitis-associated colon cancer in mice who were being medically treated with Azoxymethane (AOM) or Dextran sulfate sodium (DSS).
These studies offer hope that the Chaga mushroom can be used as a possible cure for colon cancer in the human body in the future.
2. Benefits of Chaga for Cancer: Effect on Lung Adenocarcinoma
An experimental study conducted in 2018 found that different chemical components of Chaga mushroom induced apoptosis(a form of programmed cell death) in human lung adenocarcinoma cells.
This suggests that there may be potential for Chaga mushrooms to play a part in lung cancer treatment in the future after performing further studies on human subjects.
3. Benefits of Chaga for Cancer: Effect on Liver Cancer
A 2008 experimental study assessed the anti-proliferative and apoptotic effects of water extract of Chaga mushroom on human liver cancer cell lines, HepG2 and Hep3B cells.
The study found that the water extract from Chaga mushrooms hindered the growth of liver cancer cells after being subjected to regular doses and led to apoptosis or programmed cell death.
4. Benefits of Chaga for Cancer: Effect on Cervical Cancer
Chaga mushrooms contain inotodiol, a triterpenoid. An experimental study conducted in 2014 found that Inotodiol isolated from Chaga mushrooms limited the spread of human cervical cancer HeLa cells and induced apoptosis or programmed cell death in vitro.
5. Benefits of Chaga for Cancer: Effect on Sarcoma
A study conducted in 2010 on Balbc/c mice having Sarcoma-180 cells to evaluate the effect of inotodiol, lanosterol, and a few other compounds extracted from Chaga mushrooms on the growth of tumors also showed promise.
The scope of the study also included the study of the growth of human carcinoma cells in vitro and the balbc/c mice having Sarcoma-180 cells.
The study found that certain compounds isolated from Chaga mushroom at concentrations of 0.1 and 0.2 mg/mouse per day significantly reduced the tumor volume by 23.96% and 33.71%, respectively, compared with the control group.
It was also found that was significant cytotoxic activity(a process resulting in cell damage or cell death) against the selected cancer cell lines in vitro.
6. Benefits of Chaga for Cancer: Effect on Melanoma Skin Cancer
An experimental study conducted in 2009 found that the water extract from Chaga mushrooms displayed anti-cancer traits against B16-F10 melanoma or skin cancer cells in vitro and in vivo by stopping the escalation and inducing differentiation and apoptosis or programmed cell death of the melanoma cancer cells.
7. Benefits of Chaga for Cancer: Effect on Prostate Cancer and Breast Cancer
Chaga mushrooms have shown some promise in studies conducted on prostate and breast cancer cells in vitro, which showed that extract from Chaga mushrooms helped destroy prostate and breast cancer cells.
Though the above studies offer much hope in the pursuit of cancer cure and prevention, it is to be kept in mind that there has not been enough research on the effects of Chaga mushrooms on the human body to assert it.
Possible Side Effects of Chaga Mushrooms
While there are no reported adverse effects of Chaga mushrooms, it cannot be stated to a medical certainty as there has been enough research on the effects of Chaga mushrooms on the human body to assert it.
However, the following groups of people should consult their doctors before starting to incorporate in their diet:
People with Kidney Diseases
Chaga mushrooms contain high amounts of oxalate; so, persons having a history of or at risk of kidney diseases and kidney stones should not consume Chaga mushrooms in any form without consulting their doctor.
People Using Diabetes Medication
Chaga mushrooms lower the levels of blood sugar in the body. So, people taking insulin or other blood sugar-lowering should not consume Chaga as it can result in an excessive lowering of blood sugar levels and risk themselves becoming hypoglycemic.
People on Blood-thinning Medication and Having Bleeding Disorders
Chaga mushrooms can interfere with the process of blood clotting, and as such, people having bleeding disorders and or taking blood thinners should steer clear of them.
People with Autoimmune Diseases
Chaga mushrooms can make the body’s immune system go on overdrive, so people with autoimmune diseases should avoid them.
Persons Suffering from Osteoporosis
Oxalates are calcium chelating agents, which means they bind with calcium and remove it from the body. Thus, Chaga mushrooms, which contain high amounts of oxalates, are unsuitable for people who have osteoporosis, known more commonly as brittle bone disease.
Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women
Since there is no extensive research on the effects of Chaga mushrooms on humans, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid them as they may get transferred to the baby through the placenta or breast milk.
Chaga mushroom thus has many potential health benefits, and cancer patients may supplement their diet with Chaga in different forms in conjunction with their medical treatment.
You can also try out Chaga mushroom tea, which is recently gaining attention for its potential health benefits.
Still, it is always advisable to consult with your doctor before starting to consume Chaga mushrooms.
Check out 10 Best Healthiest Mushrooms And Their Benefits to find out about other mushrooms that are beneficial to your health.
Also read: What Essential Oils Kill Toenail Fungus