Chaga Mushroom

Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a fungus that grows on birch tree bark in cold climates such as Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada, and Alaska. Other names for Chaga include black mass, clinker polypore, birch canker polypore, cinder conk, and sterile conk trunk rot (of birch). The scientific name of Chaga Mushroom is I .obliquus, and its extracts are used in Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the Baltics for their beneficial effects on lipid metabolism and cardiac function and antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor properties. Medicinal mushrooms have a long history of use in traditional oriental medicine as well as nutritionally functional foods. Inonotus obliquus (Chaga mushroom), a member of the Basidiomycetes family Hymenochaetaceae, preferentially grows on the trunks of mature live birch trees. I. obliquus extracts have beneficial effects in China, Korea, Japan, Russia, and the Baltics.

Chaga grows a woody growth, or conk, that resembles a clump of burnt charcoal and is about 10–15 inches (25–38 centimeters) in size. The inside, on the other hand, reveals a soft core of orange color.  For centuries, Russia and other Northern European countries have used Chaga as traditional medicine, primarily to boost immunity and overall health.

It has also been used in the treatment of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Chaga was traditionally grated into a fine powder and brewed as a herbal tea. Chaga mushrooms are high in fibre, low in calories, and high in antioxidants. Betulin, Betulinic acid, Ergosterol peroxide, Vanillic acid, Protocatechuic acid, Polysaccharides, Flavonoids, Terpenoids, Polyphenols, including ennobling and phelligridins, are some key constituents of Chaga mushroom. The range of pharmacological properties associated with their applications is significant: antimicrobial, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, antiarthritic, and anticancer properties.  These last two activities have received the most attention, particularly from betulin and betulinic acid.

Chaga may have anticancer properties.  An alcohol extract of Chaga was found to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in all cell lines tested,in a series of test-tube studies involving lung cancer cells(Baek et al., 2018). An earlier study from Japan supported the findings, in which mice with lung cancer were given a three-week continuous intravenous (IV) infusion of Chaga. The mice, according to the researchers, achieved a 25% reduction in tumour size compared to untreated mice. Tumour was reduced by 60% in those with metastatic disease.  Three weeks of continuous extract Intake at a dose of 6 mg/kg/day, which corresponded to that ingested daily with Chaga infusion in Japan, the anticancer activity of I. obliquus extract was examined in mouse models Lewis lung carcinoma growth spontaneous metastasis. In both models, the section of I. obliquus had a significant tumour suppressive effect. Thus, in tumour-bearing mice, the tumour was reduced by 60%; when compared to the control group, the number of nodules in metastatic mice decreased by 25%.

Furthermore, I. obliquus Extract-treated mice showed an increase in tumour accumulation as well as inhibition of vascularizatio. Simultaneously, animal studies revealed that I. obliquus aqueous extracts had anti-inflammatory effects in experimental colitis and promoted lipid metabolism. Several studies looked into the anti-tumour activity of I. obliquus aqueous extract and discovered that it inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis of carcinoma cell of various type. Furthermore, I. obliquus extracts were shown to inhibit skin carcinogenesis and tumour growth in Sarcoma-180 cell-bearing mice .(Arata et al., 2016) Despite mounting evidence of I. obliquus extract and individual component anticancer activity, the underlying mechanisms remain unknown, and the effects of I. obliquus on cancer prevention are unknown(Lim et al., 2010).

Cancer patients have hypothermia and hyperglycemia, and physiologic responses to high body temperature improve the tumour microenvironment. These findings suggest that inducing lipid metabolism and maintaining proper body temperature could be essential aspects of cancer prevention. According to one study, taking I. obliquus extract has anti-cancer properties. It was also demonstrated that I. obliquus regulates body temperature in a tumorigenesis mouse model for the first time. Most studies on the anti-tumour effects of I. obliquus focused on cancer treatment rather than cancer prevention because I. obliquus extracts were given immediately before or after tumour transplantation. Long-term continuous intake of I. obliquus extract may suppress tumorigenesis by supporting normal metabolic reactions in the organism, including thermogenesis. Continued ingestion of I. obliquus extract at a dose comparable to that received by Japanese people through daily

Mechanisms of Action

Chaga extracts contain oxalic, gallic, protocatechuic, and p-hydroxybenzoic acids . Terpenoids that inhibit alpha-glucosidase are thought to have antidiabetic properties in vitro. The inhibition of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 may result in anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties (COX-2).Th1/Th2 cytokine secretion in immune cells and antigen-specific antibody production are thought to have immunomodulatory effects  Beyond immunomodulatory effects, anti-quorum sensing activity in chaga conks suggests broader anti-infection properties.(Glamočlija et al., 2015).In animal studies, a methanolic extract of chaga Improved learning and memory by lowering malondialdehyde and nitrite levels, reducing acetylcholinesterase activity, and increasing glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and acetylcholine levels(Zhao et al., 2014).

Continuous intake suppresses metastasis.

The anti-tumour effects of I. obliquus extract were investigated further in a spontaneous metastasis model to lung tissue induced by 3LL cell intravenous injection. First, they used a stereomicroscope to examine lung metastasis  days after tumour implantation. Lung nodules in I. obliquus-treated mice decreased when compared to the control group. The lungs of animals anaesthetized on day nine after cancer cell injection. Were then examined using micro-CT to determine the number of pulmonary nodules. The results show that ingesting I. obliquus extract reduced the number of tumour nodules in the lungs. Polysaccharides from chaga were found to have anti fatigue properties, increasing endurance and glycogen content in the liver and muscle while decreasing blood lactic acid and serum urea nitrogen levels in mice (20). TNF-alpha, iNOS, and interleukin (IL)-1beta suppression were linked to anti-inflammatory effects in animal colitis models.(Mishra et al., 2012).Chaga constituents 3beta-hydroxy-lanosta-8, 24-dien-21-al, and inotodiol have antimutagenic and antioxidative properties. Water-soluble lignin derivatives have also been discovered to be anticancer bioactive components.

 Anticancer activity of I. obliquus in mouse models of carcinoma and spontaneous metastasis

Mice were given water with or without extracts of I at a concentration of 24 g/mL. Of I. obliquus (1 per cent stock solution) for three weeks before tumour inoculation and throughout the experiment, approximately 6 mg/kg of I. obliquus extract was ingested in 5 ml of drinking water per day. As previously stated, cancer models were developed(Zheng et al., 2013). It was found that tumour progression can be slowed down by the use of Chaga mushroom. Inotodiol, a triterpenoid isolated from chaga, inhibited cervical cancer cell proliferation and induced apoptosis in vitro by increasing. 

Continuous ingestion of I. obliquus extract prevented a drop in body temperature following tumour implantation.

The I. obliquus extract may play an essential role in tumour suppression by maintaining body temperature. They Implanted nano-temperature loggers subcutaneously in the abdomen and measured body temperature in real-time to test this hypothesis. Given that there was no difference in water intake between the I. obliquus and control groups, these findings imply that I. obliquus may upregulate energy metabolism. Body temperature gradually decreased after tumour implantation in the control group during light-to-dark switching, but not in the I. obliquus extract group.

Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms

Antioxidant

When compared to three other common antioxidant mushrooms, Chaga has the highest antioxidant activity. The Chaga extract reduced DNA damage caused by hydrogen peroxide by more than 40% in human lymphocytes. A chaga-derived compound protected brain cells from Parkinson’s disease by activating an antioxidant pathway.(Hu et al., 2016)

Bioactive part or functions                              Biological activities on cancer

Endo-polysaccharide anticancer

Water extract                                                    Anticancer 56% inhibitory against tumour cells.

The hot water extracts antiproliferative and antioxidants.

Ethanol extract                                                 44.2% inhibitory against tumour cell

Methanol extract                                              Anti-inflammatory 

Some preliminary research on Chaga’s potential shows anticancer effects. It is still in the animal and cell stage, and further clinical studies have yet to determine if this mushroom may be helpful in cancer therapies. In mice with lung cancer, supplementing with Chaga extract reduced tumour size by 60% and prevented cancer from spreading. The Chaga extract inhibited the growth of several cancer cell types in cell-based studies, including colon, liver, lung, leukaemia, cervical, and brain cancer cells. Still, not healthy cells(Song et al., 2013) Compounds found in chaga assisted mice’s immune systems in distinguishing between their cells and foreign cells, potentially increasing the accuracy of their response and lowering the risk of autoimmunity.

In addition, chaga extract reduced immune hypersensitivity in mice and the risk of shock from severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Chaga ethanol extract reduced IL-4 levels and increased IFN-y levels in mice by promoting the Th1 response while inhibiting the allergy-promoting Th2 response. Chaga may help to reduce inflammation by inhibiting an overactive immune response.

Its extract inhibited pro-inflammatory pathways(NF-KB)and messengers (nitric oxide and PGE2) in rats, as well as a pain response.

Chaga also reduced inflammation in mice with IBD by suppressing cytokines (TNF-alpha and IL-1beta) and messengers (nitric oxide)(Ko et al., 2011).

Side effects of Chaga Mushroom

Excessive use of chaga or inappropriate use of chaga can lead to kidney-related diseases, as it is not approved as a therapeutic agent for cancer treatment. Hence over usage must be prevented. The substance oxalate is especially concerning because it can harm the kidneys. Oxalate is classified as an anti-nutrient because it interferes with nutrient absorption and can quickly bind with calcium to form kidney stones. Overuse of Chaga powder has even resulted in kidney failure in some people.

On the other hand, Chaga can influence blood glucose levels; it should be used in caution with Anti-diabetes medications, such as insulin. This may result in hypoglycemia (an abnormal drop in blood sugar). Chaga may also interfere with blood clotting, which is a source of concern.

Hence, Chaga should never be used in people who have kidney disease, have family kidney stones in the past or are at risk of developing kidney stones. Despite the positive results, at such high concentrations, Chaga may cause more harm than good

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Precaution

Remember that the FDA has not approved chaga mushroom for medical use due to a lack of clinical research. It is, however, available as a supplement. Regulations establish supplement manufacturing standards but do not guarantee their safety or effectiveness. Before taking chaga mushroom, consult with the doctor. The mushroom’s safety profile is unknown because it has only been tested in animals  cells. The list of potential side effects below is not exhaustive; should consult the doctor about other possible side effects based on health condition and potential drug or supplement interactions. Chaga may also help to reduce blood sugar levels. Its combination with diabetes medication may cause deficient blood glucose levels. People with autoimmune diseases should avoid Chaga because it can cause the immune system to become overactive. Due to the high oxalate content of chaga powder, an older woman developed oxalate nephropathy after consuming it daily for six months(Mishra et al., 2012).

Conclusion

In vitro and in vivo, chaga demonstrated antitumor, antimutagenic, antiviral, antiplatelet, antidiabetic, antioxidant, analgesic, immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects. Chaga demonstrated anti-allergic, cognition-enhancing, and antioxidant activities in animal models, as well as anti-inflammatory effects against experimental colitis. Polysaccharides derived from chaga were found to improve exercise endurance and biological measures related to fatigue when taken orally. Chaga may have antidiabetic properties as well. The chaga mushroom, like many other mushrooms, contains a high concentration of beta-glucans. These have immunomodulating activities. Beta-glucans are of interest because they bind to complement receptor three or CR3. This allows immune cells to recognize cancer cells as “non-self,” which theoretically can trigger cellular death of the cancer cells.