Chaga - The Mushroom of Immortality

Meet the Mushrooms

INTRODUCTION TO CHAGA

Inonotus obliquus, also known as Chaga, is decorated with a variety of names, including the "Gift from God" and “The Mushroom of Immortality” by the Siberian Russians and "Diamond of the Forest" by the Japanese. This mushroom is packed full of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, earning Chaga its real moniker as the "King of mushrooms”.

Chaga is a fungus that grows primarily on the trunks of birch trees in colder climates and is commonly found in Russia, Northern Europe, Asia and North America.  

Although Chaga is often called a mushroom, Chaga is technically a “sclerotium”, a mix of Chaga mycelium and birch wood that forms a hardened black mass. Chaga is also part of the Polypore group, which produces reproductive structures with a spore-bearing surface within tubes or pores. These mushrooms are usually woody at maturity and are sometimes called “Conks”.  

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

Chaga is precious because it’s not a fast-growing fungus, with the “sclerotia” taking 3 to 5 years to fully form. It can live up to twenty years on the host tree (primarily birch trees) until the tree eventually topples over and dies. The relationship between the fungus and the tree is important for forming specific beneficial compounds that give Chaga its superpowers. Two key components are antioxidants derived from the formation of birch and Chaga are, betulin and betulinic acid, a miraculous feat of nature, a mysterious reproductive process, to say the least!  

HISTORY

The Khanty people (1) of Western Siberia around the 12th century were known for using Chaga in a variety of ways, such as to aid digestion. 

The Khanty people also used Chaga as a natural soap combined with lard and ash, recording that it helped soothe the skin. Chaga soon spread around what is known as modern-day Russia, being utilised by hunters and foragers to increase their capacity to work and promote endurance. 

Shen Nung,(2) the father of Chinese medicine and whom many believed to have introduced the technique of acupuncture and the concept of agriculture to China, was also the author of Shen-nung pen ts'ao ching (Divine Husbandman's Materia Medica). This text includes 365 medicines derived from minerals, plants, and animals. In this text, Shen Nung dubbed Chaga as the 'King of the Herbs' because of its diverse and complete health-enhancing properties. 

WHAT IS INSIDE THIS FUNGUS THAT GIVES IT SUCH A REPUTATION? 

Chaga mushrooms are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, potassium, rubidium, cesium, copper, selenium, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, amino acids, and fibre.

Chaga also contains betulinic acid, (3) which is a naturally occurring triterpenoid and a bioactive compound mostly found in birch trees, which has been used for its anti-inflammatory properties.

The chemical composition of Chaga was first studied by German-born chemist and pharmacist Johann Georg Noel Dragendorff in 1864. Since this discovery, scientific analyses have revealed that Chaga possesses a diverse array of approximately 200 different bioactive metabolites (a substance involved in metabolism). Some of these metabolites are polysaccharides, including beta-glucans, melanin and triterpenes, which contain potential health benefits.

IMMUNE HEALTH

One of the reasons that Chaga has been known to be beneficial for our immunity is the number of antioxidants that are found inside it, which is off the charts…the ORAC chart! The ORAC chart is the measurement in controlled tests to see how well a food like Chaga mushroom can protect other molecules from free radicals. Chaga has an antioxidant strength value of 52,000, making it one of the highest ORAC values in the world! To put it into context, one cup of Chaga powder amounts to the antioxidants of 600 blueberries. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compared Chaga to four other functional mushrooms and found that it outperformed them all in antioxidant tests (4)

Studies (5) show that Chaga may prove to suppress free radicals. Free Radicals are unstable atoms or molecules that have one or more unpaired electrons. They can damage cells, fats, proteins, inflammation, infections, ageing, energy production and even DNA!

@dirteaworld Three incredible facts about the KING OF MUSHROOMS 👑 The Chaga Mushroom 🍄 #antioxidants #healthyliving #mushrooms #mushroomfact ♬ original sound - dirteaworld

THE SKIN DR.

The skin makes up the integumentary system—our body’s largest organ. Serving as a barrier keeping our tissues, organs, and body fluids inside while protecting us from outside influences, including toxins and pathogens. 

External factors like smoking, radiation, excessive exercise, poor food choices, and chemicals in water or air may also produce free radicals. Foods like Chaga, which are high in antioxidants, may help prevent oxidative stress by providing more free radical scavenging power. The betulinic acid within Chaga may protect your skin against free radical damage and ageing. It has been shown to stimulate the production of collagen, (6) the protein responsible for youthful skin appearance. (7)

NATURAL ENERGY

Chaga provides natural energy, and unlike coffee, it doesn’t give you caffeine crashes or jitters; it provides a slow drip of energy. One study performed on 64 mice showed that the mice given Chaga mushrooms had longer physical endurance and were fatigued less often than those that were not administered Chaga mushrooms (8)

@dirteaworld Did you know Chaga has more antioxidants out of anything in nature? It’s incredible for skin, immune health and providing natural energy. 🍄 #chaga #skinhealth #antiageing #mushroomfacts #functionalmushrooms #antioxidants #naturalenergy ♬ Stories 2 - Danilo Stankovic

 TRITERPENES

Triterpenoids are among the bioactive components of Chaga. They comprise a broad chemical group. They have been described as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial and immunomodulatory compounds. Several of them are implicated in the resolution of immune diseases, although their effects have not always been clearly correlated.

TASTE

Chaga has an earthy, sweet flavour with a naturally occurring form of vanillin, the same as what is found in vanilla beans. Our DIRTEA Chaga can be sipped independently, and we also recommend adding it to your favourite smoothie. We have also curated a DIRTEA mushroom Coffee Super Blend, which includes Chaga within the mixture!

 5 TAKEAWAYS 

1. An antioxidant powerhouse

2. May improve immune health

3. Betulinic acid within Chaga may protect your skin against free radicals

4. May provide a natural source of energy

5. May aid digestion

REFERENCES

  1. Géry, A., Dubreule, C., André, V., Rioult, J,P., Bouchart, V., Heutte, N., Eldin de Pécoulas, P., Krivomaz, T., and Garon, D. (2018) ‘Chaga ( Inonotus obliquus), a Future Potential Medicinal Fungus in Oncology? A Chemical Study and a Comparison of the Cytotoxicity Against Human Lung Adenocarcinoma Cells (A549) and Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells (BEAS-2B)’. Integr Cancer Ther. 17 (3), pp.832-843. doi: 10.1177/1534735418757912
  2. National Library Of Medicine. (2012). Classics of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Available at: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/chinesemedicine/emperors.html (Accessed: 31 May 2023).
  3. Géry, A., Dubreule, C., André, V., Rioult, J,P., Bouchart, V., Heutte, N., Eldin de Pécoulas, P., Krivomaz, T., and Garon, D. (2018) ‘Chaga ( Inonotus obliquus), a Future Potential Medicinal Fungus in Oncology? A Chemical Study and a Comparison of the Cytotoxicity Against Human Lung Adenocarcinoma Cells (A549) and Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells (BEAS-2B)’. Integr Cancer Ther. 17 (3), pp.832-843. doi: 10.1177/1534735418757912
  4. Cui, Y., Kim, D,S., and Park, K,C. (2005). ‘Antioxidant Effect of Inonotus Obliquus’. J Ethnopharmacol. 96 (1-2), pp.79-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2004.08.037. 
  5. Park, Y,K., Lee, H,B., Jeon, E,J., Jung, H,S., and Kang, M,H. (2004) ‘Chaga mushroom extract inhibits Oxidative DNA Damage in Human Lymphocytes as Assessed by Comet Assay’. Biofactors. 21(1-4), pp.109-12. doi: 10.1002/biof.552210120. 
  6. Drąg,-Zalesińska, M., Rembiałkowska, N., Borska, S., Saczko, J., Drąg, M., Poręba, M., and Kulbacka, J. (2019) ‘A New Betulin Derivative Stimulates the Synthesis of Collagen in Human Fibroblasts Stronger than its Precursor’. In Vivo. 33 (4), pp.1087-1093. doi: 10.21873/invivo.11577. PMID: 31280196; PMCID: PMC6689372.
  7. Yan, ZF., Yang, Y., Tian, FH., Mao, X,X., Li, Y., and Li, CT. (2014). ‘Inhibitory and Acceleratory Effects of Inonotus obliquus on Tyrosinase Activity and Melanin Formation in B16 Melanoma Cells’. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 259836. doi: 10.1155/2014/259836. Epub 2014 Aug 13. 
  8.  Xiuhong, Z., Yue, Z., Shuyan, Y., and Zhonghua, Z. (2015) ‘Effect of Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on physical fatigue in mice’. ScienceDirect. 35 (4), pp.468-472. doi https://doi.org/10.1016/S0254-6272(15)30126-6
  9. Hu, Y., Sheng, Y., Yu, M., Li, K., Ren, G., Xu, X., and Qu, J. (2016) ‘Antioxidant activity of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharide and its amelioration for chronic pancreatitis in mice’. Int J Biol Macromol. 87, pp.348-56. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2016.03.006. 
  10. Park, Y,K., Lee, H,B., Jeon, E,J., Jung, H,S., and Kang, MH. (2004). ‘Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay’. Biofactors. 21 (1-4), pp.109-12. doi: 10.1002/biof.552210120. 
  11. Zheng, W., Zhao, Y., Zhang, M., Wei, Z., Miao, K., and Sun, W. (2009) ‘Oxidative Stress Response of Inonotus Obliquus Induced by Hydrogen Peroxide’. Med Mycol. 47 (8), pp.814-23. doi: 10.3109/13693780802653933. 

 

 

 

 

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