Chaga is a non-toxic, medicinal mushroom. Chaga lives on Birch, Alder, Beech, and other hardwood trees found in the cold latitudes of North America, Europe, and Asia. The Khanty- some of the peoples inhabiting the Taiga forest in Western Siberia/ Russia- drank Chaga tea daily and never reported cancer within their people. Unlike so many other mushrooms, Chaga is wild-crafted. This means that it is not grown in a cultivated farm setting, but rather it is found in its natural, native habitat and gathered by hand. Amazingly, one can pass 1,000 birch trees before finding the prized mushroom. The average Chaga mushroom is 10-15 years old before harvesting.
Chaga is used in traditional Japanese medicine. It has been used for the treatment of gastrointestinal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes since the 16th century in Russia, Poland, and most of the Baltic countries.
Chaga Extract contains 30% beta glucans by weight. These beta glucans- which have immunomodulating agent activities- bind to Complement Receptor 3 (CR3) that allows the immune cells to recognize cancer cells as a foreign body. The anti-tumor effects work indirectly by activating different immune responses to cancer in the body. This anti-tumor action requires an intact killer-T cell component; their activity is mediated through a thymus-dependent immune mechanism.
Chaga Protects from Free Radical Damage
Y.K. Park et al. studied Chaga mushroom extract in 2004. These published studies revealed theChaga mushroom extract to inhibit oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay. The evidence showed that the extract could protect DNA from oxidative stress. Studies also suggest that Chaga mushroom extracts might represent a valuable source of biologically active compounds with potential for protecting cellular DNA from oxidative damage in vitro. Many bioactive compounds have been discovered in the Chaga mushroom. Oxygenated triterpenes is thought to be the active substance among these compounds. The mushroom also contains large amounts of betulinic acid. This chemical in particular is being studied for use as a chemotherapeutic agent due to its anti-cancer properties. The full spectrum of immune-stimulating phytochemicals being studied from this medicinal mushroom is amazing.
The anti-carcinogenic properties of Chaga were demonstrated by Rolf & Rolf in 1925. Chaga was also found to help with chronic gastritis ulcers. Then in 1999, Borchers et al. demonstrated that Chaga showed antimicrobial, antiviral, and antitumor activity. Chaga mushrooms contain many different naturally occurring phytochemicals which display various biological activities and properties. Two of the most important aspects of this mushroom are its ability to remove free radicals from the body and its documented anti-cancer properties in traditional and allopathic medicine.
Following is a list of Chaga’s proven, reported effects:
- Anti-Cancer (breast, lip, rectal)
Chaga has also been found to help with:
- Blood purification
- Parotid gland
- Crohn’s disease (CD)
- Pulmonary diseases
- Heart disease
- Stomach ailments
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Stomach disease
- Pain relief
- Ulcerative colitis (UC)
- Virus (HIV)
What makes Chaga Extract Superior to Whole Chaga in Anti-Cancer Research?
How Extract is Removed from the Chaga Mushroom Myung-Ja Youn et al. utilized the historic water extraction method in a study in 2008. This optimal water extraction method was as follows: Chaga mushroom was collected from Russia. One thousand grams of crushed, dry mushroom powder was boiled for 4 hours at 100 degrees centigrade. It was then cooled to room temperature. Next it was filtered from the water. The extract was evaporated to dryness with a rotary vacuum evaporator then freeze-dried to yield 250 grams of powder.
The pure compounds (Inotodiol, 3β-hydroxy-lanosta-8,24-dien-21-al, and Lanosterol) were removed from the Chaga mushroom in a lab study of cancer cell lines in 2008 by Seung -Shi Ham et al. This Chaga extract was tested in vitro on the following human carcinoma cancer cell lines:
- Lung carcinoma A-549 cells
- Stomach adenocarcinoma AGS cells
- Breast adenocarcinoma MCF-7 cells
- Cervical adenocarcinoma HeLa cells
The results showed that all the extracts isolated from Chaga showed significant cytotoxic activity against cancer cell lines in vitro. Mice with an average weight of 20 grams were then tested. Balbc/c mice bearing Sarcoma-180 cancer cells (S-180) in vivo were fed a normal chow supplemented with 0, 0.1, or 0.2 mg of Chaga extract. Results of the tested mice showed significant decreased tumor volume. The tumor volume decreased by 23.96% for the mice fed 0.1 mg Chaga extract, and 33.71%, for the mice fed 0.2 mg Chaga extract as compared with the control.
In 2006, MAZURKIEWICZ isolated some of the active compounds of Chaga water extract:
|1||Benzaldehyde||20.26%||4.58 mg per gram|
|2||Benzyl alcohol||10.87%||2.46 mg per gram|
|3||Syringol (2,6-dimethoxyphenol)||5.27%||1.19 mg per gram|
|4||Dibutyl phthalate||5.10%||1.15 mg per gram|
|5||2-(1,4,4-trimethylcyclohex-2-en-1-yl)ethyl acetate||2.59%||0.59 mg per gram|
|6||4-Oxopentanoic acid||1.15%||0.26 mg per gram|
|7||Vanillic acid||0.94%||0.21 mg per gram|
|8||Docosane||0.89%||0.20 mg per gram|
|9||Hexatriacontane||0.83%||0.19 mg per gram|
|11||Resorcinol||0.62%||0.14 mg per gram|
0.12 mg per gram
|13||Heneicosane||0.50%||0.11 mg per gram|
|14>||3-hydroxy-4,5-dimethoxybenzoic acid||0.44%||0.10 mg per gram|
There are many anticancer components found in the Chaga mushroom. Water extraction causes the bulk of the unneeded structure of the plant to be discarded, leaving the nutrient-rich concentrate. This method lowers the overall required dosage by 75%. This is especially valuable when one wants to consume other anti-caner compounds to fight their disease.
In 1980, Kochi M. et al. reported: Ninety patients with inoperable carcinoma in the terminal stages, and 12 patients in serious condition with other tumor types were given benzaldehyde (This compound has a almond flavor). Toxic effects, including hematologic or biochemical disturbances, were not seen during long-term successive administration. Fifty-seven of the patients treated were evaluable; 19 patients responded completely and ten patients responded partially (greater than 50% regression). For all responding patients longer response durations were associated with longer treatment periods.”
Anti-cancer Properties of Betulinic Acid
Betulinic acid is a cytotoxic that triggers apoptosis (directed suicide cell death) through a direct effect on the mitochondria of cancer cells. Other apoptosis-inducing factors result in cleavage of caspases and nuclear fragmentation. Chaga contains large amounts of betulinic acid in a form that can be ingested orally. This full spectrum, immune-stimulating phytochemical has no side effects when taken orally. Betulinic acid has showed the capability of producing apoptosis to the following human cancer cells:
- Breast carcinoma
- Colon carcinoma
- Ewing sarcoma
- Lymphoma melanoma
- Medulloblastoma cell lines
- Neuroblastoma cells
- Renal cell carcinoma
- Small-cell lung carcinoma
Simone Fulda, MD, et al. in 2000, “Identified BetA (Betulinic Acid) as a new cytotoxic agent active against neuroectodermal tumor cells including neuroblastoma, medulloblastoma, glioblastoma and Ewing sarcoma cells, representing the most common solid tumors of childhood.”
Sudhakar Chintharlapalli et al. in 2007 demonstrated the following: “Betulinic acid is a pentacyclic triterpene natural product initially identified as a melanoma-specific cytotoxic agent that exhibits low toxicity. Subsequent studies show that betulinic acid induces apoptosis. Using prostate cancer cells, Sudhakar Chintharlapalli et al. showed that betulinic acid decreases expression of vascular endothelial growth (VEGF) and the antiapoptotic protein survivin. The mechanism of these betulinic acid–induced antiangiogenic and proapoptotic responses in both LNCaP prostate cells and in tumors is due to activation of selective proteasome-dependent degradation of the transcription factors specificity protein, which regulate vascular endothelial growth and survivin expression (surviven is an antiapoptosis protein known as baculoviral inhibitor of apoptosis repeat-containing 5 or BIRC5). Thus, betulinic acid acts as a novel anticancer agent through targeted degradation of Sp proteins (Sp proteins play an important role in angiogenesis and growth of cancer cells, linked to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in pancreatic cancer cells.) that are highly over expressed in tumors.” [Cancer Res 2007;67(6):2816–23]
Immune Enhancer During Chemotherapy
Yeon-Ran Kim in 2005: “The immunomodulatory effect of a Chaga, was tested on bone marrow cells from chemically immunosuppressed mice. The Chaga was daily administered for 24 days to mice that had been treated with cyclophosphamide (400 mg/kg body weight), immunosuppressive alkylating agent. The number of colony forming unit (CFU)-granulocytes/macrophages (GM) and erythroid burst-forming unit (BFU-E), increased almost to the levels seen in non-treated control as early as 8 days after treatment. These results strongly suggest the great potential of Chaga as immune enhancer during chemotherapy. The Chaga extract helped chemical treated mice to rapidly recover the cells that are capable of forming a colony. The daily administration of Chaga extract for 24 days increased the number of CFU to an almost normal level.”
Chaga Works With Other Anticancer Phytochemicals
Simone Fulda et al. in 2005 studied the concept of combining therapies based on the concept that triggering tumor cell apoptosis through distinct compounds may help to amplify weaker death signals and ensure that apoptosis occurs within a certain time frame: “Combination anti-cancer compounds may prove to be advantageous in malignancies that still partially respond to either treatment alone because they potentially diminish the pool of tumor cells that give rise to an outgrowing resistant variant of the parental tumor and may therefore constitute a potent strategy for bypassing resistance. Also, combination treatment using low doses of each agent may be advantageous in light of the fact that high concentrations found to be active in laboratory settings may often not be achieved in the patient. Clinically, resistance to apoptosis is a major cause of primary or acquired non-responsiveness of cancers leading to treatment failure. Thus, the combination of betulinic acid combined with other anticancer drugs may be a novel strategy to enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy-based regimens.”
In 2009 Lee et al. showed that the hot water extract of Chaga mushroom extract, “Would be useful as an antitumor agent via the induction of the apoptosis and inhibition of the growth of cancer cells through up-regulation of the expression of proapoptotic proteins (Bax and caspase-3) and down-regulation of antiapoptotic proteins (Bcl-2). The water extract Chagamushroom exhibited a potential anticancer activity against B16-F10 melanoma cells in vitro and in vivo through the inhibition of proliferation and induction of differentiation and apoptosis of cancer cells.”
In 2008 Nomura et al. and then in 2009 Youn MJ et al. reported that Chaga mushroom extract, “Inhibits cancer cell proliferation through apoptosis induction by activating caspase-3. However, the mechanisms on anticancer activity of 3β-hydroxy-lanosta-8,24- dien-21-al and lanosterol have not been examined.”
HIV – 1
In 2005, published in The Pharmacological Potential of Mushrooms by Ulrike Lindequist et al., “Water-soluble lignins isolated from Chaga, inhibited HIV protease with an IC 50 value of 2.5 mg ml_1. . Immunostimulation, other effects of the polysaccharide–protein complexes contribute to the antiviral activity, e.g. inhibition of binding of HIV-1 gp120 to immobilized CD4 receptor and of reverse transcriptase activity of viruses. Inhibition of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase was caused by velutin, a ribosome inactivating protein from Flammulina velutipes (M. A. Curtis: Fr.) P. Karst., as well. A total of 85% of responders reported an increased sense of well-being with regard to various symptoms and secondary diseases caused by HIV. Twenty patients showed an increase in CD4þ cell counts to 1.4–1.8 times and eight patients a decrease to 0.8–0.5 times.”
Modulates the Immune System
Yeon-Ran Kim in 2005 demonstrated the effect of the Chaga mushroom water extract on hematopoietic stem cells in chemically immuno-suppressed mice. Because rapidly-dividing hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow are the major damaged cells by chemically immuno-suppressed drugs treatment, the effects of Chaga extract were first tested on the number of the colony forming unit in the bone marrow cell population.
Bone marrow cells were isolated on days 8, 16, and 24 after treatment, and were seeded at an average of 105 cells per plate in the methylcellulose assay system. To determine which colony forming unit was affected by Chaga extract, burst-forming unit-E and colony forming unit granulocytes/macrophages were determined by morphological characteristics. In phosphate buffered saline -treated control mice, neither colony forming unit granulocytes/macrophages nor burst-forming unit-E were formed properly and their numbers remained significantly lower than non-treated mice.
In contrast, the number colony forming unit granulocytes/macrophages in Chaga extract-treated mice was comparable with that in non-treated normal mice at all time points. The number of burst-forming unit -E in Chaga extract -treated mice at day 8 was approximately one-half of that in non-treated mice, but it reached almost the normal level at day 24.
The results suggested that the water extract from Chaga is a very effective biological response modifier that has significant biological effects on the bone marrow.
The Chaga extract helped immuno-suppressed drugs treated mice to rapidly recover the cells that are capable of forming a colony. The daily administration of Chaga extract for 24 days increased the number of colony forming unit to an almost normal level.
In conclusion, all these results suggest that the water extract of Chaga mushrooms is a very potent immune modulator that recovers the bone marrow system damaged by chemotherapy. It also suggests that the immunomodulatory activity of the water extract may be due to the potentiation of the host immune system through the regulation of cytokines in the cytokine network. Therefore, the Chaga mushroom water extract shows a great potential as a supplement or a major therapeutics in immunocompromised or immunosuppressed individuals whose bone marrow system is damaged.
In 2005, Park YM et al.: “Chaga mushroom’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties are thought to be via inhibition of iNOS and COX-2 nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) has been traditionally used for the treatment of gastrointestinal cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in Russia, Poland and most of Baltic countries. This study was designed to investigate the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of Chaga extract used at 100 or 200 mg/(kgday), reduced acute paw edema induced by carrageenin in rats, and showed analgesic activity, as determined by an acetic acid-induced abdominal constriction test and a hot plate test in mice. To reveal the mechanism of the anti-inflammatory effect of MEIO, we examined its effect on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced responses in a murine macrophage cell line RAW 264.7. MEIO was found to significantly inhibit the productions of nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages.
“Consistent with these observations, Chaga extract potently inhibited the protein and mRNA expressions of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Furthermore, MEIO inhibited the LPS-induced DNA binding activity of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), and this was associated with the prevention of inhibitor kappaB degradation and a reduction in nuclear p65 protein levels. Taken together, our data indicate that the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive properties of Chaga extract may be due to the inhibition of iNOS and COX-2 expression via the down-regulation of NF-kappaB binding activity.”
Inhibits Oxidative DNA Damage
In 2004, Y.K. Park et al. authored an article “Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes.”
To compare the antioxidant activities of Chaga extracts with other food sources known to have strong antioxidant activities, Park repeated the experiment at doses of 100 mg/mL each of ascorbic acid, Trolox and α-tocopherol. The protective effects against DNA damage was compared with the damage level of the positive control. Except for ascorbic acid, all the other antioxidants showed over 50% reduction in the level of DNA damage. Our results thus demonstrate that Chaga mushroom extracts afford protection against cellular DNA damage produced by H2O2 in healthy human lymphocytes at levels similar to those provided by other known antioxidants.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
An extract of Chaga reduced the oxidative stress on lymphocytes from patients with inflammatory bowel disease. A hot water extract of Chaga exhibited inhibitory and proapoptotic actions against colon cancer cell proliferation via up-regulation of Bax and caspase-3 and down-regulation of Bcl-2
Najafzadeh et al. theorized that Ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD) are inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, which are unevenly distributed within the populations throughout the world. Najafzadeh explains that although the exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) remains unknown, the epidemiology of inflammatory bowel disease has provided an insight into the pathogenesis of the disease by examining geographic, ethnic and other inflammatory bowel disease risk factors (genetic, environmental, etc.) as well as their natural history (12). Interestingly, reactive oxygen species (ROS) also know as free radicals (13) are produced in abnormally high levels in cells from of inflammatory bowel disease patients leading to oxidative stress/ free radicals damage and thus to DNA damage due to an imbalance between innate and exogenous antioxidants and reactive oxygen species.
Oxidative stress has been linked to cancer, ageing, atherosclerosis, ischaemic injury, inflammation, and neurodegenerative diseases. Medically, inflammatory bowel disease is characterized by the infiltration of CD4þ T-lymphocytes and other mononuclear cells into inflamed mucosal regions. During this process, interleukin (IL)-16 exerts a strong chemo-attractant activity towards CD4þ cells. Moreover, IL-16 activates the expression and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1 beta, IL-6, IL-15 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) in human monocytes.
In 2007, Yuki Nakajima et al. studied Chaga extract from water also know as a decoction. The antioxidant properties compared to other medical mushrooms were compared. When compared to Almond Mushroom/Agaricus blazei mycelia, Reishi/Ganoderma lucidum, and Meshimakobu/Phellinus linteus, Chaga demonstrated the strongest antioxidant activity among the mushrooms examined in terms of both superoxide and hyproxyl radicals scavenging activates. Investigation determined whole plant Chaga decoction superior to other mushrooms examined for the antioxidant properties compared to the mushrooms examined in this study.
Mushrooms contain various types of substances that are effective in systems much more complex than their own. In particular, Chaga contains various kinds of bio-effective materials, which may help protect us from the increasingly carcinogenic environments.
The numerous studies and historical usage suggests that Chaga extract and its compounds could be used as natural anticancer ingredients to prevent treat/cure malignancies. However, it is important to determine what type of Chaga one is using when utilizing an anti-cancer regiment using this mushroom. Dosage is important so determine whether the supplement is:
- Whole mushroom
- Water- mushroom extract
- Chemical isolated component
Allopathic medicine which maintains the principle, “One synthetic drug for one disease,” has made a few useful contributions to human life, e.g., penicillin. However, the fact that synthetic chemicals have incredible toxic side effects can not be overlooked.
Traditional medicine has used single herbs and herbal mixtures in preparations for diseases. Traditional medicine is based upon observations that “One plus one” adds synergy to the equation. Plants contain 100’s of different natural photochemicals in one complex mixture. Although Western and Asian countries have a long history of combining herbs and nutrients, a good argument can still be made for using either single or complex mixtures in formulations… it all depends upon the needs and its intended use.