According to the Memorial Sloan Cancer Center, “Laboratory and animal studies show that chaga can inhibit cancer progression. Studies in humans are needed.” In fact, in one study, tumor-bearing mice who supplemented with chaga extract experienced a 60 percent tumor size reduction. Meanwhile, mice with metastatic cancer (tumors spread to other parts of the body) had a 25 percent decrease in their number of nodules compared to the control group.
Another study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology looked at the effects of chaga mushroom on cancerous human liver cells. The research reveals that chaga extract may be able to prevent liver cancer cell growth, making it a potential treatment for cancer in the liver.
In animal studies, chaga mushrooms have helped to boost the immune system by increasing the production of certain immune cells including interleukin 6 (IL-6) as well as T lymphocytes. These substances help to regulate the immune system and make sure that your body is fighting off any invading bacteria and viruses. Research has shown that chaga extracts can stimulate spleen lymphocytes, which can then have a direct positive effect on immune system function.
Chaga Mushroom History and Interesting Facts
The name “chaga” comes from the Russian word for mushroom. Chaga mushrooms have also been called “black gold.” Chaga has been a traditional medicine in Northern European countries for hundreds of years. What for? The chaga mushroom has been used traditionally to treat diabetes and gastrointestinal cancer, along with heart disease, in these areas of the world.
When chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees, as they commonly do, they are quite a sight to see. Not only do they look like burnt wood, they also can grow in a clump that ends up being as big as a human head!
Researchers have investigated chaga mushroom for its use in combating cancer for a very long time. Ironically, chaga mushroom is sometimes called a “tree cancer.” Why on earth is that? It’s because the presence of chaga mushrooms eventually kills its host tree. As interest in chaga for medicinal purposes only continues to gain steam, there has been more and more wild harvesting of this mushroom. However, this is tricky since since the species’ existence is now being threatened by over-harvesting
Possible Side Effects and Caution
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid chaga mushrooms because their use has not been studied in pregnant and breastfeeding women.
If you are currently taking any medication or being treated for any medical condition, check with your doctor before you add chaga mushroom to your diet.
Chaga mushroom appears to have anti-viral abilities when it comes to quite a few viruses. Scientific research published in 2015 found that extracts of chaga had an anti-viral affect on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1. Chaga has also been shown in animal studies to have anti-viral effects when it comes to the hepatitis C virus. Using animal cells, the researchers found that the chaga extract was able to decrease the infective properties of the hepatitis C virus by 100 fold in just 10 minutes. Studies continue, but it looks like chaga is a worthy candidate for use in the development of new anti-viral drugs.
Chaga mushrooms have been shown to reduce inflammation. For example, an animal study has shown that chaga extract can reduce inflammation due to ulcerative colitis in animal subjects. Specifically, the researchers found that the anti-inflammatory effect of the chaga extract in the colon was due to chaga’s ability to suppress the expression of chemical mediators of inflammation. Why is this significant? Because the chemical mediators released during inflammation make inflammation that much more intense and also promote a continuation of the inflammatory
In animal studies, chaga has significantly improved physical endurance. One study published in 2015 found that when mice were given chaga mushroom polysaccharides the mice were able to swim longer (yes, mice can swim!), the glycogen (fuel) content of both muscles and liver increased while lactic acid levels in the bloodstream decreased. Put that all together and it’s a recipe for less fatigue and better endurance.