Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Chaga, kabanoanatake, black mass, clinker polypore, birch canker polypore, cinder conk
Grows on old birch trees. Mostly found in the Northeastern United States, Northern Asia, Northern Europe and Canada - generally along the Northern hemisphere where there are birch trees and cold weather.
Golden-black, irregularly shaped, steril mass. Resembles a large scab growing on an old birch tree.
Sclerotium (fungal mycelial outgrowth)
Triterpenes including betulinic acid, phenolic compounds, (1-3, 1-6)-ß-D-glucans, melanin
The triterpenoid compounds extracted from chaga inhibit proliferation of dysregulated cells, induce cell cycle arrest at various cell cycle checkpoints, enhance apoptosis, and enhance regulation of signal transduction pathways (1). The triterpene inotodiol, specifically, has been shown to have an antihistamine effect via the inhibition of mast cell degranulation in the small intestine when administered to mice with food allergies (2).
Antioxidant The polysaccharides extracted from chaga have antioxidant effects through their superoxide-scavenging activity (3,4). The antioxidant mechanism may be due to the supply of hydrogen by the polysaccharides, which combines with radicals and forms a stable radical, terminating the oxidative chain reaction.
Anti-inflammatory Aqueous extract containing polysaccharides, proteins, and phenolic compounds was administered to mice with intestinal inflammation. The extract suppressed edema, mucosal damage, and inhibited nMRNA expression of pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α, and there was an overall inhibition of inflammatory transcription factor NF-κB (5).
Hypoglycemic Polysaccharide-rich aqueous extract exhibits hypoglycemic activities in vitro and in vivo; animals in this study showed significant alpha-glucosidase activity inhibition, slowing the release of glucose in the intestine, and reducing postprandial hyperglycemia (6).
Current and traditional medicinal use
History and folk use
Chaga sclerotium has been used as medicine in Eastern Europe at least since the twelfth century. Historical accounts suggest that a Russian duke, Vladimis Monomach, cured himself of lip cancer using Chaga. The Khanty people, an ethnic group from Siberia, used this fungus as medicine for digestive ailments and to prevent heart and liver disease. Chaga sclerotium grows out from the core of old birch trees, and consequently has medicinal compounds, betulin and betulinic acid, derived from these trees.
Skin and gastrointestinal inflammation
A group of 50 patients suffering from skin inflammation were treated with Chaga extract paste. 43 patients started the treatment with Chaga during the acute stage of inflammation, and seven started during the steady-state. Chaga extract was heated and one tablespoon of the extract was diluted in a glass of boiled water at room temperature. Chaga extract was administered three times a day 20-30 minutes before meals. Rashes were significantly improved after three months of regular intake, and extensive skin inflammation was completely cured in 16 patients. Overall, Chaga was found to be an especially useful treatment for patients with skin inflammation co-occurring with chronic inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver (7,8).
Double extraction. 1:1 - 1:5 liquid extract. The sclerotia has been extracted with both water and alcohol.
Hot aqueous extract. Sclerotia has been boiled for multiple hours either as a tea or used as a broth.
Powdered extract. 1:1 - 10:1. May be extracted only with water or with both water and alcohol. The extract is then dehydrated into a powdered extract. 10:1 implies that every 1g of extract is equivalent to 10g of dried sclerotia.
Myceliated grain. Mycelium is grown on grain substrate and when the mycelium seems to have digested the majority of the grain, the entire block is extracted.
Want to learn more? Visit our research collection on PubMed
1. Zhao F, Xia G, Chen L, Zhao J, Xie Z. Chemical constituents from Inonotus obliquus and their antitumor activities. 2016:721-730. doi:10.1007/s11418-016-1002-4.
2. Minh T, Nguyet N, Lomunova M, Vinh B, Sun J, Kyu S. International Immunopharmacology The mast cell stabilizing activity of Chaga mushroom critical for its therapeutic effect on food allergy is derived from inotodiol. Int Immunopharmacol. 2018;54(November 2017):286-295. doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2017.11.025.
3. Huang S, Ding S, Fan L. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules Antioxidant activities of five polysaccharides from Inonotus obliquus. Int J Biol Macromol. 2012;50(5):1183-1187. doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2012.03.019.
4. Mu H, Zhang A, Zhang W, Cui G, Wang S. Antioxidative Properties of Crude Polysaccharides from Inonotus obliquus. 2012:9194-9206. doi:10.3390/ijms13079194.
5. Kumar S, Kang J, Kim D, Hyun S, Kyung M. Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus ameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium ( DSS ) -induced colitis in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;143(2):524-532. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2012.07.008.
6. Liu P, Xue J, Tong S, Dong W, Wu P. Structure Characterization and Hypoglycaemic activities of two polysaccharides from inonotus obliquus. Molecules. 2018. doi:10.3390/molecules23081948.
7. Shikov AN, Pozharitskaya ON, Makarov VG, Wagner H, Verpoorte R, Heinrich M. Medicinal Plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia ; their history and applications. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014;154(3):481-536. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.04.007.
8. Dosychev EA, Bystrova VN. [Treatment of psoriasis using "Chaga" fungus preparations]. Vestn Dermatol Venerol. 1973 May;47(5):79-83. Russian. PubMed PMID: 4755970.