7 Chaga Mushroom Health Benefits
Out of any mushroom you should be consuming, chaga should be on top of the list. Here’s why:
1. Cancer Killer
One of the most well-known chaga mushroom health benefits is its ability to selectively inhibit and destroy cancer cells. Chaga has one of the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity) ratings out there, surpassing that of turmeric root, açaí berries, pomegranates and wild blueberries. This rating measures the antioxidant potential of a food – so chaga really ranks up there!
Chaga’s full spectrum of phytosterols like lanosterol, inotodiol, ergosterol and fecosterol are among the many chaga constituents that have been shown to directly inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Studies have demonstrated inhibitory and proapoptotic effects of chaga mushroom extracts against colon, lung, and liver cancer cell lines. In some studies, chaga demonstrated selective apoptosis against tumor cells with no effect on healthy cells.
In one study, tumor-bearing mice experienced a 60 percent tumor size reduction after being supplemented with 6mg/kg/day of chaga extract for three weeks. The same research also found that chaga increased tumor agglomeration as well as inhibited tumor vascularization, further inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer in these mice.
Chaga is also one of the best sources of betulinic acid, which is known to kill cancer cells on contact.
These cancer-protective effects are not surprising when taking into consideration the incredible nutrient profile of chaga, which is virtually unmatched in the natural world.
2. Reduces Fatigue & Boosts Physical Performance
Having more energy throughout the day is something we could all benefit from. A study performed on mice found that the polysaccharides found in chaga reduced fatigue and increased stamina during exercise. Mice that were given chaga (opposed to the controls) were able to swim longer and recovered faster, because more energy (glycogen) was delivered to their muscles and liver and decreased lactic acid levels in the bloodstream.
While not traditionally categorized as an adaptogen, chaga does possess many adaptogenic qualities, which make it great for helping relieve stress. Chronic stress can make us experience higher levels of fatigue, anxiety and a weakened immune system. Researchers have found that adaptogens (like chaga) can help alleviate feelings of stress, and indirectly remediate problems like chronic fatigue.
3. Battles Inflammation
Chaga mushrooms are anti-inflammatory, thanks to their high concentration of antioxidants, which combat free radicals and prevent cellular damage. Most importantly, chaga contains the very powerful antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD).
SOD catalyzes the breaking apart and disarming of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons that try to scavenge more electrons from other molecules, causing damage to DNA enzymes, proteins and cell membranes. As an antioxidant, SOD works to donate an extra electron to the free radicals, thereby preventing any future damage that the free radical would have done.
Damage from free radicals triggers inflammation, with chronic inflammation producing even more free radicals, which in turn creates more inflammation. It’s like a vicious cycle that damages many systems in the body. By donating an extra electron to free radicals to prevent further damage to our cells, SOD in chaga has the potential of becoming an effective anti-inflammatory aid.
Studies have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory potential of chaga by collecting lymphocytes from 20 patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and 20 healthy volunteers. The researchers treated the cells from both groups with variable doses of chaga extract. They found that the chaga extract reduced oxidative stress in lymphocytes from IBD patients and also healthy individuals when challenged in vitro.
Another study found that chaga extract can reduce inflammation due to ulcerative colitis in animal subjects. They found that chaga extract helps suppress the expression of chemical mediators of inflammation, helping to dampen the inflammatory response, and thus, lessen the pain response.
4. Potent Anti-Viral
When it comes to preventing viruses, chaga makes a bold statement. A study from Russia published in 2014 showed that chaga mushroom extract protected a cell culture from the cytotoxic effects of a herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) infection.
To enter a cell, enveloped viruses (like herpes) undergo a process called membrane fusion. Without it, they cannot infect a cell. A cell culture study found that chaga mushroom extract helped to prevent herpes simplex entry into cells by acting on viral glycopeptides and preventing cell membrane fusion.
The anti-viral activity of chaga has also shown promising results against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In 2015, scientists from the Vector Research Institute in southwestern Siberia found that extracts of chaga demonstrated toxic effects against HIV type 1.
The antiviral effect, the researchers found, was due to the strong presence of betulinic acid, which possesses both anti-inflammatory and antiretroviral properties. Because of this, the researchers theorized that it could successfully be used to treat HIV infections and other similar conditions. “The extract of the birch fungus can be used for development of new antiviral drugs, inhibitors of HIV-replication when used both in the form of individual drugs and as a part of complex therapy.”
5. Stimulates the Immune System
Cytokines are the immune system’s chemical messengers. They play an extremely important role in stimulating white blood cells, which are the immune system’s first line of defense against many different illnesses.
When consumed, chaga promotes the formation of beneficial cytokines, which are essential for fighting off harmful bacteria or viruses.
Compounds found in chaga have been found to help the immune system differentiate between the body’s cells and foreign cells. In one study, the anti-tumor activity of an aqueous extract of chaga was mediated by protecting lymphocytes in the spleen from tumor-induced apoptosis (cell death), and by triggering apoptosis of tumor cells. This is extremely important for anyone dealing with a suppressed immune system (such as those with cancer), because while our healthy cells are being protected from invading tumor cells, the tumor cells themselves are also being destroyed. This includes protection of immune cells like lymphocytes, which encourages a stronger immune system overall.
6. Slows the Aging Process
High levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) in chaga make it a popular mushroom for slowing down the aging process and helping you look your best. SOD is an enzyme that protects against oxide damage – one of the main processes that ages us. By neutralizing free radicals, SOD helps slow visible effects of aging, such as wrinkles, as well as more physical effects like atherosclerosis, stroke and arthritis.
A recent study published in Chromosoma found that increased levels of SOD suppress meiotic segregation errors in aging oocytes. What does this mean? It means that SOD is able to potentially reduce the risk of maternal age-related miscarriage and birth defects that are predominantly a consequence of chromosome segregation errors during the first meiotic division.
Chaga was also found to restore cognitive dysfunction in animal models by increasing levels of glutathione (another major antioxidant) and SOD. The result was enhanced cognitive function, specifically learning and memory, as measured by two tests. Their results suggest that oxidative stress plays a role in improved brain function, and that chaga can improve aspects of cognition.
7. Cardiovascular System Support
When it comes to the heart, chaga provides some serious support. As I’ve outlined above, chaga is high in the enzyme and super-antioxidant SOD, which combats the oxidative stress often responsible for high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more prone to heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular issues.
Chaga also contains many antioxidants that may reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol that most people try to keep at a healthy level. High cholesterol is associated with increased risk of heart disease, so chaga could be useful in helping prevent cardiovascular disease.
Betulinic acid in chaga also balances blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity, making it a great mushroom of choice for diabetics. In fact, researchers have found that betulin was as (or more) effective than cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Borrowed from LiveLoveFruit.com