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Last revision: July 5th, 2016
• Bio-active ingredients
• Is Siberian Chaga the best Chaga ?
• Fukushima and radioactive contamination
• Summary of actions
• The future of Chaga
In the late 1990′s Chaga was virtually unknown as a dietary supplement, with the exception of Russia and a few countries in SE-Asia (mainly Korea, China and Japan).
Daniel Vitalis, a successful ‘health-guru’
Now, we’ve entered the 21st century and Chaga is one of the hypes of the day, a hype fuelled both online and offline by health-gurus like David Wolfe, Daniel Vitalis and Cass Ingram.
‘King of Herbs‘ it is called, and if you have to believe all the health claims made on the internet, Chaga is the cure for almost everything. Of course, this is grossly exaggerated.
Large numbers tend to impress people, so Chaga promotion is always dressed up with a lot of large numbers, ranging from its age (‘Over 4600 years ago…’), its active ingredients (‘Over 215 phyto-nutrients, massive amounts of zinc…’), the number of scientific publications so far (‘Over 1400 (also: ‘1600’) studies…’), its anti-oxidant score (‘Tufts University research: 36,557 SOD!!’), its scarcity (‘only one in 10,000 trees bears Chaga…’), etc…
A lot of these numbers are the result of copy/paste writing with unverifiable sources and, as soon became apparent to us while doing research, are actually most of the time the result of ‘creative writing’. This misinformation is then often copied by another website, and then another one, and so on. A good example, in a nutshell, how new ‘facts’ can be created.
While doing the research for this monograph we went back to the basis: well-known peer-reviewed research and verifiable facts. Understanding both Russian and Chinese and having a background in library science has been a great help, because several publications are hard to find and only available in those languages, and quite a few ‘facts’ stem from mis-interpreting the data given in those publications.
Definition of Chaga
What we call ‘Chaga’ is the dense black mass (25-40 cm large) that can be seen on the outside of trees (almost exclusively birches) infected with the fungus Inonotus obliquus. It is not a fruiting body (meant for spreading spores, the final stage in the life of many mushrooms) but a dense sterile mass of mycelia, with decayed bits of birch tissue incorporated. When chopped from the tree the interior has a rusty yellow-brown color, somewhat granular in appearance, and is often mottled with whitish or cream-colored veins. The hard, deeply cracked black outside of the Chaga is called the sclerotium.
Typically, well-developed Chaga sclerotia are found on trees over 40 years of age, but the infection starts earlier. The period from initial infection to tree death varies with the number of infection sites and tree resistance, but is typically around 20 years. After about 3-5 years the Chaga can be harvested. After harvesting, chaga can regrow to harvestable size again in three to ten years, and this can be repeated until the tree dies. Chopping off the Chaga does not stop the infection.
Many websites promoting and selling Chaga start their introduction with a variation on ‘as early as 4600 years ago…‘. We have not been able to find a source for this. Not much writing was going on at that time (Egypt, Mesopotamia), but it definitely did not take place in the areas where Chaga is found, close to the polar circle. It is very well possible Chaga was known and used during ancient times, but there are no records of it.
The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing is the oldest written text on medicinal herbs
Chaga (Chinese names are Hua Jie Kong Jun or Bai Hua Rong) is also not mentioned in the oldest existing text on medicinal herbs, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, (written ± 200 BC) despite many websites who say otherwise. We looked it up, to verify. ‘King of Herbs’ is in fact a 21st century marketing statement, not a 2200 year old slogan from the Chinese. (And Chaga is of course not a herb, but a fungus.)
The legendary 5300 year-old Ötzi the Iceman, whose frozen remains were found in 1991, also fueled some stories, because among Otzi’s possessions were two types of tree mushrooms.
Ötzi was carrying these birch fungus fragments around his neck, but no Chaga
One of these (the birch fungus – Piptoporus betulinus) is known to have antibacterial properties, and might have been used for medical purposes. The other was a type of tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius), included with what appeared to be a complex fire-starting kit. But again… no Chaga.
The first verifiable mentions of Chaga are actually from the 16th century and stem from Russia.
Chaga (in combinations with other herbs) was used for the treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers and gastritis.
‘Chaga tea’ was used for the treatment of an upset stomach and intestinal pains. Such a decoction was (and still is) especially popular among hunters and foresters, since this drink alleviates hunger, removes tiredness, refreshes, and increases work capacity. Chaga tea is also used as a means of improving the general tone.
Patients were (and still are) frequently recommended to use chaga extracts when it was necessary to reduce the arterial or venous blood pressure. Chaga infusions were (and still are) also used for the treatment of periodontitis, eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Inhalations of chaga with other herbs are until today being used to reduce inflammations in the nasopharynx and to facilitate breathing.
Chaga was also used in agriculture, in particular in animal breeding: adding chaga to the ration of pigs stimulates the growth of piglets and accelerates the weight gain of fatteners. Chaga has also been used as a plant growth stimulator, like fertilizer.
An example of the first users are the Khanty (formerly called the Ostyak), one of the peoples inhabiting West Siberia. Due to fatalism caused by their animist-shamanist world outlook, their folk medicine was developed poorly, though. Illnesses arising without evident external reasons were thought to have been caused by supernatural beings and doctors were regarded incapable of curing such diseases. Nevertheless, they did use some fungi to support their health, one of which was Chaga. (The name ‘Chaga’ is actually derived from the Khanty language.)
Khanty men, Vakh river, 1898
Chaga was and is still used by the Khanty for general well-being, internal cleaning (we would call it ‘detoxing’) and curing and preventing disease in general, but in particular for liver problems, heart problems, tuberculosis and to get rid of parasitic worms. It was prepared as a tea. (method of preparation: cut up dried Chaga, put it into boiling water, boil for several minutes.) Three cm3 were used for 2.5 l of tea, and the tea was drunk until the ailment was cured.
The Khanty also used Chaga to make ‘soap water‘. To make ‘soap water‘ the fungus was first put into the fire. When it turned red (like smoldering charcoal) it was put into a bucket of hot water and then stirred until it broke into small pieces. The black water thus obtained has a strong cleaning and disinfecting ability.
This ‘soap water‘ was used to wash the genitals of women during menstruation and after birth; sometimes new-born babies were also washed. One Khanty compared it to the effect of a KMnO4 solution (potassium permanganate; a disinfectant used in Russia to wash new-borns the first three months after their birth) and stated that women who washed themselves with such water, never took ill. In older times it had been used instead of soap to wash the hands, feet and sometimes also the whole body. Chaga was also burned and the smoke was inhaled; its purpose was ritual cleaning.
Ainu people, 1902
The Ainu people, an ethnic group indigenous to Hokkaido, the Kuri islands and Sahkhalin used to drink Chaga tea to treat stomach pain and inflammations. Another use was filling a pipe with powdered Chaga, lit and smoke it during religious ceremonies. The leader of the ceremony inhaled the smoke and then passed the pipe to his neighbor. The pipe continued circulating until all the participants had smoked it. This ritual was described as ‘consuming the smoke‘. Although the medicinal effects of the smoke are unknown (and probably nonexistent), this tradition shows that Chaga was highly regarded.
Several native tribes (the Woodland Cree, the Gitksan, the Wet’suwet’en and the Tenaina, e.g.) in North-America/Canada knew and used the Chaga fungus. Each tribe had several names for the fungus. It is obvious none of these people called it ‘Chaga’ or ‘Tsi-aga’ as some internet sites proclaim – they are not Khanty!
A camp site of the Woodland Cree, 1871
The Woodland Cree e.g. called it ‘Pos kan’ or ‘Wisakechak omik h‘, and this name was derived from the following legend: “Wisakechak (a mythological figure) threw a scab (= ‘Omik h’), which he had mistaken for dried meat and tried to eat, against a birch tree where it has stayed to this day to benefit mankind.”
The Cree used the soft yellow-brown inside of Chaga as tinder or touchwood for the building of campfires. One fire-starting method commonly used by the Cree was the striking of steel against a piece of flint to make sparks. The sparks ignited a piece of dry ‘Pos kan‘ which catches easily and remains smoldering, then the ‘Pos kan‘ ignites thin pieces of birch bark and small dry twigs in turn. In Russia this method was also used, and even today survivalists are hunting Chaga for this reason. Have a look at this website, e.g. with an extensive explanation.
Chaga’s chemical composition was studied for the first time in Russia’s St. Petersburg (1864), by J.G.N. Dragendorff (1836-1898). Nothing useful was reported. At the beginning of the 20th century some Russian researchers (Yakimov, Shivrina, and others) carried out a more thorough analysis of Chaga and compared its chemical composition with other polypore fungi. This can be considered as the actual beginning of research on Chaga.
A very rare sight, Chaga’s fruiting body on a dead yellow birch.
It is a thin greyish ‘crust’ – see left picture; the right picture is a close up – composed of countless tubes filled with spores (pictures by Vladimir Gubenko)
These researchers reported that Chaga’s composition is very different from other polypore tree mushrooms. This seems to indicate Chaga is highly special, but a reason for that difference might be the fact (at least in part) that they were comparing fruiting bodies (product of the reproductive stage of a mushrooms’ life) to the sterile lump of mycelia/sclerotia that we call Chaga.
Chaga’s fruiting body has never been investigated well, if at all, because it is rarely seen and when it finally appears (sometimes 3 to 4 years after the host tree is dead) it does not last long – bugs and aggressive molds destroy it quickly. So these researchers might have been comparing apples and pears, so to speak. Even nowadays many researchers are mixing up the fruiting body and the sterile Chaga lump when introducing their projects. This leads to confusion.
After WWII Chaga research really took off in Russia, fueled by the reputation Chaga had built in folk medicine during the past centuries. This resulted in an official entry in the USSR State Pharmacopeia.
Several standardised products were prepared at the Leningrad Botanical Institute, the most note-worthy being Befungin and Binczaga (introduced in the 50′s). Befungin (a mixture of Chaga extract and cobalt salts) was (and is) used mainly as a prophylactic, to treat ulcers and gastritis, as a treatment during the early stages of cancer and to battle the side effects of standard anti-cancer treatments.
Research agreed that the fungus has a favourable effect on the central nervous system and metabolic processes, and boosts immunity to infections. Hot water extracts were found to greatly alleviate the suffering in cancer patients, relieve pain and improve appetite; but it is not a radical drug in malignant cancer cases, although it might inhibit the development of tumors if used at its initial stages.
The Chromogenic Complex in Chaga
What is striking is that Russian Chaga production is based on a different concept then the rest of the world ‘s using, maybe because of the Soviet-Union‘s isolated position during the past decades. In Russia the State Pharmacopeia (entry 63,38) gives strict directions for the valuation and production of Chaga and its derivatives (extracts, tinctures, ointments, etc). The starting point is always the so-called ‘Chromogenic Complex‘ (should be at least 10% to be acceptable as a Chaga product), a vague concept with no definition of its chemical composition, based on gravimetric measurement. The ‘Chromogenic Complex’ is also not unique for Chaga; several Russian patents describe how to determine this in other mushrooms and herbs. It is mainly used for identification purposes.
The Chromogenic Complex-concept stems from the 50′s and can be considered outdated, in particular because we now know a lot more about the bioactive ingredients of Chaga and pharmaceutical techniques have progressed significantly since then. In the late 50s spectroscopic analysis was developed . It gives much more detailed results then the old gravimetric assays. Some sources state that the Chromogenic Complex is most likely mainly composed of polyphenols and melanin, but this is still a subject of discussion.
Russian producers, however, are still by federal law required to use the ‘Chromogenic complex‘ as the quality standard of their Chaga product, otherwise they will not be allowed to sell and export their products. It seems nobody is interested in updating the Chaga entry in the Russian State Pharmacopeia. This requirement also means that Russian Chaga products are limited to hot water extracts (being the base of the Chromogenic Complex). Hot water extracts contain very little (if any) bioavailable terpenes (like sterols and betulinic acid) and other non-water solubles. This is a severe limitation, because these components often have significant therapeutic potency. Also, the existing synergy between the different constituents will be destroyed.
Chaga extraction room, Limonnik factory, Russia.
Research taking place outside of Russia has been focusing on elements such as polyphenols, polysaccharides (in particular beta-glucans), and terpenes (like betulinic acid and sterols), and the presence of these components became the global scientific standard for judging the therapeutic qualities of Chaga and its derivatives.
We were able to compare Chaga extracts from the three largest exporting Russian producers; Art of Life Ltd, Baikal Herbs Ltd and Limonnik Ltd. The Certificates of Analysis (COA) of their Chaga extracts all show a high percentage of ‘Chromogenic Complex‘. Further analysis shows that the percentage of (1>3)(1>6) beta-D-Glucans is very low (< 2%) and betulinic acid is absent, but the levels of polyphenols and the antioxidant potency are high.
Despite the effort of many researchers the precise composition of this Chromogenic complex is still unclear, so products solely based on this are outdated, pharmaceutically speaking.
PubMed, the worlds largest database of scientific publications returns ZERO results if you enter “chromogenic complex chaga” (or something similar) as a search term. There is no noteworthy research using the chromogenic complex in Chaga as a starting point, not even in the most important Russian scientific papers (which are also indexed in PubMed).
In the opening paragraph of this Russian journal – (Translated from Khimiko-Farmatsevticheskii Zhurnal, Vol. 44, No. 3, pp. 35 – 37, March, 2010) the ‘chromogenic complex’ is described as ‘a vague concept with no definition of its chemical composition’ and products and protocols based on that are described as ‘severely out of date’ and ‘not respond(ing) to current requirements’.
This particular article was in the core a plea from a few Russian Chaga producers to update the Russian standards. This would make Russian Chaga products more comparable to other Chaga products. Much higher quality and more diverse products could be developed and exported. Until now, nothing has changed, though.
Chaga and its bioactive ingredients
We will not go into the wee details of the bio-technological composition of Chaga, because it is highly technical. The bioactives that are responsible for the main therapeutic effects of Chaga and that are used as standards for the production of many Chaga products we will explain below, using simple terminology.
NB – We could not find a source for the often seen marketing-claim “Chaga contains 215 phyto-nutrients” which might have been helpful. Nobody could tell us what these 215 phyto-nutrients were – it’s most likely just another marketing blurb.
Raw Chaga’s composition is described as follows (being a natural product the percentages can vary, of course):
- Water 13.2%
- Proteins 2.40%
- Lipids 2.40%
- Ash 10.1%
- Carbohydrates 71.9 % (lignin 32.6%; beta-glucans 12.0%)
- Ergosterol 35.3 mg %
- K 2.98%
- Na 0.02%
- Ca 0.06%
- The total energy is 159.4 kcal/100 g
*Mn percentage was not specified, but estimated to be ± 110 ppm.
‘Humic acids‘ have also been mentioned as being Chaga constituents, but this is completely wrong: humic acids are a by-product of decaying organic material (such as compost), and are found in soil and e.g. peat. They’re not found in living fungi or herbs.
Extracts will have a different composition, depending on the extraction method.
In biochemistry carbohydrates are synonymous with saccharides (sugars) – of which there are 4 groups. One of these groups are the polysaccharides. These are large macromolecules. There are two types, storage polysaccharides (like starch) and structural polysaccharides (like cellulose and chitin).
The cell-walls of green plants are made from cellulose; fungi/mushrooms (like Chaga) are mainly build from chitin, the hardest all-natural material on earth. Locked in the chitin cell-walls are the bioactives that make Chaga such a powerful medicinal mushroom. An extraction process is needed to make them bioavailable (humans cannot digest chitin very well, in general).
The most important components found in those cell-walls are probably the (1>3)(1>6)Beta-D-Glucans. Medicinal mushroom derived Beta-Glucans are notable for their ability to modulate the immune system. How exactly they achieve this is not yet 100% clear.
It has been compared to a key-and-lock system, where the beta-glucans are the keys (the name “(1>3)(1>6) Beta-D-Glucans” covers a large variety of shapes, just like “keys” covers a large variety of keys) and the receptors of our immune system are the locks. When there is a match the receptor is triggered and one of our immune functions becomes active, producing e.g. NK cells, macrophages or lymphocytes.
A well developed Chaga conk, bursting from the bark of its host
Beta-Glucans can also normalize an overactive immune system (the cause of allergies and many auto-immune diseases; e.g. lupus and psoriasis) – this can be compared to locking down receptors that are open for no reason, only re-opening them when needed. This two-way effect is called ‘modulating‘ and it is exceptionally powerful from a therapeutic point of view.
After all, our immune system is the core of our health in the broadest sense. It is under siege all the time; stress is a major immune killer (think: physical, mental, chemical – side effects of medication!- and environmental stress), age is another one (after 35 our immune system gets sloppy and after 50 it’s simply declining, causing a lot of ‘old-age’ diseases to appear). Apart from that beta-glucans also have a positive effect on the normalization of cholesterol levels and blood sugar, according to research. Indirect, this means it can also have a positive effect on high blood pressure and general cardiovascular health. So, the support one can get from taking a medicinal mushroom extract daily is significant; you help the body to maintain a healthy balance. This balance is what is known as ‘homeostasis‘.
As said, exactly how the beta-glucans manage to do that is still not a 100% clear, but scientific research proved the immune modulating effect many times, in vivo (animal tests), in vitro (laboratory tests) and in clinical trials (with sometimes hundreds of human participants). All medicinal mushrooms contain these beta-glucans. In Chaga the percentage is not particularly high, though – the medicinal mushroom with the highest level is the Agaricus blazei (up to 35-40% beta-glucans in a quality extract, twice the amount found in a Chaga extract). Do not make the mistake to mix up polysaccharides and beta-glucans; although all beta-glucans are polysaccharides, not all polysaccharides are beta-glucans!
The lipid (non-water soluble) fraction also contains potent therapeutic components, some of which are unique to Chaga.
Chinese extraction facility
Phyto-sterols are powerful therapeutic ingredients; of the phyto-sterols present in Chaga 45% is lanosterol, 25% inotodiol and the remaining 30% consists of ergosterol, fecosterol and several others. In vivo and in vitro research showed a direct anti-cancer effect of both lanosterol and inotodiol. Lanosterol also has an anti-viral effect.
Betulin and betulinic acid are two components unique to the Chaga fungus – it derives them from the birches on which it grows. Betulin and betulinic acid are powerful therapeutic agents (triterpenes) that are currently being researched for their anti-viral action (i.p. anti-HIV) and their anti-cancer action (in both cases animal tests showed great potential). They also have cholesterol-lowering effects; a recent report found them to be able to break down cholesterol in the bloodstream, instead of just preventing its absorption (the more common approach). A major problem of these two components is their poor bioavailability, though.
Although several internet sources state that Chaga contains both betulin and betulinic acid in a digestible form we have not been able to find any base for this claim. Chaga does not contain a high percentage of these components; ± 3% is about the maximum achievable (in an extract). Several websites nevertheless do claim high percentages (we’ve come across claims up to 5 %) in their Chaga products, but without exception they cannot show a Certificate of Analysis backing this up, nor does the ‘supplement facts’ label on their product list betulinic acid. It is against the law to provide unverifiable or false information on the supplement facts label.
Chaga will have different properties, depending on where it has been harvested, just like oranges from California have different properties than oranges from Sri Lanka. So far, Chaga that grew under extreme environmental conditions was found to have the highest therapeutic potency. Although Russian scientists were the first to research Chaga, almost all of the more recent research is done in SE-Asia, using samples from areas such as N-Korea, the Changbai mountains (China) and Hokkaido (Japan).
Sometimes research is using cultivated Chaga, but it is obvious that the outcome of this research should be strictly separated from the results achieved with wild-harvested Chaga. Cultivated Chaga can and will have a different composition and therapeutic properties, depending on the conditions under which it was grown (different types of substrate, environmental conditions, etc.). Wild Chaga takes three to five years before it can be harvested; it is clear its qualities will not be matched by a cultivated petri-dish product that is only several weeks old.
Cultivated Chaga in a petri dish
And another, very important point to keep in mind is this (it was already touched upon): many of Chaga’s therapeutically interesting metabolites appear to develop only as a side effect of the harsh environment which it tends to favor and the on-going struggle with the trees defense systems. Cultivated Chaga is not involved in a struggle for survival, and therefore will not develop these secondary metabolites. Cultivation techniques must be improved significantly and should be standardized before they can produce reliable Chaga of a consistent quality with therapeutic properties.
Some Chaga producers are currently already selling cultivated Chaga, using the therapeutic properties of wild-harvested Chaga to market it to their customers. This is misleading, to say the least. Read ‘The Future of Chaga‘ (below) for additional details.
The biological processes that make our body function are fuelled by oxidative processes, such as digesting our food and breathing. As the word ‘oxidative’ already implies, it does involve oxygen. Uncontrolled oxidation can be the onset of many diseases, such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis, and of course the degenerative processes associated with ageing. Apart from that, a side effect of oxidation is the production of so-called ‘free radicals’, which can cause cellular damage. Our body has its own built-in antioxidant defense systems to deal with these threats, as part of our immune system. When this is unbalanced or starts declining because of factors such as stress and ageing, deterioration of physiological functions may occur, resulting in diseases and accelerated aging.
Close up of Chaga sclerotium – the hard black outside is the main source of antioxidant elements.
Some foods contain powerful antioxidants, like fresh fruits, honey, tea and olives. The bioactives responsible for this antioxidant action are in particular polyphenols and natural phenols. In Chaga these are mainly found in the black outside of the fungus, the sclerotium. This sclerotium contains massive amounts of the natural black pigment known as melanin, which has a high antioxidant potential.
The antioxidant potency of a food or supplement can be expressed in an ORAC-score – the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. The ORAC scale (developed by the USDA) is combining the ORAC power of both the water-solubles (ORAC-hydro) and the non-water solubles (ORAC-lipo) in order to compare different common foods on their anti-oxidant potential. Chaga can have a very high ORAC-score, depending on where it has been harvested, under which conditions it did grow and how it has been processed. It is wrong to state ‘Chaga has a very high ORAC rating’ just like that – we’ve seen ORAC values ranging from ± 5200 (Chaga International) up to ± 146,000 (Oriveda Chaga extract) units per 100 grams. Since Chaga is a natural product, its properties can and will be different from one batch to another. Apart from that, unprocessed, non-extracted Chaga has almost no direct anti-oxidant power since it is indigestible for most humans, like all other mushrooms.
SOD is another abbreviation one sees often; it refers to a group of enzymes called SuperOxide Dismutases. These enzymes are present in human cells and also play an important role in protecting our body against the destructive effects of uncontrolled oxidation and free radicals. The levels of these SOD decrease with aging.
SOD are also present in Chaga, where they play an essential role in cell survival, in particular during host invasion. When it is infected with an aggressive pathogenic fungus like Chaga the birch tree is using its own defense mechanisms to fight its attacker. Chaga is using SOD as part of its continuos struggle to survive and to expand, ultimately resulting in the host tree’s death, after which the fungus can finally develop its fruiting body, spread its spores and will also die. (The health gurus that proclaim that Chaga is either a part of the tree’s immune system (Cass Ingram) or has a symbiotic relation with the tree (David Wolfe) could not be more wrong).
SOD potency can be expressed as S-ORAC, although the S-ORAC assay (developed by Brunswick Labs, MA) is not limited to only SOD activity when it is analyzing the ability of the product to neutralize superoxide anion (free radicals that can cause DNA and cell damage). SOD is only one of the anti-oxidants in Chaga.
A very important point that is always left out by supplement sellers: taking SOD orally is useless, unless it is taken in a timed-release capsule or linked with gliadin (a component of gluten) as a carrier, forming Glisodin®. When taken orally (as a supplement or as part of a natural substance) SOD is destroyed by our stomach acid before it can reach the small intestines, where it has to be absorbed in order to be benificial.
However, Chaga contains significant amounts of Zinc, Copper, Iron and Manganese, all of which stimulate the production of SOD in our own body, so it is still very worthwhile to take a Chaga extract. Look for these minerals on the Supplement Facts label to be sure you get what you’re after.
Many Chaga producers are using ORAC values and SOD values when marketing their Chaga products. The values given should be indicative of Chaga’s ability to neutralize oxidative stress, to fix and prevent DNA damage caused by free radicals, to provide geno-protective qualities and to protect against the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation (like in sunlight) and gamma radiation. In laymen’s terms antioxidant power can be compared to ‘anti-rust and polishing for the body and its inner organs‘.
It was not difficult to find out that the ORAC and SOD levels quoted online are in almost all cases made up or were copy/pasted from some unverifiable source and have no relation to the specific product being advertised. Almost none of the Chaga producers ever spent money on researching their product’s properties. It is important to realize that most sellers are indeed, just that – sales people, eager to make a sale. They might have a script with answers to common questions, but lack a real understanding.
A basic hot water extract (freeze dried) and a full spectrum dual extract (spray dried). The dual extract’s particle size is much smaller but the total volume is larger. This means better absorption and solubility, which improves bioavailability and therefore therapeutic effect.
The Tufts University is said to have tested Chaga for its anti-oxidant power, comparing it against other foods. This seems unlikely: Tufts is one of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Centers and investigating everyday food and its properties. Chaga is not an everyday food, it is not even considered an edible mushroom.
Apart from this, we were unable to find a source for these online statements and the accompanying SOD value, so we’ve contacted the Tufts University and found out they’ve indeed never tested Chaga, only other foods as part of their USDA support function. The figures mentioned are inventions and completely false.
A SOD level of 36,557 (36,557 what ? Units per gram, per 100 grams, per liter ?) is also seen often – but again, no indication were this stems from. We are quite sure this is also a completely false figure. It again proves most online Chaga sellers are not well-informed and merely eager to market and sell their products, using everything at hand that might help them in the process.
Despite all this, Chaga is indeed a very powerful antioxidant; in particular extracts that are a combination of hot water and ethanol extraction were found to have very high levels of antioxidant power.
Is Siberian Chaga the best Chaga ?
When Chaga became ‘hot’ in the slipstream of the recent superfood hype, the term ‘Siberian Chaga’ added an exotic, not to say romantic/authentic touch to the product.
Chaga develops best in very cold regions and it appears that the more harsh the climate and the swings in temperature, the better the therapeutic quality of the Chaga. However, these conditions are not only found in Siberia, but also in e.g. Finland, the Chinese Changbai region, N-Korea and parts of the N-American continent. Harsh climate + birch forest = high Chaga potential!
In fact, when selecting a Chaga supplement the same rules apply as when selecting a mushroom supplement in general: just check the supplement facts label, or, even better, the Certificate of Analysis used as the base for that label. This label is FDA-supervised and exaggerations or false claims are not allowed.
Chaga’s main bioactives are, according to science, beta-glucans, betulin / betulinic acid and polyphenols. Look for these on the supplement facts label and you can objectively judge the product. Based on this we can state that Siberian Chaga does not per se have better therapeutic properties or a higher amount of bioactives. What is more important is how the product has been processed and extracted.
The products therapeutic potency is a combi of using the proper raw material and optimal processing. In the end, only the levels of acknowledged bioactives matter because these bioactives determine the therapeutic effects, according to scientific research. A good quality extract guarantees the percentages of one or more bioactive compounds on its supplement facts label. This also makes it easy to compare different products against each other.
Chaga: Fukushima and radioactive contamination
Mushrooms are notorious for absorbing and accumulating heavy metals and radionuclides. This is something to keep in mind when collecting wild mushrooms, in particular in urban areas and close to highways. Chaga is a very slow growing fungus, which can accumulate significant amounts of heavy metals over the years from its natural environment. Testing wild-harvested Chaga before use is therefore essential.
Since the Fukushima disaster (March 11th, 2011) some American supplement sellers spread the rumor that Siberian and Chinese Chaga could no longer be trusted; it’s ‘soaked with radioactivity‘. In Germany the Chernobyl disaster (1987) is still considered a valid reason to avoid Siberian Chaga in particular.
How realistic are these statements ?
First, the Chernobyl blast. It took place over 25 years ago. Trees that were infected with Chaga at that time died about 5 to 10 years ago, keeping in mind that “the period from initial infection to tree death varies with the number of infection sites and tree resistance, but is typically around 20 years“. It is highly unlikely contaminated Chaga from that time is in circulation. Another fact to keep in mind is the general rule to test exported Chaga for radionuclides like Caesium-137 and Strontium-90 in Russia.
Second, the Fukushima disaster. The American and Canadian supplement sellers that are spreading the rumors about Fukushima contamination are basing this on the concept that China and Siberia are ‘close’ to Japan. This is not relevant, though, as the picture below shows clearly. This picture shows the ground deposition of radioactive Caesium-137, less than one month after the Fukushima disaster took place. It speaks for itself: the Asian continent has almost no contamination with the exception of Russia’s Far East (and Japan of course), but the N-American continent is a different story.
Picture taken from this site, where the full story (updated June 2013) can be found. For full sized picture click here
The reason for this is that the major jet streams on Earth are westerly winds (flowing west to east). Radioactive fallout is carried away from the Asian continent by these jet streams towards the American continent, at a speed of > 100 miles/hour (160 km/hour).
Summarising, collecting and consuming wild Japanese, Canadian or American Chaga (or other mushrooms) is probably not a good idea in the affected areas, unless it has been tested for radio-active contamination. Chinese and Siberian Chaga is perfectly safe, though.
Check this link for a movie dynamically showing the spread of Fukushima fallout: http://cerea.enpc.fr/fukushima/media/fukushima-Cs137-wide-2.swf
Chaga: Summary of actions
Properly extracted Chaga can have a wide range of therapeutic effects. These effects depend on the level of extraction (Chaga tea being the most basic/lowest level), the quality of the raw material and the dosage. For optimal results and the highest therapeutic potential choosing a well documented professional extract is the best. See our objective guideline for more details about how to choose a mushroom supplement.A 2015 study performed at Bastyr University clearly showed the differences in therapeutic potential between extracted and non-extracted mushroom products. See the picture.
Specific immune-related effects of 39 mushroom products compared. The black bars show the effects of the extracted and the white bars the effects of the non-extracted products.
Balances the immune system, optimises the natural resistance against diseases and infectionsChaga is a natural BRM (Biological Response Modifier). It not only stimulates the body’s immune function when necessary, but can also slow it down when it’s overactive. In short, it will normalize the immune function, what classifies Chaga as an adaptogenic. The beta-glucans appear to be mainly responsible for that property, but many researchers believe it is actually the synergy between several, if not all constituents that is responsible for the full range of this adaptogenic action. Because of this property Chaga can be used to neutralize the side effects of pharmaceuticals, to compensate the age-related decline of our immune function, to neutralize genetic immune-disorders (like many auto-immune diseases) and, in general, to help us to deal with all the stresses of modern life. Stress (mental, physical, chemical, environmental – the change of seasons, urban life, pollution, etc..- ) has an enormous negative impact on our resistance.
Anti-inflammatory, anti-viralThese properties are linked to the immune supporting properties, of course. Apart from that, the antioxidants in Chaga can have a positive effect on inflammations. Betulinic acid (a unique component of Chaga) is currently being researched for its anti-HIV properties.
Anti-ulcer, anti-gastritis propertiesIn folk medicine Chaga was used often to treat gastritis and related gastrointestinal problems. Again, the immune support of Chaga plays an important role here, both in treating and prevention of these problems, but betulinic acid and the phytosterols present in Chaga also play a role. Most ulcers are caused by bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori. A well functioning immune system will be able to deal with this pathogen.
Anti-cancer adjuvant – decreases the side effects of chemo-therapy and other aggressive medication
Chaga has proven to be very effective in supporting standard cancer treatments such as chemo-therapy and radiation. It can compensate the devastating effect these treatments can have on the immune system (causing side effects like nausea, insomnia, poor appetite, fatigue, etc. – these side effects are often the result of a compromized immune function.) It helps preventing metastasis (cancer cells traveling through the bloodstream should be neutralized by the immune system before they can cause harm). Chaga can significantly contribute to the quality of life during and after treatment this way.
Furthermore, research suggests that Chaga itself might have a anti-cancer potential, in particular during the early stages of cancer. The betulinic acid and some of the phytosterols present showed the ability to kill cancer cells directly. How this works exactly is the subject of several theories. So, Chaga has both an indirect (by stimulating the immune system to battle cancer-cells) and potentially a direct (by causing apoptosis [=programmed cell death]) effect during cancer treatments. Anti-tumor activity was only found in extracts prepared by lengthy heating or decocting, infusions prepared by steeping the raw material where not active against the tested tumors.
Anti-oxidant properties, revitalizing, anti-aging
A high quality extract should include the sclerotium ( the black outside layer ) of the Chaga. This is important, because this sclerotium contains a massive amount of a specific fungi-melanin, giving good extracts a very high level of anti-oxidants and turning Chaga into powerful anti-aging tool. Research showed DNA-regenerating and re-vitalizing properties. The whole body will benefit from this; you will look better (skin and hair) and your organs will function better.
Antioxidant power can be expressed in an ORAC-value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity).
Normalizes cholesterol levels, beneficial for the cardiovascular system, supports a healthy bloodpressureResearch showed betulinic acid (a compound unique to Chaga) to be able to break down ‘bad’ cholesterol in the bloodstream. Besides that the ß-glucans, part of the polysaccharides in Chaga also have a proven positive effect on cholesterol levels. By normalizing those levels Chaga contributes to lowering high blood pressure and promotes a healthy cardio-vascular system: less plaque, stronger arteries.
No side effects and no contra indications
One of the many benefits of using a full-spectrum Chaga extract is that it has no side effects at all. Chaga is merely stimulating the body to heal itself. There is no potential disturbance of the body’s chemical and hormonal balance. This makes medicinal mushrooms like Chaga the ideal supplement for everybody.The only contra-indication are immune suppressing medicines (e.g. cyclosporin containing products, used after a transplant). Never use medicinal mushroom extracts together with this type of medication – the immune modulating effect might neutralize its workings.
Black birch forest – the home of Chaga
The future of Chaga
Commercial Chaga harvesting has a long history in Russia although, until a decade ago, it was mostly marketed within the country. Wild-harvested Chaga is currently in great demand because of the internet-driven hype. Unfortunately, it needs several years to develop before it becomes therapeutically useful, so some say that in the future natural resources might not be able to keep up with the ever-increasing demand.
According to Russian sources 1 – 20% of birches show signs of infection, depending on the location. Researcher David Pilz came to the conclusion that the Chaga resource in Russia is so immense, that even under the most pessimistic estimates it will likely never be biologically threatened. However, it is very well possible that it soon will be no longer economically viable to go deeper and deeper into the forest to collect Chaga for large scale export. Wild-harvested Siberian Chaga will become too expensive.
For many medicinal fungi cultivation is much more cost-effective than collecting them in the wild. This would definitely be applicable to Chaga, which, as said before, takes quite some effort to collect. However, cultivated Chaga will not have the therapeutic power of wild-harvested Chaga.
Chaga is different from other medicinal wood-rot fungi because, as said before, the Chaga conk and the constituents it contains have developed as a result of the battle between the fungus and the defense mechanisms of the host birch tree.
It is unlikely we’ll ever witness large scale Chaga cultivation, comparable to this field of edible Cloud Ear fungi in China
Research showed a significant difference in composition between extracts based on wild-harvested Chaga and those based on cultivated Chaga. Sterol composition and phenolic compounds were completely different. The therapeutic effect of these compounds was also much lower (± 50%) or even absent, when compared with wild-harvested Chaga. It is generally believed that polyphenols like melanins are secondary metabolites and not required for growth or development of the fungus, but merely aiding the fungus in dealing successfully with factors in its natural harsh habitat. Cultivated Chaga therefore contains almost none of these therapeutically interesting elements. Active ingredients like betulin and betulinic acid are also missing.
Attempts at cultivation using dead birches failed; this conﬁrms the claim that Chaga develops exclusively on live trees. There are some reports that cultivation using living trees was successful, but even then, Chaga needs at least 3-5 years before it can be harvested for the first time. It will still be relatively expensive.
Cultivation techniques must be improved significantly and standardized before they can produce reliable high-quality Chaga with similar therapeutic properties as the wild-harvested version. Much more research is needed in this area.
- А. В. Кавкин Лечение деревьями, Советский Спорт, Москва (2002) с. 175-180.
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- Лукина Н.В. Заметки о системе питания хантов // Западная Сибирь в эпоху средневековья, Изд-во Томского ун-та, Томск, 1984, с. 168-179.
- Sekiba F. An account of Ainu medicine. In: A collection of materials on the Ainu history. Private publication (in Japanese), 1895.
- Hutchens, Alma R., (1973) Indian Herbology (sic) of North America. Merco, Windsor, Ont., Canada
- Otzi the iceman – a special museum was dedicated to him, containing all his belongings
- П.А. Якимов, М.Ф. Ступак, Чага и ее лечебное применение при раке IV стадии, Медгиз, Ленинград, 1959. с. 50-54.
- Watanabe O, Abe T, Kawakami M, Kakimoto M (2005) Antioxidation by water-soluble lignin-like substance from a northern terrain basidiomycetes, Fuscoporia obliqua. Bull Hokkaido Food Processing Res Center. 6 : 13-6.
- Kahlos, K. and Hiltunen, R. 1983. ‘Identification of some lanostane type triterpenes from Inonotus Obliquus’. Acta. Pharm. Fenn., 92, 220
- Kahlos, K. and Hiltunen, R. 1985. ‘Sterols and triterpenes in Inonotus Obliquus’. Acta. Agron., 34, 82
- Kahlos, K. and Hiltunen, R. 1986. ‘Anti-tumor tests of Inotodiol from the fungus Inonotus Obliquus’. Acta. Pharm. Fenn., 95, 173-7
- Yong Cui, et.al;(2005) Antioxidant effect of Inonotus obliquus. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 96, p.79–85
- ZHENG Wei-Fa, et.al.; (2008) Phenolic compounds from Inonotus obliquus and their immune-stimulating effects. Mycosystema 27(4): 574-581
- ZHENG Wei-Fa, et.al.; (2007) Sterol composition in field-grown and cultured mycelia of Inonotus obliquus. Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica 42(7); 750-756
- Sharikova, L.A. et.al.; (2010) Standardisation of Chaga tincture and Befungin. Pharmaceutical Chemistry Journal, Vol. 44(3) p. 35-37
- David Pilz (2004) Chaga and Other Fungal Resources – Assessment of Sustainable Commercial Harvesting in Khabarovsk and Primorsky Krais, Russia. PilzWald Forestry Applications of Mycology (assessment report)
- JACEK PIĘTKA and ANDRZEJ GRZYWACZ; (2006) Attempts at active protection of Inonotus obliquus by inoculating birches with its mycelium. ACTA MYCOLOGICA Vol. 41 (2): 305-312
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Very good article but I would like to rectify your statement; Otzy was indeed carrying chaga. The archeologists only classified it under “Minerals and tools”. They believe chaga was used to carry fire, which was most probably the case but I’m sure Otzy knew better!
Also, according to my Chinese sources, chaga is mentioned in the original versions of the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing. What are your references?
I enjoy reading your blog!
Thank you for your comments. Glad you liked the article.
As for Ötzi, there is a link in the references that states that DNA-profiling was used to determine the exact mushrooms he was carrying. The link you gave has a picture that indeed looks a lot like Chaga but is actually charred wood. Even on that small picture you can see the structure (wood fibres) which is very different from Chaga’s structure; which is more granular in appearance. Also, I’m pretty sure they used NMR and DNA profiling on that piece as well, keeping in mind how thorough their investigations have been.
We used both the ‘original’ Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (there are several versions available) in Chinese and the translated version (English); The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica.
There is no mention of Chaga under any of the known Chinese names.
Yun Zhi and Ling Zhi are mentioned, but not Chaga. Not surprising, since Chaga is only found in one remote place in the North of China, unlike the others, which are very common.
Very interesting! Thanks for your answer.
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Thanks for such a thorough post on chaga. I just got some from a friend of mine who harvests it and wanted to learn a little more about it before I made some tea. All my questions have been answered, as well as opening my eyes to being a more conscious consumer of health supplements in the future!
very thorough article……..I collect,consume, and am considering selling some chaga to a health food store who is in short supply……….I live in central Saskatchewan Canada in the heart of the boreal forest and chaga can be quite hard to find, although in certain areas the birch stands have higher amounts of infected trees…………a question of mine is if a person “boils” the tea longer at a lower temperature (where the water is just circulating in the pot…..not actually boiling) will this technique possibly bring out more of the “good” properties and make them more readily available to the body……….thanks for your time…….this site seems to be the best site regarding chaga on the internet that I have found
I can’t tell you what the most effective way is to release the water-solubles from raw Chaga, the slow way or the fast way, both might actually have the same effect, with the only difference being the time involved. Also have a look at the entry about Chaga tea, elsewhere on this blog, describing how Russians were preparing their Chaga tea, using a samovar.
However, the yield of beta-glucans using a DIY method like the Russian samovar is significantly lower when compared to professional hot water extraction. An article in Choice magazine, published by the Hong Kong Consumer Council some time ago, also points this out. They compared a home-made Reishi tea (Reishi is comparable to Chaga; a woody fungus) with a professionally produced hot water extract. The study team used 15 grams of dried red Reishi slices and boiled them in 300 cc (about one bowl) of water for an hour.
The lab analysis showed that the amount of polysaccharides extracted was about 0.068 grams (± 0.45%), so the study concluded that the DIY method is labour intensive, much more expensive and less effective than consuming ready-made industrially processed Reishi products, which can contain up to 50% of polysaccharides.
High quality extraction facilities perform hot water extraction in a pressure vessel (pressure = 10-20 kg/cm2) to prevent disintegration of the beta-glucans. It seems that prolonged boiling of the Chaga will cause decomposing of the beta-glucans, but doing so under pressure prevents this from happening.
The intended effect of hot water extraction is to break/’melt’ the bonds between the chitin and the beta-glucans in order to release the therapeutically interesting beta-glucans and thus make them bioavailable. Chitin is also an allergen, so it’s best to get rid of it.
We just updated this entry with a paragraph about Chaga and radioactivity – might be interesting for you since you live in the Saskatchewan area in Canada, which has been contaminated significantly by fallout from the Fukushima disaster. Using raw Chaga or other mushrooms from that area might not be a healthy choice anymore.
i have a question to the fokushima part of this article. is the yukon chaga save? looks like we are in the close to 0 outfall area ,but why is there a minus part to the picture. shure i can learn something here.would be awesome to get an honest answer.i just harvested yesterday and dont know if i wonna prosses it now…sad isnt it? cheers holly
We recommend to go to the website where the picture is taken from (link is in the description) and read the full explanation. We’re not experts on the subject of radioactivity. According to the original picture (and this was 2011!) some fall-out came down in the Yukon area, only the dark blue areas on the map can be considered untouched. The picture has been updated in June 2013 – see the comment further down (07/2013) for links to both the original (April 2011) and an updated (June 2013) picture – showing the increase of fallout deposition on the N-American continent.
Since Chaga has the reputation to accumulate heavy metals and radionuclides it might be best to leave it at the tree for the next 30 years at least (Caesium-137 has a half-life of ± 30years) to be on the safe side.
Thanks for the thorough, much needed summary of chaga and it’s properties. Regarding the radiation due to Fokushima — according to the figure in the article, the source of Oriveda’s extract (Siberia) is from an area that is considered unsafe. Can you comment on that?
You must be misinterpreting the map.ORIVeDA Chaga comes from Irkutsk, next to Lake Baikal. This area is untouched.
The only part of Asian Russia that is seriously affected is Yakutiya and the Chukchi peninsula (Chukotka), at the Bering street. These regions are officially not part of Siberia; have a look at this map, where the red and light-red areas show geographical Siberia.
But even if you consider these areas as part of Siberia, you should realise that the majority of birch forests (and Chaga) are found in south-west and south Siberia. Like, around Lake Baikal / Irkutsk, where, as said before, the Chaga used for ORIVeDA’s Chaga products comes from. These areas have not been contaminated at all.
The areas close to the Pacific ocean; (Khabarovsk Krai and Primorsky Krai) are also providing Chaga for export, but according to the map these areas are almost untouched (Bq.m level = 0.0).
Furthermore, the habit to check for radio-nuclides in Russian Chaga will weed out contaminated Chaga, if it pops up.
Okay, thanks, that makes sense. “Siberia” as defined both historically and currently encompasses a great geographic area and since I work (as a biologist) mainly in Beringia, I have grown used to people equating “Siberia” with “Eastern Siberia” or western Beringia. Perhaps this specific locale information is available on the Oriveda products; I was simply going on what was provided on the information presented in the product specification box above.
Couple questions for you- I don’t see the research credentials you claim from other research reports- do you have these? I in fact find Chaga from Northern MN where the birch forests are nearly untouched. My father is a trapper and is out on ‘undiscovered’ land or more so VERY rural areas that he can find it in abundance- you pretty much state that this has been affected by the radioactive fallout? I don’t see this stated very well or where? Can you please point this out more clearly? Thank you!
Thank you for your questions.
The link to the main article about the fallout from Fukushima is below the picture that shows the contaminated areas: http://cerea.enpc.fr/en/fukushima.html. This particular article was written shortly after the event took place. The picture has been updated in June 2013; there are probably more and more recent articles if you use Google.
The latest -updated with the latest sample test data- picture (June 2013) can be seen here – http://cerea.enpc.fr/HomePages/bocquet/Doc/cumulated_total_deposition_ground_fukushima-2.png – .
The original April 2011 picture -mostly based on computer modelling- can be seen here: – http://cerea.enpc.fr/HomePages/bocquet/Doc/cumulated_total_deposition_ground_fukushima.png -.
The problem is that one cannot state that just because an area is rural, ‘undiscovered’ or looks pristine that it is not affected. Looks are deceiving. Like, not all sick people appear sick.
Fallout is deposited by the wind (here: the jet stream). Because mushrooms and Chaga in particular absorb radionuclides easily and accumulate them we don’t think it is a good idea to use wild-harvested (and untested) Chaga from the affected areas. You don’t know what you are consuming, exactly.
Hello oriveda, I am in the beginning stages of learning about the Chaga Mushroom. I am on the land Ontario & am also concerned as many others about the issue of radiation, among other issues with our foods. I thank you very much for you time that you spend educating others. Sincerely, Sonya
After researching these maps- it appears this is a simulation of what COULD have happened with the jet stream not exactly what actually happened. Before stating that these areas a affected it is important to state it is an assumption. If these areas were affected (not for consumption) imagine the other contaminated ….well, everything then that could grow from the ground and anything that is porous would absorb it.
The second map (as shown in the monograph) is an update (June 2013) of the first map (May 2011) which was based on incomplete ‘source term data’ (the Japanese were constantly downplaying the graveness of the event and the amounts of radioactivity involved, as we now know).
So, it is not just a theoretical model, if that is what you think. It is based on both modelling and actual environmental data. When comparing the original 2011 picture with the updated 2013 picture (updated with new ‘source term data’ AND environmental sample-based data) it is obvious that the original modelling was quite accurate.
Environmental samples taken in the last 2 years made it possible to update the map and make it more accurate. Also have a look at the articles below (among others). In particular the first one, dealing with the effect of Fukushima on Lituania (three quarters around the world) is very thorough and shows additional maps of the regions which were affected. It is obvious from all research data that North America/Canada was affected the most.
Click to access plutonium_litauen.pdf
Click to access Fukushima-estimation.pdf
Click to access acpd-11-28319-2011.pdf
[…]This first guess was subsequently improved by inverse modeling, which combined the first guess with the results of an atmospheric transport model, FLEXPART, and measurement data from several dozen stations in Japan, North America and other regions.[…]
[…]The plume was […] dispersed quickly over the entire Northern Hemisphere, first reaching North America on 15 March  and Europe on 22 March . In general, simulated and observed concentrations of 133-Xe and 137-Cs both at Japanese as well as at remote sites were in good quantitative agreement with each other.[…]
What makes all this relevant to this Chaga monograph is the fact that Chaga easily absorbs and ACCUMULATES radionuclides over time. With significantly elevated levels of these radionuclides present in North America the amounts accumulated in local Chaga might reach potentially dangerous levels.
We strongly believe it is best to leave Chaga on the tree for at least the coming 30 years (after which a new generation of Chaga will have started to develop; plus 30 years is also the halftime of Caesium 137).
Businesses dealing with American/Canadian Chaga should have it tested for radionuclides, just like in Russia. In our opinion it would be irresponsible not to do so.
I am also harvesting chaga in Northern MN. I see the concerns with Fukushima, however, how do account for the Chernobyl disaster? According to the maps that was exponentially worse and covered Russia and Asia.
Thank you for your comment. The Chernobyl thing is addressed in the article:
On top of that these radionuclides have a half-life of ± 20-30 years, meaning half of the radioactivity is already gone by now.
Greatly satisfied with your article. Thank you for your thorough work and effort. and I have a question.
In the article I found,
“The only contra-indication are immune suppressing medicines (e.g. cyclosporin containing products, used after a transplant). Never use ‘medicinal mushroom extracts together with this type of medication – the immune modulating effect might neutralize its workings”
I was this close to buying chaga-related products before I read this part. I’m not under organ-trasplant procedure but however I’m taking cyclosporin because of auto-immune diseases which attacked my lungs(it’s pretty bad). All the other benefits I can get from consuming Chaga is really needed, but I’m afraid taking chaga-related products might have negative effect on my medication if what you mentioned above is true. Is there any source that indicates side-effect of chaga with patients taking cyclosporin?
There is no specific research that backs up this assumption as far as we know. Because it is an assumption, based on the logic that immune modulating constituents as found in e.g. Chaga and immune suppressing drugs will work against each other.
If you want to take Chaga nevertheless, you should consult your doctor first and discuss this with him/her. There is even a chance that the balancing effect of Chaga can replace the cyclosporin, depending on the graveness of your auto-immune condition. E.g taking Chaga for a few weeks (it takes some time for the body to respond to a natural BMR such as Chaga) and then slowly lowering the cyclosporin intake and see if your auto-immune condition changes. But this is experimental and requires medical monitoring. You should consult your doctor.
I live in southern Ontario Canada(Haliburton) and found a large piece of chaga on a dead birch, can it still be used?
No. Only Chaga on living trees is reliable. Chaga on dead trees is most likely already affected by moulds, insects and whatnot. However, if you keep going back to the tree you might be able to witness a rare event: the appearance of the fruiting body!
Questions: Stamets quotes K. Kahlos, A Lesnau, W. Lange and U. Lindequist in their 1996 study “Preliminary tests of antiviral activity of two Inonotus obliquus strains” in Fitopterapia as finding that Chaga black skin has 30% betulin. Whats up with that?
Thanks for the thumbs up!
As for the Kahlos article, we have no access to the original article (originally published 1996) so we can’t verify it. Paul Stamets states that the Kahlos article states ‘30% betulin’. Half the internet is quoting him now to underline Chaga’s potential as a medicinal mushroom, probably in part because it fits the global desire for a ‘super-product’.
But even a renowned mycologist like Stamets makes grave mistakes.
As an example, he states that Chaga grows and can be cultivated on dead trees in his book ‘Mycellium Running’. This is wrong, it never grows on dead trees, it develops only as a parasite causing white rot inside living trees, after some time bursting to the outside (see the pictures at the beginning of the monograph). The Chaga conk (a dense mass of hyphae / mycelia ) has no pores, only the fruiting body has pores, he is mixing them up often (like the majority of people, including most ‘experts’ and scientists). These are major mistakes for a renowned mycologist.
But back to the question: the statement by Kahlos that Chaga contains up to 30% betulin in its sclerotia is the only reference of this in literature. One reference only makes this a non-convincing claim. All the more, because our own research (testing Chaga repeatedly for betulin/betulinic acid using HPLC) never showed amounts of over 3 %, which is already unusually high.
It might be a typo, or a result based on flawed or non-standard testing methods. We don’t know.
But in our opinion, it again proves that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, even when it comes from a reputable source like Stamets. Be critical and always look for verification!
Hi Daniel, Thank you VERY much for doing this exhaustive monograph. I had many questions about Inonotus Obliquus and you’ve laid nearly all of them to rest.
I live in Finland and a few days ago stumbled into what I suspected was Chaga near my apartment. Aware of its qualities as good tinder I took a small piece and brought it home to study. When I learned of its medicinal qualities my heart thumped. Yes! Super!
Thanks to what I’ve learned I want to begin gathering more of it and putting it to good use. Before doing so, I want to make absolutely sure that I’m not hurting either the trees or the mushrooms. I don’t want to risk damaging future supplies of it. Sources agree that infected trees will die in ~20 years. However, the fate of the mushroom is not so clear. Some sources state that cutting more than 30% of the canker will eventually kill the mushroom (it will not be able to re-grow, and will die in about a year). You state, though, that “After about 3-5 years the Chaga can be harvested. After harvesting, chaga can regrow to harvestable size again in three to ten years, and this can be repeated until the tree dies. Chopping off the Chaga does not stop the infection.”
1. “After about 3-5 years…” -not clear on when this interval begins. Do you mean, from the first appearance of the canker? or …?
2. How much of the chaga canker can I safely harvest without hurting its ability to recover? Whole? or part?
3. If there are multiple masses on the same tree is it O.K. to take them all?
Again, thanks VERY much for your help. Looking forward to reading your response!
First of all, I am not Daniel Vitalis, his picture is only included in the beginning of the monograph as a reference to health gurus in general.
As for your questions: if people state that you can kill the mushroom by cutting off the external ‘Chaga’ conk, they are most likely reasoning as if the ‘Chaga’ is a fruiting body. If you chop off a fruiting body to close to the ground, it might not regrow. But Chaga is not a fruiting body. Here is a picture of the Chaga fruiting body :
As said in the article, what we call ‘Chaga’ is a dense mass of mycelia, that has burst from the inside of the tree while developing. It is not possible to kill a fungus by removing only part of its mycelia. So IMO you can chop off the external Chaga close to the tree. Be aware that if you get too close you might include wood from the tree, so beware of that.
I don’t know when the 3.5 – 5 years interval begins. I guess when the Chaga conk starts showing its face, because it is not possible to see whether a tree is infected or not until this happens.
You can chop off all Chaga on a tree. The actual living fungus is inside the tree, it does not grow on the tree like most people think, but comes bursting from the the core, as is illustrated in the beginning of the monograph. Also see these pictures:
Very interesting article.
One question: I have read that if one takes aspirin type products or Advil, you should not consume chaga. Your views on this statement would be appreciated
I have read that as well, but have no idea on which research this is based. Was it this article ? Chaga does not contain blood thinning nucleosides such as adenosine (like Cordyceps and Reishi) AFAIK. I think the statement is nonsense.
This ‘Sharecare’ website contains a lot of poor information IMO, so I would not rely on their opinion just like that. Try to find a more reliable source to validate their statements. As an example, on this question: “If I take chaga supplements, how much should I take?” they give answers that make no sense at all, like take “10 drops” or “7-10 grams Chaga powder” without taking into account that, first of all, not all supplements are of equal potency and, second, also leaving out the bioavailability aspect, which is probably the most important of all.
My guess is they just copied information from outside websites without making too much of an effort to verify the copied statements.
Awesome information. My question is, have there been any studies done on chaga use for children? I have read a lot of info about it not being safe for children under 12, and pregnant women. Do you know of any conclusive studies that have been done in this area? and what is your opinion around this subject? Just asking out of curiosity as I didn’t see it covered in your info.
I live in Atlantic Canada and am just learning about chaga. I am very interested in its benefits due to my own ailments, and have been looking for something to help my condition without all of the negative side effects of conventional drugs. I have harvested some of my own and will try some soon using methods shown to me by a local individual whom has had some very good results. After trying my own, I plan on trying some of the products mentioned on this site to compare the results.
As far as I know, no studies about Chaga and children have been done.
We have given our 4 year-old girl Chaga (one capsule per day) since she was one year old and she is in excellent health. No runny nose, no flu, even when the whole kindergarten is sick. I have no clue where the statement that Chaga is not good for children stems from. Are children also not allowed to eat mushrooms such as the basic button mushroom ? They are. Chaga is not that different, it’s just food but with medicinal qualities.
Thank you for all the information.I am also interested on Chaga for children.I am nursing my 3 month old and need the health benefits of Chaga.I used it pre-pregnancy and felt great.Thanks.Also, since our skin is the largest organ of our body, wouldn’t it be beneficial to use Chaga in an massage oil?Will a hot oil method extract the beneficial substances?
I have a little girl, now 4 years old. Since she was 1 year old I have added one capsule of Chaga extract daily to her formula. She’s never been sick, no snotty nose even when the whole kindergarten was full of snotty noses…
Using Chaga topically is probably not very useful. The beta-glucans are very large molecules, too large to be absorbed by the skin. Even the intestines have problems absorbing them, which is the reason why you shouldn’t combine Chaga intake with solid foods.
It is possible of course that other constituents will have an effect when using the Chaga topically. Just try it! I don’t think warm massage oil will extract anything though, much more time and heat is needed for that – I would advise you to use already extracted Chaga and dissolve it in the oil.
Just curious if Changa is safe for Pregnancy, it seems to be controversial. I just bought some and I am pregnant.
There is no information available, no research has ever been performed. Since pregnancy involves changes in the immune function, it’s best to proceed with care.
We advise against using mushroom extracts during pregnancy, just to be on the safe side.
where can i send my chaga to get tested for radioactive Caesium-137, i live in Canada British Columbia
I don’t know. Google !!
Thank you for your thorough, informative and unbiased article on Chaga. I recently picked up a package of wild harvested raw Canadian Chaga (distributer in Ontario) from a reputable health food supermarket. I was seeking something to treat several physical conditions: 9 weeks post double-mastectomy and reconstruction surgery for stage 3 grade 3 cancer, truncal lymphedema, detox/liver support after 3 weeks of viral infection causing massive whole body histamine release immediately followed by two large axial abscesses treated with iv antibiotics for 3 weeks, adjuvant during chemotherapy and whole body health and recovery. I was eventually directed to a very knowledgeable individual who immediately steered me to the Chaga product. After explaining all the beneficial qualities and also giving some facts which you have confirmed and refuted (ie. Otzi wasn’t carrying Chaga) I asked what he would take if he was in my position. He emphatically stated Chaga over all the other products I was previously shown by a colleague. His instructions were to follow the package directions (1/3 cup raw Chaga simmered in 4 cups water but for a period of time of 1-3 hours while continually adding water to keep the water level). Package directions state simmering 10 minutes to several hours while topping up water level. The explanation was that this would give the product more time to release more of it’s beneficial agents. He also said he would drink the whole 4 cups (1 litre) over the day instead of one or two cups a day. The package and he also said I can strain and reboil the chaga 3-6 times before discarding which is very helpful considering the price. It was recommended that I consume the chaga tea throughout my chemotherapy to support the process and my body’s healing. I asked about the effect of the high anti-oxidant properties conflicting with chemotherapy treatment success (I was strongly cautioned against using such products) and was told that there is no research to back up this claim (I have yet to look into this). In due diligence I followed-up with the pharmacy preparing my chemo concoction about what supplements I could safely take and had a very negative reaction about using “mushrooms”, saying that they were false claims fed by companies trying to sell their products. Again I was strongly cautioned about using any supplements that would elevate anti-oxidents (including vitamin C) and instead recommended getting my nutrients through my diet (vitamin D was an exception – I am chronically very low). I was also warned that “all these supplements” could alter or skew the blood tests results I am required to have done prior to each chemo treatment resulting in changes to my treatment plan that could be harmful.
In summary, I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, I had my first of four chemo treatments yesterday and decided to hold off drinking the chaga tea this first week and then resume consuming it during the next two when my immune system is it’s weakest and rebuilding just before my next chemo. Of course this would possibly “skew” my blood tests. My question for you is do you have any information regarding the use of chaga during chemotherapy and/or can you direct me to some refutable sites to help me make my decision about it’s use or high anti-oxidant use? Additionally, I see in a previous response that you couldn’t comment on the most effective way to extract the most from raw chaga and I recall that extractions tested contained literally no Betulin and betulinic acid, which would be more beneficial to me. Do you think there might be more benefit preparing it using a pressure cooker, or do you think this might obliterate the other sought-after properties?
On a side note: any comment about the use for the treatment of my mother’s arthritic hands? I figure it’s caused by inflammation so this should help with pain, swelling and healing and possibly stop/slow any further disfigurement.
Thanks for any help/opinions you can offer!
Several of our customers have reported excellent results while using our Chaga in combination with chemo or radiation. Instead of being nauseous and run the risk of secondary infections -chemo destroys your immune function- and metastasis one person reported even being able to do light work-outs! Apart from that, the liver protective effects are also important: chemo is very taxing on the liver. Of course these statements are anecdotal and the same result is not guaranteed for everybody – just like with regular medication, as a matter of fact.
The quality of life during treatment is in general much better. Research -clinical trials- confirms this as well. The majority of health professionals are, understandable, very skeptical: they don’t know these supplements. But worse: they usually don’t want to know these supplements, no matter how much research you show them. They are conservative.
When choosing to do this it is ESSENTIAL you use a high potency extract with a clear indication of what is in it. It’s best to start taking the extract a week or two before you have chemo – it might take some time to take effect.
The effects are, according to research, dose-dependent – more is better.
We do strongly recommend AGAINST using raw Chaga –making your own tea– to help treat a serious health problem like a cancer treatment. No matter how you approach it, the outcome will never be on par with a professionally produced dual extract. Apart from that, raw Chaga has not been tested – it can contain heavy metals, radio-active isotopes (Fukushima – see the monograph) and who knows what else. Quality extracts have been analysed and safety is ensured. The COA should be available for everybody that requests to see it.
As for making your own tea: in our REISHI monograph we quote a test performed by the HongKong consumer council in 2000:
The study team used 15 grams of red Reishi slices and boiled them in 300 cc (about one bowl) of water for an hour. Their lab analysis showed that the amount of polysaccharides extracted was about 0.076 grams ( ± 0.5%), so the study concluded that this boiling method by the consumer is not only labor intensive, but also much more expensive and clearly less effective than consuming ready-made industrially processed Reishi products, which can have up to 50% of polysaccharides.
One reason for the low percentage of polysaccharides in the tea is this: polysaccharides are large strings of molecules, which will disintegrate under continuous high temperatures, thus losing their bioactivity. Research found that when performing the boiling of the dried mushroom under pressure this disintegration does not take place and a much higher yield of bioactive polysaccharides is achieved. The pressure needed is 16-20 kgs p/cm2 (± 51 PSI) which is much higher than a home pressure-cooker can deliver.
Low-pressure or no-pressure hot water extraction (like when making mushroom tea) is simply inefficient and much more expensive when compared to professionally produced dual extracts. These brews will also lack the important non-water soluble triterpenes like betulinic acid and the phyto-sterols.
There is quite a lot of controversy about anti-oxidants turning into pro-oxidants in high doses (no agreement about this amongst researchers), but the doses needed for that you’ll never reach with an oral supplement.
There are indications that Chaga or other mushroom extracts can help with arthritis. However, it is important to know what is causing it. The best thing would be to give it a try (take e.g. Chaga for 6 weeks at least) and see how the body reacts. If there is no change then the cause of the arthritis might not be immune-related.
Thank you for addressing all my questions in your reply. I have since had an opportunity to read some of the research papers you posted and search for anti-oxidant use during chemotherapy studies on the internet. While you response, your research papers and the studies I have found are relatively reassuring about the positive effects out-weighing the apparent lack of support for negative effects, the information is over-whelming and time-consuming. Unfortunately I have to make this decision quickly so I hope you don’t mind a few more questions;
1. I understood that Chaga contains the highest levels of anti-oxidants of any substance analyzed (I can’t name these off the top of my head) but you commented that the high dose levels required for pro-oxidant activity would never be reached in an extract form. Would you please elaborate on this for me?
2. Before purchasing the raw Chaga I specifically asked if there was a possibility of Chaga increasing estrogen or progesterone in my body as my tumor responded positively (for the tumor) to the hormones and I need to avoid this. I was reassured there were no properties that would increase production or introduce these hormones into my body. The papers I have read do not address this activity at all so I can only assume there are no effects on these hormones in the body. Would you please confirm?
3. Your reply also mentioned that success was dose-specific. It also appears that there would be no benefit to stop taking doses at any time during treatment. Would you direct me to some studies that would help me determine an optimal level for extract intake, or do you feel comfortable commenting?
Thank you for all your time and input.
A well prepared Chaga extract can have a very high level of anti-oxidants. There are several substances with higher levels though, mostly spices such as curcumin. These are also seen as potential anti-cancerogenic.
– What I found about the subject is that anti-oxidants together with the whole of the plant/mushroom in which they are present appear to work best and without any side-effects. Isolated/synthetic anti-oxidants might reach unhealthy levels because they have been concentrated in an extract or tablet, but unfortunately -AFAIK- no toxic level for such products has been established.
– There is also conflicting information in the literature: some sources state that pro-oxidative effects are beneficial, others claim they might be dangerous. An interesting article discussing several aspects of this is this one.
– I am also not aware of Chaga having an effect on estrogen or progesterone production. Reishi is known to have an effect on the hormonal balance and is therefore not recommended in case of hormone-related breast cancer but only for inflammatory breast cancer. There is research pointing this out. But nothing for Chaga.
– Dose-dependent: beta-glucans as found in mushrooms are the main triggers of the immune response. Research showed that higher doses had more effect. I do not have a direct link covering this exact subject at hand, but the result is mentioned often in research papers: the higher the dose, the better the effect. Like in this brief article investigating the effect of the Coriolus versicolor mushroom on dogs with cancer. The life expansion increased with the dosage.
In Chinese and Russian trials doses of 8-12 GRAMS of mushroom extract are used to battle cancer directly, mainly for this reason. Unfortunately the potency of these extracts is not revealed. However, research never showed any toxicity or nasty side effects when taking very high doses. As an adjuvant to chemo and other heavy medication we recommend in our instruction leaflets to take 4 – 8 capsules daily, together with some vitamine C to help absorption of the large beta-glucan molecules in the intestines. This helps to maintain a normal immune function and protects the liver.
I hope this helps!
This reply is about your mother’s arthritis. A few weeks ago we received the following email from one of our customers. It states that our Reishi Primo has been very helpful!
Hi’ there. my name is Allan and i wish to say a big thanks for a wonderfull product.namely the Reishi Primo.
it has worked wonders on my arthritis.after five dayes on four caps a day.i had no pain in my knees.
after ten dayes no pain in my hips,
at fourteen,no lower back at day 21.my hands and sholders were free of pain.
While i still have a little stiffness in my fingers that to is improving over all i am sleeping better.
the reason if i now move during the night i have no pain to wake me,my over all wellbeing is improving .i am telling all my friends.trust me i have tryed a lot of products with limited succeeding . […] Your very happy custmer Allan R
Of course this is anecdotal; as said before it depends on what exactly is causing the arthritic symptoms. There’s never a guarantee this will also work for other people in the same way.
Thank you for all the information and articles! Your input has been most helpful.
After an emergency room visit with a bit of breathing problems, the Dr. told me that I had bronchitis. I asked him what about emphysema since I was a smoker and his reply was, yes you do but there is nothing we can do about it. I did had some xrays done that day. My question is: Can Chaga help my condition??? I was told this in November, 2013. Today, Feb.25, 2014, I have but a minor side effect which is a little brown mocus at times. I still exercise without problems, etc. Any comments are greatly appreciated.
I think Cordyceps sinensis might be a better choice in this case. Cordyceps has a great reputation in relation to lung conditions.
what if a a person is allergic to birch, can they still drink the tea ? thank u
An allergy is in fact an exaggerated response of the immune system. According to research Chaga and several other medicinal mushrooms are very good at normalizing/neutralizing allergic responses. Apart from that, Chaga and the birch are two different things – I’m not 100% sure (to be honest, this is the first time I heard of it) but I think an allergy to birches is in fact an allergic reaction to the pollen released by the birch, not to the wood or the bark of the tree.
Nice approach to attempt to gather only the factual information about chaga which has become the flavour of the month in medicinal fungi. I was impressed by the information you presented and how you reveal the tendency of opinions to become facts as they are oft-quoted through digital media (I also assumed chaga was found on the iceman!).
However, your credibility fell off with your overly cautious concern for North American chaga in relation to radioactive fall-out from Fukushima. You sound just like the type of hyperbole and sensationalist journalism that you are trying to correct about chaga in this article. There is no proof that chaga from Saskatchewan or anywhere else for that matter is going to be harmfully radioactive. The maps you reference are not verifiable and are essentially meaningless. I would be more concerned about air pollution in a major city than consuming wild foods from the west coast of North America. Your warnings sounded too blatantly like scare tactics, and a thinly veiled attempt to dissuade the use of chaga from anywhere but your source. I didn’t even know this web site was for a company that sold medicinal mushroom products until I read those warnings.
I’m sure your product is great, but I’m also sure that folks would be fine to consume chaga anywhere without concern about radiation from Fukushima!
Thank you for your comment.
In the article we were pointing out that it is best (also as a general rule) to test wild-harvested Chaga, in particular now, after the Fukushima disaster. In our opinion, always base purchase decisions on validated facts, not emotions. Your critical remark is an emotional remark and was in fact already addressed in another reply by us (July 15th, 2013- see above).
That particular reply, summarized in brief:
this particular fall-out map is an updated version of the original computer model using environmental samples to verify the computer model and make them more accurate. Those samples unfortunately proved that the computer models were VERY accurate. In other words: the maps have been validated by testing environmental samples from relevant areas.
Also have a look at the articles below (among others). In particular the first one, dealing with the effect of Fukushima on Lituania (three quarters around the world) is very thorough and shows additional maps of the regions which were affected. It is obvious from all research data that North America/Canada was affected the most.
Click to access plutonium_litauen.pdf
Click to access Fukushima-estimation.pdf
Click to access acpd-11-28319-2011.pdf
Apart from that, the N-American continent is not really a major source for Chaga to begin with. The major sources for Chaga are Russian (parts of Siberia) and Chinese (Chinese Siberia – the Changbai area) regions. We have nothing to gain by making N-American Chaga suspect. We solely base our purchase decisions on verifiable facts (such as lab tests), not on patriotic feelings, and we think that’s the only correct way.
Emotions are constantly abused by marketeers, simply, because it’s easy to do so and very effective. But you can’t go wrong with verifiable facts.
The best evidence for or against would be results of radioactivity level measurements in chaga, not proxies like jet stream patterns.
It is common for Russian exporters to test their Chaga for radioactive isotopes like strontium and caesium-137. An example of such a CoA can be seen here.
When importing Chaga from potentially unsafe regions it is always tested by the FDA / EFSA when it’s crossing the borders of the US / EU, respectively.
N-American Chaga sellers however never test their wild-harvested Chaga, unfortunately, and they are not required to do so because it is usually marketed and sold within the country.
Recently we found this interesting Canadian page comparing Canadian and Siberian Chaga. About 40-50 elements were tested.
The owner of this page is a Canadian Chaga seller who is clearly in the dark as how to interpret the numbers: he thinks the numbers show that raw, wild harvested Canadian Chaga is better. He has good intentions, but is mistaken.
The outcome leaves no room for doubt: it is obvious the Siberian Chaga scores better. All potentially ‘dangerous’ elements are present in abundance in Canadian Chaga, but very little in Siberian Chaga.
If you go to that page, just look at the Canadian levels of Aluminium (10x higher), Strontium (2 x higher), Barium (1.5 x higher), Cadmium (3x higher), Lead (7 x higher), Arsenic (5 x higher).
They did not test for bioactive elements, such as beta-glucans and triterpenes. Quite odd.
Agreed, but again, what is plausible, logical and makes sense ?
Testing raw materials from a region that was recently covered in radio-active fallout and where recent tests showed contamination with Caesium-137(N-America, in particular the West-Coast)?
Or testing raw materials from an area that was in trouble 30 years ago (all Chaga infected trees from that time are dead, given that a tree infected with Chaga does not live much longer than 20 years, and Caesium-137 has a half-life of ± 30 years on top of that). And don’t forget, Russian exporters are testing their exported Chaga for radioactivity.
Some US sellers purchase a Geiger-counter on eBay and use that ‘to prove’ their Chaga is safe and not radioactive. Unfortunately Geiger-counters are unsuitable for testing contaminated ‘food’ as anybody familiar with Google can easily discover for himself. Only lab-tests make sense.
Thank you for a very interesting article.
I have collected some wild chaga, and I’m wondering what the best way to extract it would be in my non-professional kitchen. It would seem from your article that water extraction is not the best. What do you recommend I do?
In general we do not recommend to pursue DIY extraction at home. Although it is fun to play ‘little alchemist’ at home, compared to a professional quality extract the final product is much more expensive, it is very time consuming and the yield is disappointing, in particular if you’re after a therapeutic effect. In our Reishi monograph we describe the test performed by the HongKong consumer council: they compared the yield of a home made hot water extract with a professional product. The outcome was exactly what we describe.
Hot water extraction in itself is fine, but it gives an incomplete product, lacking all non-water soluble bioactives (like triterpenes and sterols). It will also lack the synergy that is present in a ‘full-spectrum’ product. To get close to the results described in the research a full-spectrum extract is the only option.
If you really want to do this at home the best option is probably to use a pressure cooker (pressure is needed to prevent disintegration of the beta-glucan molecular chains when cooked) and cook the chaga in e.g. vodka (being a safe mix of mainly water and alcohol) with at least 40% alcohol. The longer the better, but at least an hour or so.
This is a very crude single step dual-extraction method which is (but professionalized) also used by many producers offering cheap ‘dual extracts’ and herbal products. These are usually sold as ‘xx:1’ extracts without any detailed breakdown of the bioactives, because those percentages will vary wildly from one batch to the next.
We’ve never tried this ourselves and we don’t know if there’s danger in pressure cooking an alcoholic solution, so do some research before you try this – we don’t want you to hurt yourself!!
Question – does chaga from a dead birch tree have the same nutrients as a chaga from a live birch. is it still worth making tea with and consuming?
If something that is alive dies, it starts changing straight away. Traditionally Chaga from dead trees is never used. There is also a big chance that it has been infected by molds and bugs.
Your chaga resource is much appreciated and very well presented!
I have been wondering if anyone has ever used the grey spore-producing fruit-body medicinally in a way similar to the conk. I have found some chaga fruit recently, and was curious. If the black conk is consumable, what of the fruit? Has there ever been any use of, or analysis done on the mushroom itself?
Thank you 🙂
The fruiting body is exceptionally rare and doesn’t last long. Because of that it has never been investigated or used for therapeutic purposes AFAIK, nor has it been analysed. (99% of mycologists have never even seen it, so you’re very lucky!!). Do you have any pictures to share ??
Really great information. I recently purchased the Planetary Herbals “Full Spectrum” Chaga extract which contains alcohol. The reviews for it on Amazon were very positive. I’m wondering, is this version of Chaga actually going to benefit me or did I throw my money away? Thank you kindly! 🙂
Thank you for the compliment. As for the Planetary Herbals product and how beneficial it is, you can have a look at this blog, which gives an accurate description of the problems / disadvantages of mushroom tinctures in general and of mushroom products as a whole.
Are you sure that “humans cannot digest chitin”?
>> Human Gastric Juice Contains Chitinase That Can Degrade Chitin: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17587796
Full txt: http://www.bio.unipd.it/agroecology/download/pdf/papers/2007/Chitinase%20in%20gastric%20juices.pdf
“Western society does not consider insects an important food [7, 2]; however, crustaceans such as lobsters and shrimps are commonly eaten mostly after discarding the hardened chitin-rich tegument. Therefore, Western nutrition apparently does not seem to depend on chitinases . This and other considerations, including the absence of chitin as a human body component, have led some authors to ask whether humans are capable of digesting chitin…”
Great article in general 🙂
Thank you for your remark.
We should have written “humans cannot digest chitin very well, in general”, like we do on the Oriveda website.
We were aware of the article you quoted. If you read it you’ll see that only 20% of the 25 test subjects were found to have good chitinase activity, and another 20% were found to have zero chitinase activity. 60% had poor chitinase activity. (Chitinase is the enzyme that can break chitin)
The general recommendation to choose extracts over non-extracted mushroom products is therefore still in place: a product should ideally guarantee the same bioavailability for everybody. Only if you choose an extract you have that guarantee.
We will adjust our text. Thanks again for your message!
Do you use the double extraction method (Etoh and Water) in your chaga products? I just found your site so maybe this is answered in detail elsewhere. Thanks for your info.
We use both hot water and alcohol/ethanol extraction in a repeated multi-step process, followed by alcohol precipitation to further purify the product.
We are currently the only Chaga supplier that is using this advanced processing method – most suppliers of extracts use only hot water extraction or a mixture of water and ethanol/alcohol in a single step process, to cut production costs. However, this will not yield such a high amount of bioactives as we can guarantee in our Chaga extract, meaning the therapeutic potential is also less.
We can’t emphasize this enough: the best quality Chaga extract is a combi of the best raw materials and the best processing. Make a compromise on one of these and you’ll have a compromised product, which becomes clear when comparing the supplement facts.
Terrific information….thank you for all the time you have obviously taken to compile this info. I am like another person who wrote above asking about chemo and chaga. I have just finished chemo for breast cancer and am very eager to try to add the chaga to my diet. I will be using chaga supplements that are supposed to be top of line. My worry is that all my docs warned me off of anything anti oxidant. Am I risking the effectiveness of the chemo at this point if I start using chaga? I want so desperately to do something good for body and tissues after 8 rounds of chemo but am still confused about the safety of re-introducing antioxidants and chaga into my system.
We can only repeat what we wrote before about the anti-oxidants that might turn into -dangerous- pro-oxidants:
– There is […] conflicting information in the literature: some sources state that pro-oxidative effects are beneficial, others claim they might be dangerous. An interesting article discussing several aspects of this is this one.
Apart from that, the anti-oxidant effects of Chaga are at least in part indirect: they stimulate the body to produce e.g. SOD. This is much better than SOD-supplementation, because it has no side effects. As stated in the article, the SOD that is present in Chaga itself has no therapeutic effect because it will be destroyed in the stomach before it can reach the intestinal tract.
Forget all the websites that make exaggerated claims – that ‘s mere marketing unless it is backed up by facts and science. What really matters is does the product WORK.
You also write you’ll be “using chaga supplements that are supposed to be top of the line“. Supposed is not good enough. Make sure they are. Ask for objective third-party COAs backing up the therapeutic potency.
We wrote a newsletter about how you can objectively validate a mushroom supplements quality – you can find it here.
I have heard many first-hand stories about being able to have an excellent quality of life because of Chaga and other mushroom supplements, both during and after chemo-treatment.
If you want to be 100% on the safe side you can also consider another mushroom extract without the anti-oxidant potential, such as Agaricus blazei Murrill (ABM). For several years this has been Japan’s best selling anti-cancer supplement, outclassing the number 2 (AHCC) by 17:1. ABM has almost twice the amount of beta-glucans found in Chaga. The beta-glucans are the most important compounds here: they keep the immune response at the best possible level at all times, in fact turning the body into a hostile environment for all pathogens, including cancerous cells.
Research also found that a specific compound in ABM inhibits the enzyme aromatase, which has been linked to the development of breast cancer.
Dear Karin, I was considering chaga for my father to use during chemo aswell as other mushrooms. I am curious how you’re doing, and how you’re treatment for cancer has gone to date? Do you feel it helped your chemotherapy? Warm regards, Cian
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Thank you for this highly informative and skillfully written article… it is by far the most complete I have read on the subject… I am new on Chaga… I have found some nice specimens where I live (in Quebec) and now I guess I should get them tested for radioactivity… Is any geiger counter ok or should I look for a specific measuring ability ? Thx again for this impressive research…
A Geiger counter will not do. You need professional testing facilities that test for the specific heavy metals we know as radio-isotopes, such as Cesium and Strontium. These accumulate in Chaga and when we consume contaminated Chaga, these will also accumulate in our body and can cause mutations in our cells / DNA, causing e.g. cancer.
Our recommendation is to leave Chaga on the tree. It takes a long time to develop. Making your own Chaga extract is a hype nowadays, ‘thanks’ to people like David Wolfe and Daniel Vitalis. It is in the core a waste of precious raw material, because you will never be able to fully extract all the bioactives and to get the therapeutic results that are possible with a professionally produced extract.
Hi -I live in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada – just heard about Chaga and we went out to pick some. Do you think it
is safe here. I grated the Chaga very fine and put it in boiling water for 5 minutes. Is this long enough. Can you make and store in the fridge for days.
As said before, we recommend to leave Chaga on the tree. You don’t know if it is 100% safe or not without testing. If you want to make Chaga tea yourself nevertheless, look here for the best methods to do so. Five minutes is way too short.
Thanks for responding so fast. I think I will play it safe and get the capsules.
Wow….a really tough read. I wish there was a condensed easy to reat article. My mind is boggled from information overload. TWO simple questions….what does it help with and what is the best way to ingest it?
What it’s for is at the end of the article.
Chaga’s main therapeutic effect is the immune balancing, which is good for everybody over 35 years of age, but in particular for those over 50 years of age.
Apart from that, it is essential for everybody experiencing some form of stress (physical, mental, chemical, environmental, etc.). Stress is an underestimated immune killer. Indirectly, it makes you sick.
Immune balancing restores the normal immune function and will help your body to battle infections, inflammations, virus attacks and, not to be overlooked, it will help prevent overactive immune responses (causing auto-immune disorders such as psoriasis, allergies and e.g. rheumatoid arthritis).
The best way (in fact, the only effective way) to ingest it is by taking a powdered extract. A dual extract is the best. Forget tinctures, these are a waste of money.
Chaga tea is fun to make and might make you feel good about yourself, but the actual therapeutic effect is minimal. On top of that, you are wasting precious Chaga, because you are not utilising the raw Chaga optimally.
Thanks a lot for this in-depth article, really informative!
Two questions come to mind:
– First, are Chaga supplements composed of only “Chaga mycelium” worth anything? (Thinking of Paul Stamets’ products that seem better marketed than researched)
– Secondly concerning your chaga extract product, what consumption do you recommend? Is it better to take daily everyday of the year, or should it be taken in cures (e.g. 3 months then stop 1 month)?
Thanks a lot! Keep up the good work!
First, ALL Chaga products are composed of mycelia only, as there is no such thing as a Chaga fruiting body extract. See the beginning of the article for an explanation. What we call ‘Chaga’ is in fact a dense mass of mycelia and not a fruiting body; it’s also known as sclerotia.
What you probably meant to say was ‘cultivated vs. wildcrafted’ mycelia products. Paul Stamets is using cultivated mycelia. We do not believe these are comparable to products derived from wildcrafted Chaga. See the end of the article for an in-depth explanation.
Second, we recommend daily consumption of 1 gram (3 capsules) for a healthy person over 35 years of age. This will ensure you are optimally prepared for whatever assault on your immune system can happen. Some people feel that it is odd to take a supplement daily, but it is not more odd than having to take e.g. vitamins daily in order to stay healthy. More and more people are currently living an urban life, and this life-style is an endless chain of big and small stress-laden events (noise, pollution, mental and physical stress, lack of sleep, poor quality food, poor diet…). And stress affects your immune function, together with age.
For people with a health condition we recommend to take higher doses – research has shown that the effects are dose-dependent. To determine the best dose for a specific person/condition might require some trial and error, as each situation/person is different.
Keep in mind that our product is the most concentrated Chaga product currently on the market; for a similar effect you have to take considerably more of whatever other Chaga product. We can claim to have the best value for money, objectively speaking, for all our mushroom products. See this link for how we arrive at this conclusion.
Very interesting and informative.
I would like to discuss more about the Caesium absorption re Chaga. You are correct that “mushrooms” have the ability to absorb chemicals readily, and as such are sometimes used in chemical cleanups, but I believe the difference here is that most mushrooms uptake heavy metals directly from the earth via mycelium.
Chaga as you have pointed out is getting its nutrients from the Birch it has infected, and therefore it is the Birch tree that would be absorbing the Caesium (Cs). Cs has very similar chemical properties to Potassium (K). It is suspected that it is a bond between Cs and K that allows the plant to absorb the Cs. Each process, from the earth absorption, through the tree absorption, through the Chaga utilizing these birch resources, and I assume our own intake would in essence act as a filter, most likely reducing Cs in each uptake.
I don’t wish to downplay this, as there is really no safe level of radiation, but in relation to the absorption of other heavy metals from other sources, I’m not sure that there is any safe, pristine harvesting area on earth.
Just thoughts to ponder.
Interesting POV, but don’t forget rain and other environmental things.
No matter what, IMO it again shows how important it is to use validated Chaga products only, backed up with lab reports and science.
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Wonderfully informative article. Thank you for compiling all this information. I have searched for an answer as to why my wife experiences abdominal pain after drinking a glass of chaga (normally just before bed). The pain will either start just before she gets to bed or she will wake up during the night because of it. I have found others who have posted similar questions but haven’t found a single answer. It may be on the strong side (1 cup chaga grounds to 2 litres of water, steeped and left so sit for 24 hours).I drink the same chaga which i harvested and have no ill effects. Any ideas? Thank you in advance.
If I understand you correctly, you are consuming non-extracted ground-up raw Chaga, which was steeped for 24 hours in room-temperature water. Chaga treated that way will have very little active ingredients, if any (the chitin, being non water soluble does not get extracted – high temperature is needed for that- , so the bioactive ingredients locked in the chitin do not get released / will not become bioavailable). That means you are actually consuming a significant amount of indigestible dietary fibre (the chitin).
People with a sensitive metabolism might develop stomach problems because of that. Try to replace the DIY Chaga grounds with a good Chaga extract, just to try, and see if the abdominal pains pop up again – I have a feeling they will not.
Terribly sorry for the confusion. I bring the water to a boil, then cool it to about 180F before adding the raw ground chaga. If we aren’t successful in relieving the abdominal pain, I’ll do my best to convince her to try the capsules.
The problem is that high temperature is needed to completely remove -melt- the chitin (which is both a dietary fiber and an allergen) and to release the bioactive beta-glucans.
Unfortunately, the high temperature (boiling for quite some time) will also cause the glucans to disintegrate over time, so the yield will still be low. Professional extraction facilities use high temperature combined with high pressure. The high pressure stops the disintegration of the glucans. This is something you cannot do at home, unfortunately.
Hi, Thanks a lot for all the time you put into this article, it has really helped me a lot.
I am wondering what your thoughts are on giving chaga tincture to young children? I have a 3 year old who has a poor immune system and so I would like to know if it is safe to give children alcohol based tinctures? Or would a hot water extraction be better?
Giving children alcohol based tinctures is not a good idea in general, alcohol is seen as ‘toxic’ by the body.
In the case of Chaga (or another mushroom) it also makes no sense, because mushroom tinctures are in the core useless, therapeutically speaking. All research (from us and others) showed that the level of active ingredients in a tincture is very low, often below the level of detection, even. This so-called ‘cold extraction’ only works with herbs (which are cellulose-based, structurally speaking), not mushrooms (chitin-based). See this article for the technical background.
Apart from that, the main immune-modulating bioactives are water-soluble beta-glucans, which will never be present in an alcohol-based tincture or extract. An extract in powder form, which can be dissolved in water or some other drink (sweetened to taste) is the best option for children. Also see this link.
Thanks for you response. I see in another comment you mentioned you gave your daughter a capsule? What was in the capsule please? I am finding this all very confusing, so apologies.
Also, would you then say that it would be pointless to give my daughter chaga extract tea?
Indeed, the contents of one Chaga capsule (300 mg extract powder) mixed with lemonade sirup, diluted with water. Chaga is quite bitter so sweetening it is usually necessary if you want to give it to a child. When she was only 1 year old (now she’s five) we mixed one capsule (300mg) with her formula; shake well to mix it. She drank it without problems. She never had the snotty nose many children have around that age, nor has she ever been sick, so I guess it works as intended.
Chaga DIY tea lacks real therapeutic potency, as explained elsewhere. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it ‘useless’, but it is far from optimal. A home made ‘tea’ (extract diluted in hot water) prepared from a well=processed extract is a much better choice, although less fun, of course. It is science.
IMO this DIY hype is a waste of precious, slow-growing raw Chaga. It takes at least five years for a Chaga-lump to grow back to a harvestable size. That same lump of Chaga could provide 10 – 20 x as much bioactive potency if it had been extracted in a professional way.
OK, that has cleared that up. Is there any reason for pregnant women to avoid the capsules you sell? I have just bought some for myself and my daughter, but my partner is pregnant and is wondering can she take them?
All the best to you.
We recommend against using Chaga or any other mushroom extract during pregnancy, because there’s no information available about the potential effects on the pregnancy. We think it’s best to be on the safe side and not to use medicinal mushrooms while pregnant.
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Hi thank you for the great research and article. I have a question:
I made a Chaga salve by first cold infusing Organic Olive oil with powdered Chaga and letting it sit for three months, stirring and shaking often. I strained out the Chaga, added new Chaga and then did a warm oil infusion on low heat for ten hours. The oil smells strongly of Chaga and is not dark brown but did darken. The salve seems really great, but I am wondering if you think there are truly any healing properties in it. I know you said that some of properties are not easily absorbed by the skin, but I am wondering about the other constituents. I look forward to your response as I would not like to be wasting my time and the Chaga by making an ineffective product. Also, if you would recommend adding the extract to the salve as opposed to the actual fungus material, is there an unsafe amount and any ideas on the applications? Thank you in advance!
The only sure way to tell if this salve will actually contain any active ingredients worth mentioning is by having it tested. I doubt it, because cold infusion does not work with mushrooms – chitin needs an enzymatic treatment or heat to dissolve and release the bioactives.
It is perfectly safe to add extract to the salve (and preferable over adding raw Chaga); and there are no unsafe amounts. I don’t know if it will be beneficial, though. Generally speaking, beta-glucans are too large to be absorbed by the skin, and I don’t know about how polyphenols work when applied topically. I’d say just try and see what the results are for yourself. Good luck!
Thank you for the thorough research and fact checking! I almost missed it…
After seeing David Wolfe, Daniel Vitalis and Cass Ingram noted as “health gurus”, I almost did not read your article!
I think it would have been additionally valuable to the public to add who made accurate and false statements.
Great informative page about chaga!. I’ve been drinking this shake for the past 3 months:
-Half chaga tea+half vanilla almond milk
-raw organic cacao
-Organic Peanut butter
-a handful of nuts
It taste like reese chocolate bar and there’s no sugar!
Man… NEVER mix Chaga with solid or semi-solid foods, such as a smoothie or a shake. It will limit the absorption of the Chaga bioactives in the gut, reducing them to mere dietary fibers. Don’t waste good stuff!! This is science !
Also, NEVER mix Chaga with something that contains lactose, like milk. Lactose binds with polyphenols (the anti-oxidants in Chaga), rendering them completely useless.
Great information, will have to look more into it when I got the time. This raises questions for me such as, should you avoid dairy with cocoa/tea etc for antioxidant activity? Or just avoid diary with food in general >.<
Also can you take a mushroom extract straight after a meal? Or do you have to wait, and for about how long?
And what about taking herbs with meals or diary, for example sprinkling ashwagandha or maca powder and how it effects bioavailability
Some nutrients work against each other but are beneficial ‘an sich’. If you follow e.g. a low-fat diet you run a high risk that your vitamin E intake will be lower than recommended, unless you compose your diet carefully with this in mind. Because you eat different food throughout the day you usually get what you need in the long run.
Many health gurus and health enthousiasts like too make smoothies with e.g. Chaga in them – but though fun and tasty this is far from ideal.
The reason is a scientific one: the main immune-modulating bioactives in all medicinal mushrooms are beta-glucans (a type of polysaccharide / dietary fiber). These are relatively large macro-molecules which have to enter the bloodstream in the intestines in order to be beneficial. This is always problematic because of their large size – glucans do not pass the intestinal wall easily and need as little ‘competition’ as possible from other nutrients in the intestinal tract for optimal absorption. Research noted that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) improves the absorption significantly.
Summarizing: mushroom extracts should be taken on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before meals or at least two hours after meals, together with some vitamin C or a vitamin C-containing beverage. This guarantees the best possible therapeutic potential.
Herbs are a different story; often the bioactives in herbs are organic chemical substances that have a direct effect, whereas mushrooms work mainly indirect on the body. Taking herbs together with food might be less of a problem or might even be recommended (like in the example of vitamin E which needs fat to be properly absorbed) – but this is outside of our expertise.
My husband has recently been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer (Essential Thrombocythemia). He is 33 years old and otherwise in good health. I am a firm believer in alternative medicine and as a result of his diagnosis have been actively researching natural ways to boost his immune & cardiovascular system, to the outright dismay of our doctors.
My husband is currently taking Plavex and Aspirin to prevent stroke and Hydroxyurea to combat his elevated platelets. Would it be safe for him to start taking Chaga capsules while he is on these medications? (I honestly do not want to ask our doctors about this because I already know exactly what they are going to say about anything that isn’t provided by a pharmaceutical company). Ideally we hope to have him off of the plavex when his platelets come down as the risk of stroke will be diminished (hopefully). Any additional info you may have of clients using your product on blood thinners would be greatly appreciated.
Also, you mentioned in your article that the capsules should ideally be taken by adults 35+ however you stated that you give them to your 5 yo daughter? Are there specific capsules for differing age groups? We also have a 2 year old son who we call Booger Boy because he is never without a snotty nose and is sick every few months when something goes around his day care.
Sorry to hear about your husbands condition! As for your questions, please understand we’re not doctors. Our advice is that of an educated layman and not medical advice. We can say that Chaga does not contain natural blood thinners in detectable quantities and AFAIK it does not interact with Plavix or Aspirin.
Hydroxyurea often contains lactose (read the leaflet that came with it) and lactose binds with polyphenols such as found in abundance in Chaga. It will therefore mostly neutralize the anti-oxidant effects of Chaga, but not the immune-modulating effects (triggered by the beta-glucans).
Beta-glucans are the main bioactive ingredient in Chaga and in the core these are just food (carbohydrates), also found in e.g. oats, barley and yeasts. Unless you were advised to stay away from these foods while taking Hydroxyurea taking Chaga should not cause any problems or negative interaction.
Our advice ‘the capsules should ideally be taken by adults 35+’ was meant as a recommendation, not a limitation! Once you pass the 35 year threshold your immune system can get sloppy and will benefit from some support such as provided by Chaga. All ages can take Chaga!
‘Booger boy’ is an interesting case – definitely worth trying to see if Chaga can help!
Thanks for all your research. I have learned so much. I have been told that the only time chaga is good to take is when it is harvested in the fall or winter. That it has no medicinal value if harvested in summer. There seems to be different opinions on this. Can you tell me if Chaga that has been harvested in summer is ok to make tea from and still beneficial?
Hi Wendy, thank you for your question.
It does not matter when the Chaga was harvested at all. What matters is its age and the conditions in which it has developed: the more harsh the better.
The majority of the bioactive constituents in Chaga are so-called secondary metabolites: they only develop because the fungus has to battle to survive (like: the battle of Chaga -being a parasite in the tree- with its host, the environmental conditions, etc.).
As an example, a Chaga conk of considerable size (=old) growing from a relatively young tree (= strong) in severe weather conditions with large swings in temperature will have a lot more therapeutic power than a small conk (=young) growing from an old tree (= usually weaker) in a more moderate climate. There is no ‘magic’ involved, despite all the suggestive marketing. It is just science and common sense. The potency of the product becomes clear when you read the supplement facts label – you can ignore the marketing in general. Only hard, verifiable facts matter, not the sales talk.
And as said in the article – cultivated Chaga is a completely different story altogether. Check the label to see if the product is in whole or part based on cultivated Chaga to make sure you get the right product. More objective advice about how to choose a good mushroom product can be found in this article.
Your homemade Chaga tea will not have the therapeutic potential of a professionally produced extract; apart from that wild-harvested Chaga such as sold on eBay might contain significant contamination (heavy metals in particular) – it’s the nature of the fungus to accumulate these from the environment and the host tree. Over the years this accumulated contamination can get quite high and might be a health risk. Professionally produced extracts are tested for this and also offer much better value for money when taking the therapeutic potential into account (at least 10 – 25 times more powerful according to lab tests).
A recent example of this is provided by a Canadian seller of Chaga chunks and Chaga tea. He sent his Chaga products to a local test lab to find out which one was the best for his customers in terms of therapeutic effectivity. His focus was on the anti-oxidant potential; which is associated with the polyphenolic content in Chaga.
According to the lab report the best results were achieved when boiling powdered raw Chaga for 4 hours. The amount of polyphenols was ± 30,000 GAEmg/kg. This seems like a big number until it is being compared to the ORIVeDA Chaga extract: ± 102,000 GAEmg/kg (Brunswick Labs report) which is over 3 x more.
Apart from that, the bioavailable polysaccharides were only ± 3 – 4% whereas over 50% is the standard for the ORIVeDA extract. The reason is a technical one: prolonged boiling or simmering destroys the long molecular chains of the bio-active polysaccharides over time, unless it is done under high pressure. People do not make their tea in pressure vessels, in general.
And of course the heavy metal content and other contamination was unknown.
Thank you for providing the internet with a nuanced and thorough article about Chaga. The gullibility and chash mongoring of the alternative health culture can be quite tiring. Now, I have a question regarding the preparation. Here in the north of Sweden most people simply take rather large chunks, perhaps say ½-1 golf ball and let it swim in hot water below the boiling point until the water has been colored somewhere between the color of tea and the color of tar. The chunks are then re-used many times until it doesnt give off any more color since its then considered to be emptied from the health-beneficial substances. I usually go about and pick the chagas myself when Im out hunting and prepare them as described above. I would never consider buying extracts. Now, reading your article and the comments above, it doesnt seem to be a very effective way of ingesting/preparing chaga even though I quite like the taste of the tea. If I understood you correctly, you actually want to boil it at a high temperature and under high pressure and you want to boil it grounded/extracted (not chunks)? Now, if one is to prepare ones chaga at home, what is the best option all things considered for us homeusers that has limited means for highpressure boiling and grounding? Ive tried to read your article thoroughly aswell as the comments above but havent really been able to draw any conclusion.
Looking forward to your reply!
Best regards, Calle
Many people are using a traditional approach such as what you describe. They usually don’t know why it is done a certain way, they just do it. We believe doing it like this is a waste of a very slow growing, precious natural resource. It is very inefficient and the therapeutic effect will be moderate at best.
You mention that big chunks are simmered. This is like simmering coffee beans without first grinding them – very inefficient. By powdering the chunks / coffee beans you increase the surface that gets in touch with the hot water and therefore will be able to release its water-soluble contents more easily. For this reason, the finer the powder the better. More particles means more surface!
Only extended boiling completely ‘melts’ the chitin and will release all the bioactives locked in the chitin cell walls. The high pressure will prevent the disintegration of the long-chain bioactive beta-glucans.
Please see the FAQ on our website (tab – Medicinal Mushrooms FAQ -> subject: ‘I want to make my own mushroom-based tea‘) for some detailed descriptions, complete with links to lab tests that show that the yield of a home-made mushroom tea is at least 1000% less than when extracted in a professional way.
The taste of a professional Chaga extract is usually slightly more bitter, because it also contains non-water soluble triterpenes. Mixing it with maple syrup (my favorite !) will remove the bitterness and enhance the earthy flavour!
I’ve read on some sites the element barium is found in chaga. I thought barium was not found in nature? in which case is this pollution?
Excellent information in your blog.
Barium is never found in its pure elementary form in nature, but is present in several compounds. Indeed, an isotope of Barium -Ba-137- is present in Chaga. Ba-137 is a decay product of the radioactive Caesium-137, which is quite common since the 1950s. Small amounts of Caesium-137 were released into the environment during nearly all nuclear weapon tests and some nuclear accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster and the Fukushima disaster. The amounts present in Chaga are too low to be dangerous for human health.
You mentioned pollution. A recent elemental analysis comparing Siberian and Canadian Chaga (from New Brunswick) showed that Canadian Chaga was considerably more polluted than Siberian Chaga.
Some examples from the report:
Canadian Chaga contained 45 ppm Ba-137 against 38 ppm for Siberian Chaga.
Radioactive strontium-88: 4.75 ppm in Siberian Chaga and ± 11 ppm in Canadian Chaga.
Aluminium content in Canadian Chaga was 10 x higher than Siberian Chaga.
Cadmium: 3 x higher.
Lead: 7 x higher.
Arsenic: 5 x higher
Iron: 54 x higher
Don’t forget that these figures are just snapshots of specific samples. No dangerous levels were present in any sample, though some elements might accumulate over time in the body. Which is why we -again !- advice against consuming raw, untested wild Chaga.
Congratulations for your page. It’s full of informations which I couldn’t find in such a condensed form.
I live in the Laurentians in the eastern part of Canada. I just found about 5kg of Chaga. You keep saying that the homemade Chaga tea is less potent than your professionaly extracted Chaga and I won’t doubt that. Is there a way to bring my Chaga harvest to someone to extract it professionaly “almost like you” ? – you know like in south of France you can take your olives to a dry-press and get it done there –
Anyway this was just a thought.
Thank You for demystifiing the Chaga
Can’t help you there, sorry…
Thank you for your very informative article. I am having a colonoscopy (spelling?) in a few weeks and was wondering if it was safe to continue drinking my tea (I make from the chaga from northern Ontario) before and after the procedure. I was wondering specifically about bleeding.
We are not doctors, so we can’t give optimal advice here. AFAIK Chaga has no effect on bleeding; it does not contain blood thinners. It might be useful in this case because it will limit potential infections and might speed up healing. Make sure the Chaga you’re using is well-tested and safe to use (heavy metals and such).
I have just finished reading everything on this most informative page, including comments and replies. Had I done so yesterday, I would not have gone out this morning and harvested about 6kg of wild Ontario chaga. Given that you are not recommending consumption, can you suggest any other uses so this bounty of nature isn’t wasted?
Dry it and make tea out of it. You can find a collection of recipes here. (password protected: the password = STW). The tea might not be very powerful, but it’s better than throwing the Chaga away.
I enjoyed your very useful article. It provides in one place pretty much all the information about chaga I needed, and is a refreshing change from the typical “drink chaga tea and you’ll live forever!!!!” internet fare.
However, you have made some mistakes about radioactivity. Both 137Ba and 88Sr are natural isotopes, accounting for about 11% and 83% of natural Ba and Sr, respectively. Although both isotopes CAN originate from decay processes on earth, they primarily are formed in suprenovae. The concentration of just one isotope cannot be used to calculate the amount of radioactive fallout that was originally present. You could do that only by comparing isotope ratios. Assuming that the Ba and Sr present in the chaga had the same isotope composition as the natural elements, the total concentration of Ba (409 ppm) and Sr (13 ppm) would be well within the normal range for biological samples. Indeed, the Sr concentration is on the low side. The differences in trace element concentrations (none of which are even close to toxic levels) probably reflect differences in bedrock geology. Such geological differences commonly result in very different trace element profiles. It also is possible that biological effects contribute to the differences. As you show, the biochemistry of chaga is quite variable, and it is likely that this variability would affect the relative affinity of organic ligands for different elements.
In order 45 ppm of 137Ba to be the product of 137Cs from Fukushima, one kilogram of chaga would have had a decay activity of 97 million Bq. If only 1% of the 137Ba originated from fallout, the chaga still would have been so radioactive that standing near it would be dangerous, and a 10 gram internal dose would be almost instantly fatal. Even after 30 years the chaga would remain extraordinarily dangerous (half as dangerous as initially), the kind of thing to be stored in a lead vault for 300 years before it was safe to handle, much less consume.
In fact, from the references you provide, the total amount of 137Cs from Fukushima in North America was on the order of 10^-10 Bq/m^3 or less, in the most contaminated areas. Although such minute quantities of an isotope can be detected by extremely sensitive assays (which amount to atom-counting), this is a truly negligible amount of radiation. Even the most aggressive bioaccumulation could not concentrate such a thinly dispersed radionuclide to the point of delivering a dangerous, or even measurable, radiation dose.
Thanks for this very useful addition!
It would be interesting to compare the trace element composition of chaga with its biochemical profile. You might expect, for example, that SOD concentration would correlate with iron concentration, as iron is a major biological source of reactive oxygen species. From all you say, it appears that environmental stress plays an important role in chaga developing its beneficial properties, so it stands to reason that other kinds of stress, like chemical stress, would have the same effect. If so, it would be a starting point for improving chaga cultivation.
Does chaga contain any vitamin D? It seems that it should given that it grows outdoors in sunlight. It must have a lot of ergosterol, at least.
Chaga contains some ergosterol, which is pro-vitamin D2. How much and if it is actually worth mentioning, I don’t know. I think it is more worthwhile to buy an OTC vitamin D supplement of good quality.
Usually the amount of ergosterol is the highest in fruiting bodies. The Chaga conk is not a fruiting body, but a cluster of hardened mycelia.
An interesting book covering this type of questions about Chaga is ‘Emerging Bioresources with Nutraceutical and Pharmaceutical Prospects – Chapter 11’ (Seema Patel, 2015 – ISBN: 3319128469)
Thanks for a very informative site; the best so far and not chock-full of questionable information.
I have read in one of the sites that a person with a bowel-related condition such as Ulcerative Colitis should not drink Chaga tea but the reason was not stated. Do you have any further information on this?
Thanks and keep up the good work.
Thanks Ann, and a happy new year, to start with!
As for the UC (Ulcerative Colitis) you’d better ask the ones stating it is not good to use Chaga why it is not good. References, a scientific explanation…. ?
Most of these statements have no foundation and have been copy/pasted from somewhere, without understanding the content. The internet is full of it.
As an example have a look at this Facebook post about how great Chaga is, (part of which has been copy/pasted from our monograph as a matter of fact).
The creator of this post is clearly determined to paint a positive picture of Chaga and its qualities. The article is a mess, a collage of copy/paste information where less positive and negative aspects have been filtered out (such as betulinic acid not being absorbed well by the body, and that Chaga tea contains almost no bioactives). It also contains assumptions and claims that have zero foundation. But – never let the facts get in the way of a good story!!
This approach is known as ‘cherry-picking’ (mixed with fiction) and is responsible for lots of confusion amongst consumers. In part this approach is probably also responsible for the poor reputation of ‘alternative medicine’ in general. The intentions might be good, but the execution leaves a lot to desire, in general.
Chaga has been used in Russian folk medicine specifically for ulcers and UC for many centuries. If it would have a negative effect they would have stopped many centuries ago, don’t you think ?
Yes, of course, the continual usage of Chaga does speak for itself. Thanks for responding and Happy 2016 to you.
First of all, I have tried to research the Fukushima results for my area but for some reason I keep getting this message “The requested URL /HomePages/bocquet/Doc/cumulated_total_deposition_ground_fukushima-2.png was not found on this server.”
Maybe there is another website that can give me the info?
I have been harvesting quite a bit of Chaga, making tea and drinking it daily. My question is about the black outer shell. With reference to your statement: “Some foods contain powerful antioxidants, like fresh fruits, honey, tea and olives. The bioactives responsible for this antioxidant action are in particular polyphenols and natural phenols. In Chaga these are mainly found in the black outside of the fungus, the sclerotium. This sclerotium contains massive amounts of the natural black pigment known as melanin, which has a high antioxidant potential.”
I notice when I see Chaga for sale it is always only the light brown parts in powder or chunks. I have watched videos etc on preparation and they always scrape off the black crusty part to get to the inside. Seems to me that they are scraping away maybe the best part?
Thank you very much for all of your information. I look forward to reading as much information as I can get.
I will pass on this web site to the many people that I know who are using Chaga.
Thank you for your message.
We’ve updated the article; the parent site’s layout had been changed.
For the large picture of the deposition click here, for the website where the picture can be seen in its context, click here.
As for your question about the black outside of the Chaga, I think you’d better ask the people selling raw Chaga / explaining how to make the tea on Youtube why they remove the black outside. This layer actually contains most of the water-soluble fungal melanin (a polyphenolic derivative) and is thought to be responsible for the majority of the anti-oxidant potential.
Okay, so in your explanation of how chaga is formed I am still curious about a couple of things. Do you know if the tree’s nutrients are being directed into the forming chaga and why does it even form? Why are there so many properties to this chaga? And does the chaga form as a result of a crack or injury to the tree or is it just one of those unexplainable cases? Thanks, Ann
Chaga is the result of an infection of the tree. It is a parasitic fungus.
If the tree’s immune system is weakened because of age or damage a Chaga spore can root en spread, starting from from the inside towards the outside of the tree trunk. It is a so-called ‘white-rot fungus’. A parasite absorbs and/or blocks nutrients that the tree needs for its development, thus killing the tree slowly.
The tree is defending itself like our body will do when it is battling an infection. The struggle between the tree and the parasite has a positive side effect: so-called secondary metabolites are being formed in the fungus, as a side effect. These often happen to have therapeutic properties. There are many similar medicinal fungi. In this sense, Chaga is not exceptional, other medicinal fungi have similar therapeutic properties. Only the anti-oxidant power of Chaga is much higher than others, for some reason.
I really appreciate the response, thanks.
Thanks for the great information you have given out here. Do you know if there are more nutrients to chaga that grows high in a tree compared to chaga that grows much lower?
I don’t know.
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My husband and I recently made an extraction – first with 100%+ Everclear for 2 months (shaking it every day) then a water extraction (3 times). The chunks we used were only about 1/2″ to 1″. After reading this blog, it looks like we should have made it finer. Anyway, my question is this – are the chunks still good for a tea or making a exfoliating scrub? Or, is all the good antioxidants, etc out by now and to just toss?
Yes, the finer the particles the more surface will be exposed to the extracting solvent (water, alcohol) and the better the potential result. Just dropping a Chaga lump in alcohol will leave the deep insides of the lump probably untouched, mostly.
You can still ground the used lumps and use them to make tea. If the water turns brown there’s still something worthwhile left, if not you can just throw them away into your garden (= good fertilizer).
🙂 I hope my English will be ok,I speak french. I bought some chaga powder from Québec. ..since it is on the east coast is it safer or they might be radioactive ?
An another question. Is it true that someone with allergy to penicillin must avoid chaga? Thank you 🙂
You only know for sure if you have it tested. I don’t know what causes an allergy to penicillin and whether or not the same pathway is involved in Chaga.
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I live in BC and find Chaga on cottonwood trees, l wonder if it has the same qualities as Chaga found on Birch trees?
I don’t know. The only information available stems from birch-grown chaga.
I am gratefull this long page dispels some of the myths about chaga but it creates new ones!
First is the claim that hot water extract of chaga has no medicinal value – how come when chaga was used medicinally in exactly this way for centuries?
Second the obviously wrong claim that there are no side effects of taking chaga or any other muschroom. How about ‘Chaga mushroom-induced oxalate nephropathy”? Google it, it’s on Medlin! Chaga like most other muschrooms has profound effects on kidneys, immune system, liver etc. Do you really believe it provides those effects with magically no unwanted effects because it is ‘smart’ and makes difference between positive and negative effects?
While Chaga has been shown to placate the immune system for Psoriasis, such alterations of immune function would not be a good thing in other cases. There are many examples of contemporary drugs for Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis that basically supress overactive components of the immune system at the price of making the patient more susceptible to other deseases. There is no proof that Chaga magically circumvents that problem and provides only positive effects …
Last, taking internally SOD is not necessarily a good thing. Are you aware that our immune system actually uses Reactive Oxigen Species to destroy pathogens? What would happen if you flood the body with SOD that neutralizes those. Clearly the effects are not going to be only positive and it is naive to think that flooding your body with antioxidants will stop all the bad processes and not touch the good ones …
I think you have to re-read the article.
1) we don’t state anywhere that hot water extracts have no medicinal value, quite the opposite actually.
2) That is anecdotal information. There is no background information. The patient was very old and in bad health. She did not take a Chaga extract and the product she consumed has not been tested for its supposed ‘oxalate concentration’. Therefore the assumptions in this article are just that – assumptions.
We recommend you to read more about ‘adaptogenic properties’ and ‘immune modulation’. Those are the main properties of a good Chaga extract. It will normalize the immune function, not just boost it or suppress it.
Taking SOD orally is indeed not necessarily good / useful. That is what we say in the article. SOD is destroyed in the stomach when taken orally. Chaga stimulates the body to produce its own SOD, which is excellent. The level of SOD will never cross the natural thresholds, though.
Actually you say in several places that a chaga tea has very little actives and is supposedly weak compared to other extracts. If it’s weak how come it was used for centuries exactly as a tea, not as double extracts or what not?
Adaptogenic properties and immune ‘normalization’ are just poorly defined nonsenses for the pseudo scientific public. Chaga like many other mushrooms supresses certain cytokines and boosts others. It does that most probably without any regard to what is considered ‘balanced’ immune system. Are there any in vivo human studies that show that concentrated mushroom extracts do always ‘balance’ the immune system, not simply push it in a particular direction?
SOD with gliadin actually passes the stomach acid and has obvious biological effects like supressing inflamation and alergic reactions. I know because I have taken it. You claim that Chaga stimulates the body to produce SOD which will never cross the “natural” thresholds. Again where human in vivo study demonstrating all those loose claims?
In the monograph we state “Properly extracted Chaga can have a wide range of therapeutic effects. These effects depend on the level of extraction (Chaga tea being the most basic/lowest level), the quality of the raw material and the dosage.“. In the past there was no such thing as “a professionally produced extract”. These started appearing only after WWII.
Your statement about “Adaptogenic properties and immune ‘normalization’ are just poorly defined nonsenses” is just your opinion but without any backup. The thing is that -AFAIK- science cannot really explain the adaptogenic effect yet, but they can observe it.
Explain this: medicinal mushrooms are known to be quite effective against e.g. allergies (allergies are mainly caused by an over-active immune system, to keep it simple). In this case mushrooms are able to suppress the immune function, but not in a simple (‘mechanic’) way – the normal immune function is not compromised; although people lose the allergic reaction they don’t get sick more often, actually the opposite: catching a cold is very rare but the seasonal hay-fever (immune-related problem due to over-active immune system) disappeared.
That same mushroom product can restore (= boost) the immune function in people with a severely compromised immune function, such as those taking chemo / radiation therapy. This has been observed many times in research with cancer patients.
SOD with gliadin (a gluten component) is converted into glisodin, which indeed can pass the stomach acid barrier. SOD by itself cannot pass that barrier.
See this link and in particular this research article, comparing ‘raw’ SOD intake against SOD-with-carrier (such as the gliacin you mentioned). Taking SOD-rich foods or SOD supplementation had no effect on various oxidative-stress biomarkers in the body, unless e.g. gliacin was used.
Chaga’s SOD content is therefore completely irrelevant – the SOD is destroyed in the stomach before it can have any effect, as is stated in the monograph.
See this in-depth research article about SOD supplementation: some quotes: “due to the low pH and high proteolytic activity in the digestive tract, oral administration of the SOD enzyme alone renders it chemically inactive and thus ineffective.” and “the authors, who analyzed SOD-gliadin supplementation, support the use of SOD–gliadin supplementation as a complementary treatment rather than a therapeutic treatment.”
SOD is produced in the body in a metabolic process utilizing zinc and manganese, both of which are present in Chaga. This is a natural standard metabolic process of the body; unless there is an existing metabolic problem no natural threshold will be crossed.
Cisek quotes Brunswick labs as the source of the ORAC measurements he quotes:
He copy/pasted a graph from another website, without verifying this graph is based on reliable information. This MO is exactly why there is so much nonsense circulating on the internet. People tend to ‘cherry-pick’ information they like and leave out other information that they do not like.
Only an actual test report can be trusted. Like this one. You can call Brunswick and verify the credibility / reliability of the report yourself.
Your report says 1.467 umole TE/g… which is similar to what Cisek quotes?
It wasn’t clear from that section of the article if Chaga normally did have a high ORAC.
Seems it usually does.
Thanks for an interesting article.
The article clearly states: “It is wrong to state ‘Chaga has a very high ORAC rating’ just like that”. The anti-oxidant potency of a Chaga product depends on the quality of the raw material AND the extraction procedures being utilized. Raw Chaga is mostly useless, but properly dual extracted Chaga shows excellent potential.
The examples in the article show it clearly: the Chaga product as marketed and sold by Chaga International has a very low ORAC level (only 5200 – because it is just non-extracted powder of unknown origin in water) and Oriveda’s ORAC report shows a 28-times higher level (because it is dual extracted from the best raw materials).
The products Cisek is linking to in his article (he is not an independent blogger but an affiliate of some company) are all low potency products without specifications. They share very little with what he is describing in his write-up.
I found a few studies with Chaga cited on Wikipedia and they paint a rather confused picture:
1. Chaga contains Oxalic acid which is not safe for kidneys. Refs:
Chemical characterization and biological activity of Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a medicinal “mushroom”.
Chaga mushroom-induced oxalate nephropathy.
2. Chaga pieces contain little of the fungus. Refs:
Chemical characterization and biological activity of Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a medicinal “mushroom”.
3. Chaga extract substantially decreases TNF-alpha but is only slightly better than a saline buffer at stimulating IL-6 and splenocyte proliferation. Refs:
Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus. (read the free full text).
4. Contrary to 3, Chaga extract increases TNF-alpha and proliferation of lymphocites. Refs:
Antitumor and immunomodulatory activity of water-soluble polysaccharide from Inonotus obliquus.
5. Chaga decreases blood sugar. Refs:
Antitumor and Hypoglycemic Activities of Polysaccharides from the Sclerotia and Mycelia of Inonotus obliquus
6. Chaga does not kill tumor cells directly but enhances cytokines (amongst which TNF-alpha again) and prolongs cancer survival (dubious claim in a study without a control). Refs:
Immuno-stimulating effect of the endo-polysaccharide produced by submerged culture of Inonotus obliquus.
Anti-cancer effect and structural characterization of endo-polysaccharide from cultivated mycelia of Inonotus obliquus.
7. Chaga suppresses intestinal inflammation by suppressing TNF-alpha. Refs:
Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus ameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in mice.
So far there is some evidence of chaga suppressing TNF-alpha although one reference contradicted that, and reduces blood sugar. The other ways it affects cytokines is not clear and the studies are mainly coming from china with really poor quality.
There is a lot of conflicting information indeed, I agree.
It already starts in the first article you mention, which states that only oxalic acid was found, and that Russian extracts had the poorest yields and Finnish had the highest.
We had our own product tested by Brunswick Labs, and found a whole range of organic acids, but no oxalic acid. But tartaric acid, succinic acid, betulinic acid, marlic acid, lactic acid and acetic acid were all detected, to mention just a few, with betulinic acid and tartaric acid being the most prominent.
The statement that their reference material contained very little actual mycelium is odd, to say the least. They must have chosen their samples poorly. At the same time, those ‘bad’ samples showed considerable AQS and cytotoxic effects…
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I am wondering if a chaga conk that has a lot of “spongy” interior is just as potent as a more solid, dark interior chaga. Has there been any testing done regarding the different compositions of chaga that are found on the trees?
I have no answer for that question, sorry.
Then, it might be an important consideration to investigate, don’t you think? I would think a simple test in a lab would give those results. Thanks.
Why should it be an important consideration to investigate ? No correlation was ever found between how it looks and how it works – if such a correlation would exist I’m sure folk medicine would already have noticed.
Chaga should be properly extracted to get noteworthy therapeutic effects from it. The method of extraction is much more important than where it is from or how it looks or feels. Those details are mainly used/abused for marketing purposes.
Extracts can be tested for bioactive ingredients, but 99% of suppliers don’t even want to invest money in that, although it is cheap to do. Instead, they market to their potential customers an exotic, ‘magic’ cure-all product. ‘Magic’ is usually undermined by facts, so they tend to steer clear of those facts.
Also see our guideline for purchasing mushroom supplements. Don’t be fooled.
Thanks a lot for the article.
I would like to ask about another statement claiming that in 1960 National Cancer Institute reported chaga cancer cure case in Australia. Is that true?
I have seen that statement as well but was not able to find anything backing it up, either online or offline. That means it is just a statement without founding and therefore without value. If someone can find undeniable evidence, please get in touch !
The internet is currently overloaded with this type of anecdotal statements. We try to steer clear from those, because most of the time there is nothing backing it up.
I could find only one link:
“In 1960 the United States National Cancer Institute received a report
that a decoction of Chaga was used successfully to treat cancer in
Australia (Hartwell, 1971)”. From here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.folklore.science/2tk7HWt_2x8
Hartwell report link have no access: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5173435
Great, thorough article on Chaga. I have cellulitis and am on IV antibiotics. I was wondering if Chaga might interfere or enhance the healing of my foot infection?
In addition, my son has a severe tree-nut allergy and a low immune system. I was wondering if you are aware of any adverse affects with people who have anaphylaxis to tree nuts and the consummation of Chaga?
I can’t give a definitive answer because there’s too little information available (interference with anti-biotics has not been investigated).
A well-processed Chaga extract will not trigger his tree-nut allergy. Chaga is not a nut. It will help to normalize your son’s immune function and might even help with his allergy.
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thank you very much for such an informative article and questions and answers section. This is the best and most interesting information I have found on Chaga. Many Chaga providers don’t mention much about how they have produced their Chaga powder, so this gives me high confidence in your products.
It was very interesting information on SOD being destroyed by our stomach acid. I found on Amazone empty Enteric Coated Capsules. Would it be safe to eat these enteric coated capsules filled with your Chaga powder to delay the capsules from melting until they reach the small intestine? Would I still get the other benefits from Chaga in addition to the SOD?
What kind of capsules are yours?
Thank you in advance!
If you would put Chaga extract in the enteric coated capsules you might increase the SOD uptake, but you also might neutralize the effects of other bioactives, in particular beta-glucans, which are already having trouble entering the bloodstream. Nobody ever looked into this, though, so I can’t be sure. We are using HPMC capsules. See this link for what that is.
That said, we have tested the presence of actual SOD in Chaga extract and it was very low. Definitely not worth buying Chaga for.
Again, the numbers you can find published on the internet (“Tufts University”) are made up and make no sense. What is much more important is how Chaga boosts the production of SOD in our body because it contains a good ratio of copper, iron, manganese and zinc. The potency can expressed with the S-ORAC number. For Oriveda the S-ORAC rating was 719,500 µmoleTE/100 grams (Brunswick test report).
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What a great site and so comprehensive. I was first introduced to Chaga in the early 70’s by the Mi’kmag Indians in Nova Scotia and have been around it since… well written and well researched… keep up the great work…
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Thank you so much for such a comprehensive review. I have bought your powder in the past. Can you let me know the optimal temperature at which to drink it? Can I add soy or almond milk as well as the maple syrup you recommend? Thanks so much!
You can mix it with any liquid as long as it is lactose free ! Lactose binds with polyphenols (anti-oxidants), rendering them useless.
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“And Chaga is of course not a herb, but a fungus.”
In the ‘Taoist Tonic Herbs’ tradition all substances, including those of mineral and animal origin, are referred to as herbs.
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I’ve been baffling about Chromogenic complex in Chaga for a while. It seems this is the only one telling about it differently. I am convinced on this rather than ones advertising the higher complex % is the better. I am wondering if you have any reliable references on it?
The point is that ‘chromogenic complex’ has no relation to bioactivity. Go to Pubmed and search for ‘Chaga chromogenic’ or something similar. Nothing comes up. It is not used in science.
It is also used for other fungi like Reishi and herbs. It is basically an outdated identification standard from 70 – 80 years ago.
Some online sellers want you to believe the chromogenic complex equals polyphenols but this is not true and they never show you the actual polyphenol percentage (despite it being cheap to test) which would confirm that claim.
We have polyphenol tests (Brunswick Labs) of a Russian Chaga supplement that claims over 50% Chromogenic Complex but the phenolics level was ± 15 % only. (Please note: ‘phenolics’ includes much more than just polyphenols)
Again, most vendors prefer to keep specifications as vague as possible. Better for marketing.
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