Potential Health Benefits of Chaga
The current pandemic has made people think more deeply about their health and what they can do to maintain or improve it. People are looking closer at natural remedies and folk medicines, especially those that have the potential to enhance the immune system's ability to defend against viruses in general. It's no wonder, then, that demand for chaga has grown.
Anecdotal and folkloric “evidence” has suggested that chaga has been used to kill cancer cells, stimulate the immune system, protect the liver, reduce inflammation, and enhance cognition and reduce fatigue. Powerful stuff, or it is claimed, but...
- Are these claims true?
- Where is the scientific evidence?
- And why is chaga classified in most countries as a food supplement not a medicine?
To date there have been over 225 medical chaga studies, the first being conducted back in 1958 in Russia. In 2019/2020, so far 38 medical studies of chaga have been published.
There have been no ramdomised human clinical trials and so for that reason, in Europe, Chaga, Inonotus obliquus, has novel food status and can be used in food supplements only, as powder and/or extract. Source: European Commission Novel food catalogue. Chaga, and its extracts, have not yet been certified for use in medical products in Europe.
Human Medical Research on Chaga
Research has indicated that chaga is a potentially effective therapeutic agent for Inflammatory Bowel Disease / chronic colitis.
Animal Medical Research on Chaga
Chaga clearly holds promising therapeutic and potentially significant medical value. Human clinical trials are needed to verify the in-vivo, in-vitro and animal studies.
Why have there been no human clinical trials on chaga you might ask.
We would love to know the answer to that too! We suspect the reason is simply about money.
Big pharmaceutical industries usually fund large scale randomised human clinical trials, which cost millions to run! The fact that herbal medical product patents can’t be easily enforced - circumvention by competitors is relatively straight forward. So competitors could copy or “imitate” products without investing in human trials themselves. This gives big pharma very little reason to invest millions. Chaga is growing in popularity and testimonials of its benefits by users are everywhere on the internet, but still, chaga remains a niche product and perhaps this lack of “mass market potential” is another reason why investment in large scale trials hasn’t happened yet.
So it's up to you to decide if chaga as a food supplement is right for you. Do your research, make your decision.
We believe chaga is good for us and we consume it. What more can we say? Legally, not much.
TRADITIONAL MEDICAL CHAGA FOLKLORE
If you speak Estonian or use Google Translate, then you can read what users say about chaga here: Estonian Folkloric Chaga Medicine.
In Estonia, Finland, Russia, and Northern America & Canada, chaga has been known and consumed for many centuries.
Chaga has been used as “folk medicine” in Estonia, Finland, Russia, and Northern America & Canada since at least the 16th century for gastrointestinal malignancies, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
In Russia, it is claimed that chaga has also been used to relieve tuberculosis and is used in the treatment of various cancers, including inoperable breast cancer, and cancer of the lip, salivary gland, lung, skin and colorectal cancer. Allegedly the Russian ruler, Vladimir Monomahh, was cured of lip cancer in the 12th century.
In Finnish folk medicine, chaga has been used to treat diabetes, gastritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, asthma and other conditions. In the past, the Sámi drank chaga tea every day. Chaga was also utilised in Finland during the Second World War, being prepared and distributed by the Paasivaara Company under the trade name Tikkatee ('Woodpecker tea').
World’s first chaga product? From Estonia’s neighbour, Finland c1930
Did You Know?
The Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn described in his semi-autobiographical book Cancer Room how he, as one of a Soviet republic hospital's patients, was administered with chaga alongside the official cancer treatment. In 1957, Alexander Solzhenitsyn recovered from cancer after surgery and chaga consumption. The proof is tenuous but this is the first popular mention of chaga in Western circles.
TRADITIONAL WAYS TO USE CHAGA
Chaga has been used by people both internally and externally:
- The tea as a general tonic;
- Chaga infusion (chaga tea, if you like) has been used to treat periodontitis, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis;
- Inhalation of vapors to reduce inflammation of the nasal cavity; and
- Chaga powder has been used for abrasions, scratches and cuts to heal wounds faster
Chaga mushroom holds blood thinning properties. People taking Warfarin or other blood thinning medication should avoid chaga.
Chaga mushroom holds anti-diabetic properties (it can lower blood sugar). Diabetics already taking blood sugar-lowering medications should avoid chaga.
Chaga contains high levels of oxalates (so does black tea by the way) and so like many foods with high oxalate levels, it should be consumed in moderation or kidney stones could result.
And for the sake of common sense we suggest pregnant women and young children should not consume chaga without consulting a doctor first.