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The chaga mushroom

Eastern-European folk medicine has likely known chaga (Inonotus obliquus) since the 1500s. Recent research confirmed that chaga possesses a strong antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory effect.

A diverse ally

When it comes to bacteria, chaga is most effective against Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus. However, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, and Enterobacter cloacae are receptive to its effects. Among fungi, chaga works well against Trichodermaviride — less so against Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus fumigatus. (Glamoclija J et al 2015).

Chaga’s anti-inflammatory effect is thought to be linked to the presence of ergosterol, ergosterol peroxide, and trametenolic acid (Ma L et al 2013). It also helps regulate blood-sugar levels, apparently thanks to inotodiols and terpenoids (Ying YM et al 2014).

Cancer treatment in folk medicine

Russian folk medicine has used chaga to treat non-operable breast cancer, oral cancer, cancer of the digestive tact, thyroid cancer, skin cancer, and Hodgkin disease (Pilz D 2004). If the patient’s condition improved, healers couldn’t of course associate it with specific compounds in chaga. Modern scientific methods have allowed researchers to do just that.

Among isolated compounds in chaga, the more important ones include triterpenes, lactones, lanosterols, inotodiols, trametenolic acid, oxalic acid, protocatechuic acid, p-hydroxybenxoic acid, cinnamic, betulin, betulinic acid, phytosterols, beta-D-glucans, etc. (J.Glamoclija et al 2015; Shin Y et al 2000).

Chaga stimulates macophagi and, in tumours, promotes cell death (Staniszewska J et al 2017). A large role in this is attributed to endopolysaccharids in chaga (Mizuno T et al 1996). In animal testing, chaga has increased the presence of T-helper lymphocytes (Leontev M et al 1990) and intensified the production of T-lymphocytes (T-killers) (Shashkina M et al 2006). Lab experiments with ergosterol peroxide have shown it to inhibit the growth of rectal-cancer cells (Kang JH et al 2015).

The apparent ability to suppress cancerous growths and mutation-causing factors is linked to the presence of melanin in chaga. Melanin participates in repairing DNA defects, is an electron acceptor in the respiratory chain, and a radiation protector (Britton B 1986).

Polysaccharides, too, contribute to the anti-cancer mechanism — they directly attack cancer cells. Another contribution is the indirect activation of the immune system by endopolysaccharides (Mizuno T et al 1996).