What is Chaga?
In the depths of the boreal forests, surrounded by hundreds of trees, you will find the King of Mushrooms. Originating from the Russian word, Tschaga, this black and woody endophytic fungus, scientifically known as Inonotus Obliquus, has been the subject of legends and myth about immortal health and longevity. Growing primarily on the birch tree (of all kinds), Chaga can live over 25 years before it consumes the tree. It’s medicinal properties are so vast and powerful that some scientists think the mushroom spores came from space. While it’s been known in Eastern medicine for thousands of years, Chaga is gaining popularity in the West and is rapidly growing as an anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory superfood.
ONLY PICK CHAGA FROM LIVING BIRCH TREES!!!
The mycelial infection takes root in the heartwood of the tree. It often forms in wounded spots, like a cracked branch, or a bear scratch. Even a woodpecker can introduce an area for colonization.
Technically a Sclerotium, this mycelial body of the Chaga is often found 6' above the ground. Predominantly found in older growth areas of yellow and white birch, Chaga likes trees with moisture.
In case you don't know, here's a list of what else Chaga is called:
Bai Hua Rong
Mushroom of Immortality
There's a reason the Japanese names translates to "Diamond of the Forest" or the Russian translation, "Gift from God". Certain ancient mycelial theorists even believe that fungal spores may have actually traveled hundreds of thousands of light years to arrive at our little blue planet.
INDEED A JOURNEY OF EPIC PROPORTIONS, BUT HOW DID CHAGA EARN SUCH A NAME?
Simply because Chaga has countless uses and applications. From a fire starter to a plant fertilizer, to skin conditions to cancers, people have said this mushroom cures a whole plethora of illnesses... and beyond.
DISCLAIMER: No clinical studies have been conducted to prove whether or not Chaga can treat cancer, heart disease, or diabetes
The history of Chaga
Originating in Eastern European and Russian folklore, Chaga has been found in archaeological digs as far as 6,000 years ago. Ancient people used to drink it, to make broths out of it, rub it on their skin, and even smoke it. During menstruation and childbirth, the Khanty tribe of Siberia used Chaga mushroom to sterilize and protect the fetus and mother from infection, they inadvertently found that heating up Chaga and quenching it forms Potassium Permanganate (KMnO4) which is a known disinfectant (1).
The people of Siberia enjoyed this drink like we do our coffees and pumpkin spiced lattes. One early explorer observed the health and longevity of the Inuit tribes versus the Siberian people. While they had different diets, they generally consumed the same types of foods., except that the Inuit didn't drink Chaga. The Inuit would live to be on average about 50 years old, while the Siberian people lived well into their 80s. Chaga may be one reason for their enhanced longevity. Unfortunately the FDA was not around then to give their evaluation, but it appears to be more anecdotal evidence.
It began to spread across Asia in the 16th century. The north island of Japan, Hokkaido, began to adopt it's use for detoxification and general well-being. Across the pacific ocean, it found a name for itself among the Cree Indians, becoming a myth that one day their god, Wisakechak threw a scab against a tree, where he thought it was dried meat and tried to eat it, but left it there for mankind to reap (1).
When World War 2 came around, Chaga had a taken a high seat among the Russian medical cabinet. In 1955, the Russian Medical Academy of Science approved Chaga as an immune booster. It later came out as a treatment for tumors and cancers where it still has a strong role in the Russian community. Today, Chaga is almost unknown in the Western world, its popularity lies in Europe, Asia, and the Far East. However, things are changing fast. People are discovering this ancient mushroom at an alarming rate and here's why:
What's in it?
No matter who you are, whether you are a 300lb body builder or a college student trying to recover from a night of drinking, you will benefit from Chaga. There are over 250 phytonutrients. It's the life-force that is released to your body when you drink it. We all need it.
The body is your best doctor. It tries to recover from oxidative stress and inflammation constantly. It needs to have a rich surplus of electrons to regenerate. That natural "Cola" color of the Chaga contains some of the strongest antioxidants known to mankind. Here's the powerhouse list with links for more information:
- Melanin: This black pigment is the reason our skin gets dark from sun exposure, consuming it has a massive amount of benefit. Not only will it help your skin to recover from light stress, dissipating over 99.9% of UV radiation. This will increase the longevity of your cells, and people often report that drinking Chaga over time eliminates skin wrinkles. Some people claim it can aid in the removal of kidney stones and help decalcify the pineal gland. (LINK)
- Superoxide Dismuatase (SOD): Not only does maple syrup contain minerals to up production of SOD, but Chaga itself contains the actual enzyme. It acts to eliminate (O2-) which is a reactive oxygen species generated by every cell in the body. SOD takes that an converts it into oxygen. SOD has been shown to reduce heavy metal toxicity and clear up calcification of the arteries.
- Polyphenols: One reason people eat blueberries and things with color is because they are told they are healthy antioxidants. In the blueberry, one of the main compounds is Ellagic acid, which is a polyphenol (meaning many hydroxyl groups). Chaga has a huge amount of these type of polyphenols, in fact, the King of Mushrooms might be the #1 Super-Food for the ORAC score.
In the plant kingdom, the most beneficial biological agents come as polysaccharides. They are long chained so they don't break down into sugar, but often come with some very powerful effects such as lowering cholesterol and suppressing tumor growth.
- Beta-Glucans: One of the mushrooms abilities is to generate these polysaccharides called Beta-Glucans (1-3 β-glucans) They effectively attach to cholesterol and make it water soluble for use in the cell. Not just that, but they can enter the skin tissue and add moisture and effectively treat skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. In addition, they've been shown to increase our immune response and fight off colds and viruses.
- Endo/Hetero-Polysaccharides: Unlike most starches, these polysaccharides are not broken down into sugar. They have special function in the body. Studies are showing that these molecules act as immune stimulators, upregulating antibodies and with indirectly inhibiting cancer growths. Hetero-polysaccharides is a diverse class of macromolecules with many function, but they are apart of the cellular wall, helping to rebuild tissues and structure water in the body.
Taking a step back , we need to realize that Chaga is a living body. It takes in oxygen, and respires CO2 - just like animals. While we can attribute some of the health benefits to certain nutrients, we know that Chaga itself was designed by Nature to contain all these compounds and to be ingested as whole.
PHYTOSTEROLS AND TRITERPENES
For the non-science folks, this family of compounds can be thought of as the "sticky stuff". These molecules are not as water soluble as the polysaccharides, but provide a different, yet substantial health benefit. These molecules are best extracted in alcohol, which is why we conduct a dual extraction process to deliver the most nutrients from the Chaga.
- Lanosterol /Ergosterol: It will be to the delight of the human race that Chaga contains lanosterol, a precursor for essential beneficial hormones. While the body can synthesize it, consuming exogenously provides enhanced supplemental intake. One study found that lanosterol helps reverse protein aggregation in cataracts. As some may now, ergosterol is the pre-cursor to vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)
- Betulinic Acid: This name is gaining popularity in the medical community. Studies are looking toward Betulinic acid as a powerful immunomodulator, anti-inflammatory, anti-HIV and anti-retroviral. It is a potent inhibitor of human melanoma. Birch bark contains 22% Betulin which isn't as bioavaible as betulinic acid which Chaga contains in abundance.
- Inositol: A sugar-like water-soluble substance, inositol is classified as a member of the B-complex vitamin and is an essential component of cellular membranes; phosphatidyl inositols function as regulators of cell membrane transportthus interact with a wide variety of hormonal and regulatory events within the cells. Inositol also helps lower blood and tissue lipid levels; facilitates the production of arachadonic acid; is needed for proper function of the internal organs; contributes to energy metabolism; enhances brain function due to its importance in rebuilding the myelin sheath (the protective coating of the nervous system).
In so many ways our bodies require a constant intake of minerals. It serves a vital function in the ability to create life and build tissue, bone, nerve, muscle, and skin. They are apart of the transcription process and essential cofactors for enzymes and hormones throughout the body; creating electrical stability in the body and providing lots of energy to your cells.