Inonotus Obliquus (Chaga)
Source of Information: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the oldest and largest private cancer center, located in New York, founded in 1884.
Scientific Name: Inonotus obliquus
Common Name: Cinder conk, birch conk, clinker polypore
Bottom Line: Research is underway to determine the anticancer and immunostimulating effecs of chaga mushroom.
Chaga mushroom is found in Russia and has been used in traditional medicine. Studies show its constituents can kill cancer cells selectively and can stimulate the immune system. However, clinical trials are needed to verify chaga's safety and effectiveness as a cancer treatment in humans.
- To prevent and treat cancer
Previous studies have shown that chaga can inhibit the progression of certain cancers and activate subsets of immune cells. Research is in progress to study its anticancer effects in humans.
- To stimulate the immune system
Chaga stimulated the activity of certain immune cells in laboratory-based experiments.
- To reduce inflammation
No scientific evidence supports this use.
- To protect the liver
No scientific evidence supports this use.
Chaga has been shown to aid in treatment of certain cancers. More studies are being conducted to confirm its effects as an anticancer agent in humans.
- You are using a “blood thinning” drug.
- You are using medications to lower blood sugar (chaga may have additive effects).
No side effects have been reported.
Chaga mushroom, found on Birch and other trees in cold climates,
has been used in folk medicine in Russia and other North European
countries for generations. Chaga draws nutrients from the tree on
which it grows and extracts are typically derived from the inner
layers of the bark. The active constituents are thought to be a
combination of triterpenes, such as betulinic acid, sterols, and
polysaccharides. Chaga has demonstrated anticancer, antiviral,
anti-inflammatory, analgesic (3),
immune stimulating properties in vitro, and hypoglycemic effects
in mice (4).
Chaga extract has inhibitory and proapoptotic effects against
colon cancer (5)
and hepatoma (1)
cells. It also reduced toxicity associated with radiation (6) and inhibited tumor cell growth
in animal models (7).
In some studies, Chaga demonstrates selective apoptosis in tumor
cells with no effects on healthy cells (1).
No clinical trials have been conducted to assess chaga's safety and efficacy for disease prevention or for the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.
Constituents of chaga mushroom extract may interact with anticoagulant and antidiabetic drugs.
Although chaga is an edible fungus, it is not commonly ingested due to its bitter nature. Tea can be made from the whole mushroom.
- Cancer treatment
Triterpenes: Inotodiol, Lanosterol, Ergosterol, Betulinic acid (Betulin) (10)
Chaga demonstrated hypoglycemic effects in mice with diabetes mellitus (4). It's anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties are thought to be via inhibition of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) (3). An extract of chaga reduced the oxidative stress in lymphocytes from patients with from inflammatory bowel disease (8). Chaga also showed anti-mutagenic properties (9). A hot water extract of chaga exhibited inhibitory and proapoptotic actions against colon cancer cell proliferation via up-regulation of Bax and caspase-3 and down-regulation of Bcl-2 (5). Aqueous extracts of chaga also inhibited growth of human hepatoma cells via arrest of the cell cycle in Go/G1 phase and inducing selective apoptosis (1). The selectivity may also be a result of activation from a change in the pH of the tumor microenvironment (11). Betulinic acid, a constituent of chaga, is cytotoxic and triggers apoptosis through a direct effect on the mitochondria of cancer cells. Other apoptosis-inducing factors result in cleavage of caspases and nuclear fragmentation (7). Like many medicinal mushrooms, chaga is rich in beta glucans which have immunomodulating activities. Beta glucans bind to Complement Receptor 3 (CR3) that allows the immune cells to recognize cancer cells as “non-self” (10).
- Antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs: Chaga extract can inhibit platelet aggregation (2). It may also have additive anticoagulant effects.
- Hypoglycemic agents: May have additive effect in lowering blood sugar levels.