Medicinal Mushrooms: Chaga Mushrooms and Cancer Prevention

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Meet the Chaga Mushroom

Chaga mushrooms might not be very attractive to look at, but their healing properties have been utilized in Eastern European and Korean folk medicine for several centuries. At least as early as the sixteenth century, Eastern Europeans, Koreans, and Russians used chaga mushrooms to cure everything from tuberculosis to cancer. Today, the medicinal uses of chaga mushrooms are being explored by medical researchers.

Chaga Mushrooms and Cancer – Research

Recent research has shown chaga mushrooms to be a powerful anti-oxidant, useful in fighting tumors, and an excellent stimulant for the immune system. Below, find a quick summary of the research on the cancer-fighting properties of chaga mushrooms.

1958: Researchers in Russia and Finland concluded that chaga is an effective way of fighting breast cancer, liver cancer, and uterine cancer.

1996: Researchers in Japan discovered that cells treated with chaga extract were less likely to mutate (a main cause of cancer).

1998: Researchers in Poland demonstrated that chaga inhibits the growth of tumors.

2005: Researchers in Korea showed that cells treated with chaga extract were 40% more resistant to DNA damage when exposed to an oxidant.

The litany of research on the chaga mushroom and its cancer fighting properties is very promising and shows that chaga mushrooms are beneficial both in preventing cancer as well as in fighting cancer.

Why Chaga Mushrooms Fight Cancer

Chaga mushrooms grow mainly in the birch forests of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Birch trees contain a chemical called betulin, a type of hydrocarbon common to some plants. Betulinic acid has been shown to be an effective as an anti-inflammatory, anti-malarial, and even anti-HIV chemical. Because the chaga mushroom grows on the birch trees, it holds a high concentration of betulinic acid. Betulinic acid is currently being studied for its potential in chemotherapy drugs.

Also, like other medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake, cordyceps, and others, chaga mushrooms contain polysaccharides, molecules previously thought to have no real function, but which are today being heavily researched for their cancer fighting properties. Korean researchers at Seoul National University have showed the polysaccharides in chaga can block the production of certain cancer cells.

Where to Find and How to Take Chaga Mushrooms

Because chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees in Central Asia, it’s not easy for westerners to grow their own chaga. Usually, chaga is taken as an extract in a liquid formula, which can be purchased at health food stores and from a number of online vendors (see below). Chaga extract is typically sold in bottles containing two fluid ounces, and the recommended dosage is 8 – 10 drops (not dropperfuls) to a hot or cold drink twice per day.

Read More About Chaga

Interested in learning more about chaga mushrooms? Here is a short list of articles about chaga as well as companies that sell it.

Park et al. “Reversal of the TPA-induced inhibition of gap junctional intercellular communication by Chaga mushroom extracts.” Biofactors: 2006; Vol. 27.

Park et al. “Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay.” Biofactors: 2004; Vol. 21.

Polysaccharide combats cancer drug resistance.”, May 2005.

Yong et al. “Anti-cancer effect and structural characterization of endo-polysaccharide from cultivated mycelia of Chaga mushroom.” Life Sciences: 2006; Vol. 79.

Wikipedia article on Chaga mushroom.

Chaga Retailers

Chaga International – a company that sells Siberian Chaga Extract.

Nature’s King Siberian Chaga – another company selling Siberian Chaga Extract. – a third company selling Chaga, but this company sells Chaga tea rather than the liquid extract.