Chaga has quickly become one of the world’s most popular superfoods, embraced by alternative health enthusiasts for a number of benefits. Originally used as a folk remedy by native Alaskans and Siberians, chaga users cite its ability to fight disease, reverse aging, combat cancer, improve digestive health, and many other effects for why they use it. Given many of the seemingly-grandiose claims that chaga users make, are there any scientific studies on the positive effects of chaga?
The answer is yes. While chaga has only been known to the scientific community for a short time, scientists and researchers have already conducted many studies on its effects. While the science is far from definitive, studies provide weight to many of the claims that chaga users make. Here is a rundown of interesting scientific articles about chaga.
While chaga has formed a plank of Russian culture for centuries, it was not until the latter half of the 20th century that serious scientific studies were performed on it. The Soviet Union conducted many studies confirming many of chaga’s purported effects, while the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel Cancer Wardin the 1960’s sparked Western interest in chaga, as it was described as a common treatment in Soviet cancer clinics.
Three studies have hinted that chaga has considerable anti-cancer potential. The first study, from 2015, showed that chaga exhibits an anti-cancer effect on colorectal tumor cells by inhibiting the functions of the β-catenin pathway, preventing the cells from replicating. A study from 2011 also showed that chaga had a similar effect on lung cancer cells, halting their proliferation and slowing the growth of tumors, while a 2014 study displayed similar effects on cervical cancer cells.
A 2016 study went into further detail on how chaga combats cancer. Among its findings are that chaga stimulates the immune system, allowing it to be more responsive in areas of cancerous infection and lessening its deleterious effects elsewhere. The study also concluded that triterpene compounds in chaga are responsible for its anti-cancer qualities. While there is still much research to be done, preliminary studies back up chaga’s reputation as a cancer treatment.
Two studies from 2013 focus on chaga’s antiviral properties, a point of interest as its traditional use has been as a remedy for the common cold and flu. The first study showed that chaga can prevent herpex simplex from entering cells by attacking viral glycopeptides and stopping the fusion of cell membranes. The second study, conducted on mice, showed that mice infected with herpes suffered less severe symptoms when given chaga to consume.
Two studies have been conducted on chaga’s effects on inflammation. The first study, from 2013, showed that mice who consumed chaga avoided suffering from anaphylactic shock induced through the use of an allergic compound. The second study, from 2015, concluded that mice suffering from paw edema and pain saw both reduced through the use of chaga. The study also concluded that this anti-inflammatory effect was the result of chaga inhibiting the expression of nitrous oxide.
One common benefit of chaga touted by its enthusiasts is improved digestion, and there are two studies that back this up. A study from 2016 showed that chaga reduced edema and mucosal damage in mice that were suffering from intestinal inflammation. Another 2017 study on mice suffering from pancreatitis showed that chaga reduced weight and cell loss.
One study from 2011 analyzed the antioxidant effects of chaga. The study isolated polysaccharides from the fruiting bodies of chaga mushrooms and showed that the polysaccharides had an immunomodulating effect on white blood cells. It also suggested that the fruiting body of chaga has a higher antioxidant content then the sclerotium, the hard, tough exterior of the chaga mushroom.
One effect of chaga touted by some users is that it helps with weight loss. A 2015 study on obese rats showed that while chaga helped control the rats’ body weight, it was to a negligible degree. While chaga will help you enhance an already healthy lifestyle, its weight loss effects are unconfirmed and likely nonexistent.
Finally, there are a number of studies on possible adverse effects from using chaga. A 2014 study focused on a Japanese woman who developed kidney stones as a result of consuming large amounts of chaga to treat liver cancer. Another study from 2006 suggested that chaga could inhibit the function of platelets, which could cause problems in those using anticoagulant drugs. Finally, a study from 2014 suggests that chaga could induce low blood sugar in some diabetics.
Despite chaga’s long pedigree as a folk remedy among native Alaskans and Siberians, there is still much that isn’t known about this mushroom. Large-scale scientific research on chaga did not begin until the second half of the 20th century, and many claims about chaga’s effects remain either unverified or speculative at best.
In the years to come, there will no doubt be further studies on chaga, verifying or debunking its various claimed effects. As it stands, the existing scientific research does verify some of its positive effects, such as antiviral, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re interested in chaga, feel free to look through the existing scientific literature on it to see if it’s right for you.
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