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Chaga

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated April 23, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a type of medicinal mushroom. Long used in folk medicine, chaga is said to offer a number of health benefits. Extracts of chaga are now widely available in supplement and tea form.

Uses for Chaga

Chaga is purported to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, enhance liver health, and fight viruses. In addition, some proponents claim that chaga can help treat and/or prevent some forms of cancer.

Health Benefits of Chaga

There is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effects of chaga. However, some preliminary research suggests that chaga may offer certain health benefits. For instance, a number of studies on cell cultures show that chaga possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-stimulating properties.

Here's a look at several findings from the available research on chaga's health benefits:

1) Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Chaga may help treat inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease), according to a 2007 study published in Biofactors.

In tests on cells obtained from 20 healthy volunteers and 20 patients with inflammatory bowel disease, scientists found that treating the cells with chaga extract helped reduce oxidative stress (a destructive biological process thought to contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel disease).

Learn about other natural remedies for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

2) Diabetes

Chaga shows promise as a treatment for diabetes, suggests a 2008 study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. In experiments on diabetic mice, researchers found that chaga helped reduce blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol.

See other natural treatments for diabetes.

3) Cancer

A 2008 study from the World Journal of Gastroenterology indicates that chaga may offer some anti-cancer benefits. In tests on cells taken from human liver tumors, researchers observed that chaga extract inhibited cancer cell growth. According to the study's authors, this finding suggests that chaga shows promise in the treatment of liver cancer.

Safety

Little is known about the safety of using chaga supplements or consuming chaga tea in the long-term. However, there's some concern that taking chaga in combination with blood-thinning drugs and/or diabetes medications may produce harmful effects.

Where to Find Chaga

Widely available for purchase online, supplements and teas containing chaga are sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using Chaga for Health

If you're considering the use of chaga for a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating a chronic condition with chaga and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources

Cui Y, Kim DS, Park KC. "Antioxidant effect of Inonotus obliquus." J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Jan 4;96(1-2):79-85.

Joo JI, Kim DH, Yun JW. "Extract of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) stimulates 3T3-L1 adipocyte differentiation." Phytother Res. 2010 Nov;24(11):1592-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3180.

Ko SK, Jin M, Pyo MY. "Inonotus obliquus extracts suppress antigen-specific IgE production through the modulation of Th1/Th2 cytokines in ovalbumin-sensitized mice." J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Oct 11;137(3):1077-82.

Najafzadeh M, Reynolds PD, Baumgartner A, Jerwood D, Anderson D. "Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease." Biofactors. 2007;31(3-4):191-200.

Nakajima Y, Sato Y, Konishi T. "Antioxidant small phenolic ingredients in Inonotus obliquus (persoon) Pilat (Chaga)." Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2007 Aug;55(8):1222-6.

Park YK, Lee HB, Jeon EJ, Jung HS, Kang MH. "Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay." Biofactors. 2004;21(1-4):109-12.

Sun JE, Ao ZH, Lu ZM, Xu HY, Zhang XM, Dou WF, Xu ZH. "Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice." J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Jun 19;118(1):7-13.

Van Q, Nayak BN, Reimer M, Jones PJ, Fulcher RG, Rempel CB. "Anti-inflammatory effect of Inonotus obliquus, Polygala senega L., and Viburnum trilobum in a cell screening assay." J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Sep 25;125(3):487-93.

Youn MJ, Kim JK, Park SY, Kim Y, Kim SJ, Lee JS, Chai KY, Kim HJ, Cui MX, So HS, Kim KY, Park R. "Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) induces G0/G1 arrest and apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells." World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan 28;14(4):511-7.

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