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What makes a Medicinal Mushroom
Called Chaga so Special?
 By Christine Dreher, CCN

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a medicinal mushroom that you may not be familiar with, as it may not as well known as other medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Maitake, or Cordyceps. So what makes the Chaga mushroom so special?

Chaga’s Clinically Studied Beneficial Health Properties

Embraced by Eurasians for centuries and found throughout boreal forests, Chaga grows primarily on birch trees. Studied and treasured worldwide for its health-enhancing and antioxidant properties, Chaga is a unique species, and the focus of recent and ongoing scientific research.

Author Paul Stamets is a dedicated Mycologist and Mushroom Cultivator. He describes Chaga’s beneficial health properties, in his book “MycoMedicinals: An informational Treatise on Mushrooms.” On pages 32 through 34 of his book, he includes the following about Chaga’s clinically studied, therapeutic findings: anti-tumor, anti-cancer, anti-viral (HIV and Influenza), analgesic with anti-inflammatory properties, hypoglycemic, strong immunomodulatory activities, and as mentioned below in his article reference, antioxidant and DNA support.

Author Christopher Hobbs is an herbalist, botanist, mycologist and research scientist. He notes in his medicinal mushroom handbook called “Medicinal Mushrooms: “An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, and Culture” that Chaga mushroom’s beneficial health properties include: supporting normal cell growth, blood purifier, inflammation modulator and tonic. 1

As summarized in a research study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, Chaga indicates its clear antioxidant and gene-protective—i.e., anti-cancer, anti-microbial, and anti-hyperglycemic—activities.2

Antioxidant & DNA Support (Anti-Aging, Inflammation, & DNA Replication)

According to Mycologist Paul Stamets in a Huffington Post article, “Chaga does contain compounds with enticing medicinal properties. Of particular interest are the ethanol-soluble lanostanic triterpenoid antioxidants, which have been detected in laboratory tests and corroborated in many peer-reviewed articles. Antioxidants mitigate the damaging effects of free radicals that harm tissue and interfere with DNA replication. A breakdown in the antioxidant capacity of cells is suspected to underlie various health challenges, such as inflammation, premature aging, and some cancers.” 3

One study demonstrated that Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes. The antioxidant effects of the Chaga mushroom may be partly explained by protection of cell components against free radicals. 4

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (I.B.D)

Medical scientists at the University of Bradford, U.K., state that Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is partly caused by oxidative stress from free radicals and reduced antioxidant levels. They studied anti-oxidative effects of a commercially available room temperature water-ethanol extract of cultured Chaga mycelium on the DNA of 20 healthy vs. 20 irritable bowel disease (IBD) patients and concluded that Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with I.B.D. 5

MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms
By Paul Stamets

MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms By Paul Stamets

Paul Stamets is a Mycologist, mushroom cultivator, and formulator of Host Defense Organic medicinal mushrooms, with over 35 years of experience, is a world leader in functional food mushroom research. His books are recognized as the standards of the mushroom cultivation industry.

The MycoMedicinals book is a 96 page, full-color resource guide that describes and documents the health benefits of 17 of the more important mushroom species (including Chaga). These mushrooms are described in detail noting Latin species name, common names, distribution and natural habitats, known active constituents, form used, medicinal properties and the author’s comments on each species.

This book also contains key reference articles specific to each species in their treatment of disease (with a special listing of activity against specific cancers). The book includes a section of commonly asked questions and an impressive listing of medical professionals who recommend medicinal mushrooms.

Host Defense Organic Chaga Mushrooms

Host Defense’s mushrooms, including Chaga, are sustainably grown without adversely affecting the native mycoflora. When sourcing mushrooms from the pristine Olympic rainforest, the Host Defense team leaves the habitat and original mushroom intact and undisturbed. Only a small sample is required and taken for growing in their laboratories at the farm. Host Defense methods protect the native habitat. Their vast culture library of rare and endangered mushroom species has been called a national treasure.

Host Defense Organic Chaga Mushrooms provide maximum antioxidant support against daily free radical attacks. Host Defense Chaga contains activated, freeze-dried, certified organic mycelium, with a full spectrum of constituents: polysaccharides (beta glucans, arabinoxylane, glucose, xylose, galactose and mannose), glycoproteins, ergosterols, triterpenoids and other myconutrients, which are essential for supporting natural immunity. Host Defense’s use of Chaga mycelium, as opposed to the indigestible sclerotia allows for nutrients to be provided in a fully bio-available form. Host Defense’s advanced culturing techniques of the mycelium preserve a wide array of full-spectrum constituents.

Also, see the Host Defense Stamets 7 that contains a blend of seven medicinal mushroom species, including Chaga, for daily immune support and supporting the body in adapting to physical, mental, and environmental stress factors.

Further Reading on Chaga:

Paul Stamets: MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms
Paul Stamets, with over 35 years of experience, is the world leader in functional food mushroom research - whose books are recognized as the standards of the mushroom cultivation industry.

Smith JE, Rowan NJ, Sullivan R [ Medicinal Mushrooms: Their Therapeutic Properties and Current Medical Usage with Special Emphasis on Cancer Treatments], 2001

Cristina Lull, Harry J. Wichers, and Huub F. J. Savelkoul [ "Anti-inflammatory and Immuno-modulating Properties of Fungal Metabolites"], Wageningen University and Research Center, The Netherlands 2005

Hobbs, Christopher (1986) Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture, Summertown, TN, Book Publishing Company, pp. 121–124,

Ulrike Lindequist, Timo H. J. Niedermeyer, and Wolf-Dieter Jülich [" The Pharmacological Potential of Mushrooms"], Oxford University Press 2005

Andrea T. Borchers, Anita Krishnamurthy, Carl L. Keen, Frederick J. Meyersà, and M. Eric Gershwin ["Immunobiology of Mushrooms"], Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine 2008

Balandaykin M.E., Zmitrovich I.V. (2015). Review on Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (higher basidiomycetes): realm of medicinal applications and approaches on estimating its resource potential. - International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 17(2): 95–104.


1 Hobbs, Christopher L. Ac. (1986) Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture, Summertown, TN, Book Publishing Company, pp. 121–124

2 Review on Chaga Medicinal Mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Higher Basidiomycetes): Realm of Medicinal Applications and Approaches on Estimating its Resource Potential Mikhail E. Balandaykin, & Ivan V. Zmitrovich. Ulyanovsk State University, Laboratory of Systematics and Geography of the Fungi, Komarov Botanical Institute


4 Park, Y. K., Lee, H. B., Jeon, E.-J., Jung, H. S. and Kang, M.-H. (2004), Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay. BioFactors, 21: 109–112. doi: 10.1002/biof.552210120

5: 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. PubMed PMID:18997282.

Note: The content provided in this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice. You are encouraged to consult with your medical health care provider regarding any health concern or health-related condition you may have.

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