Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a parasitic fungi that thrives on birch trees. It prefers growing in the cold forests of Russia, Korea, eastern and northern Europe and northern parts of the U.S. and Canada.
Chaga is also called "tinder fungus" due to its knack for catching sparks, especially from the flint-and-steel method of fire starting. It has a hard, blackened crust-like exterior, much like burnt charcoal, and often goes unrecognized as a mushroom by the untrained eye.
Since the 16th century, chaga has been used in Russian and eastern European folk medicine. It was typically grated into a fine powder and brewed as a beverage similar to tea or coffee. Today, therapeutic extracts of this mushroom are usually derived from hot water and ethanol extraction methods.
Chaga Is Primarily Used For:
- Boosting the immune system
- Promoting liver health
There is still a lack of clinical trials on the effects of chaga, though promising preliminary research shows it may offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive benefits.
- According to a 2007 study published in Biofactors, chaga may help inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease). Preformed by scientists at the University of Bradford, U.K., cellular testing was done on 20 healthy volunteers and 20 volunteers with inflammatory bowel disease. They found that treating the cells with an extract of chaga helped reduce oxidative stress in both control groups.
- Initial research with the U.S. Government's BioShield BioDefense program (now expired) found a diluted mycelial (mushroom) based water-ethanol extract displayed strong activity, in vitro, against Flu B and Flu A (H5N1) viruses.
If you are considering taking chaga for a health condition, please consult with your healthcare provider.
altmedicine.about.com, "What Can Chaga Do for You?" found here.
wikipedia, "Inonotus obliquus" found here.
huffingtonpost.com, "Chaga, the Clinker Fungus" found here.