Scientific Nutrition Update 26: Chaga Mushrooms

We are back on mushrooms again! Just like the reishi or the lion’s mane chaga mushrooms are another medicinal mushroom with really interesting potential health effects.  May be an effective anti-cancer, antioxidant, immunostimulant, and more.


For today’s episode we are going to talk about chaga, which is another medicinal mushroom like the reishi we discussed in episode 21 or the lion’s mane we discussed in episode 24.  This is a traditional medicinal mushroom that has been used for hundreds and hundreds of years in folk medicine, and today we can going to take a look at what the literature suggests about it, and my personal experience with products containing extracts of it.  At this point you gotta be starting to realize that these mushrooms seem to have pretty good support for them, and that my normal skepticism actually may have kept me away from these useful compounds.


Every single one of these mushrooms I have looked at are potent antioxidants, and that holds with these chaga mushrooms.  Extracts from these mushrooms have shown efficacious in reducing oxidative DNA damage, which is what we would expect in this case.  It was also shown to reduce oxidative dna damage in lymphocytes in patients with irritable bowel disease suggesting again that it is an effective and potent antioxidant.  There is also a study we will discuss more in detail later that found silver nanoparticles synthesized from an extract of these mushrooms was found to have significant free radical scavenging abilities, functioning as an effective antioxidant.  


We have to discuss the disease that is on everyone’s mind when it comes to medicinal mushrooms, cancer.  As we already established these mushrooms can reduce oxidative damage to DNA, and that could be helpful in preventing cancer.  There was an interesting study done on human hepatoma cell lines, and in that experiment, extracts of this mushroom were effective at causing cell death and preventing proliferation in certain cancer lines.  Suggesting again this could be a useful compound for that goal. Just to be clear though, this is a very specific cell-line and it did not even work against all hepatoma cell lines. Do not interpret this as chaga mushrooms cure cancer.  There was another test against sarcoma and human carcinoma lines that found that it was effective against those lines. There is also significant evidence of several extracts from these mushrooms having potent anti-mutagenic effect. There was another really fascinating study that suggested that these mushrooms may be an effective anti-cancer agent due to their ability to change gap junction intercellular communication, by preventing the inhibition of this pathway.  If you care this is through interactions with MAP kinases, but that is not important for this podcast. There was a different study that analyzed the effects of extracts on colorectal cancer and found that the extract was able to significantly increase apoptosis, cell death, and had anti-proliferative properties. A different mechanism was proposed involving interactions with beta-canenin, but that is not the topic of today’s episode. There was also another study that synthesized silver nanoparticles in the presence of extracts from this mushroom and found that there was anti-proliferative activity against human breast and lung cancer lines.  Again remember this could in theory be helpful in preventing cancer, but again it is hard to say that conclusively.


Okay, this last one I am going to talk about very carefully.  Extracts from this mushroom seem to interact with HIV-1 and may help with HIV.  Now before I continue, I found this study as a reference from a different article, that was citing this article to show that this mushroom has antibacterial properties.  HIV is a virus, not a bacteria. Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Always check the references kids. Even scientists make mistakes. Now about this research, it seems to interact with HIV protease, and helps limit virus proliferation in at least one cell type.  Remember, this is not a cure. This is not a substitute for medical treatment. This is not a clinical trial. This is an interesting experiment. Do not modify any medical treatments without consulting the appropriate professionals. However, the silver nanoparticles we discussed previously were found to have significant antibacterial properties against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria.  


Okay so there is a really interesting effect that I did not expect to see, these mushrooms may be able to serve as an anti-allergy food.  I know I know, this surprised me and excited me as someone who suffers from a life-threatening peanut allergy and annoying hay fever. There was a study done that showed that extracts from these mushrooms were able to prevent anaphylaxis, which is inability to breathe, and decreased levels of several compounds associated with allergies.  This is super interesting, and may suggest a larger general anti-inflammatory effect.


There are people who claim that compounds from this mushroom can help with diabetes, and there is limited but not convincing evidence of this in my opinion.  So there’s a chance it might help, but I am not confident in it based on the literature I have seen.


There is also evidence of moderate immuno-stimulation.  Overall, it is a fascinating mushroom that seems to have strong antioxidant effects, strong anti-cancer effects, potential antibiotic and antiviral effects, and may even help with other medical conditions.  

Studies: (Do not directly reference but arguably the best review article I have been able to find)

Also if you want to purchase some FourSigmatic mushroom products and support this website, use this link. You’ll get 10% off and I get a very small commision which helps me support this website.

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