Renew and Recharge with CHAGA

by Travis Gerhart
Renew and Recharge with CHAGA

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) has recently become one of the most popular medicinal mushroom supplements in the United States. Following a precedent set by populations from cold-weather climates throughout Northern Europe and Asia for centuries. As reported by The Food Institute, medicinal mushrooms have been gaining popularity steadily over the last five years. The pandemic has fueled this trend as consumers incorporated more foods that offer immune support and natural health benefits into their diets. The popularity of supplements and extracts from mushrooms, such as Chaga, Lion's Mane, Reishi, and Shiitake, continues to grow. [1]

Chaga is often referred to as "The King of Mushrooms" and is a potent natural adaptogen that supports healthy cellular aging, regeneration, and metabolic balance.* Additionally, Chaga promotes natural and healthy inflammation response and immune function while giving a boost of support to our naturally occurring enzymatic antioxidant pathways.*

HISTORY OF CHAGA

Chaga grows naturally on dead or dying birch trees in cold weather climates, specifically in Northern Europe, Russia, Northern United States, and Canada. Traditionally Chaga was harvested by hand from these birch tree forests and made into a tea for anecdotal treatments of various conditions.

Wild-harvested Chaga is still the only way to get authentic Chaga. It derives its beneficial compounds, betulin, betulinic acid, inotodiol, and trametenolic acid, from the complex relationship with the birch tree where it is naturally found.

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RENEW AND RECHARGE WITH CHAGA

Chaga is known to possess various bioactive compounds. Including polysaccharides, triterpenoids, and phenols. It is similar to other functional mushrooms as it is packed with beta-d-glucans. However, Chaga is most well known for its betulinic acid and melano-glucan complex concentration.

Our Spagyric Extraction Method maintains Chaga's natural nutritional and energetic balance, maximizing its bioactive and bioavailable properties.

Raw Chaga on a table featuring the inner and outer surfaces

Raw chunk of Chaga sclerotium featuring the brilliant inner and outer color variance. 

At first glance, Chaga has a unique appearance and doesn't look like a mushroom. That is because Chaga is a sclerotium, a wart-like hardened black mass protruding from the trunk or branch joint of the birch tree. The Inonotus obliquus fungus creates a complex relationship with the birch tree, providing the beneficial compounds that give Chaga its superstar status.

Here's a breakdown of the compounds found in Chaga that make the difference:​

BETA-D-GLUCANS

Beta-d-glucans are carbohydrate arrangements made up of a long simple sugar molecule chain called polysaccharides. [2] Polysaccharides act as energy storage and a support structure or scaffolding for cells or tissues. Cellulose, glucose, and fructose are all examples of common polysaccharides.

Beta-d-glucans are the most common polysaccharide found in the cell walls of mushrooms. They are unique polysaccharides that can interact with and help modulate our immune system by bringing it into balance. Imbalance can occur for many reasons. Sometimes the immune system reacts too much and sometimes not enough; beta-glucans can get it back to equilibrium, also known as homeostasis.

Immunomodulators can stimulate and dampen the function of the immune system. They work to facilitate an increased immune response, enabling the ideal reaction for combating infections. Additionally, they have been shown to promote anti-inflammatory cytokine management to mitigate and reduce an overactive immune response. [3]

The extraction method used in liberating beta-d-glucans from the mushroom scaffolding will affect how it interacts with the immune system. The interaction isn't the same for each mushroom and can depend on the molecule's complexity and solubility. [4-6]

TRITERPENOIDS

Triterpenes are a class of compounds composed of three terpene units, or six isoprene units, of which nearly 200 different structures have been identified. [7] They are liberated during the second phase of extraction as they are alcohol soluble, water-extraction alone will not draw out these compounds.

The triterpenes most commonly associated with Chaga are betulin, betulinic acid, inotodiol, and trametenolic acid. 

BETULINIC ACID

Chaga is most well-known for its betulin and betulinic acid concentration. Betulinic acid is a triterpenoid with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and potential anti-abnormal cell growth properties.* [8]

The vast majority of studies on Chaga were about betulinic acid and its ability to trigger the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis, which means programmed cell death.* [9] 

Apoptosis is an essential function of our mitochondria. Damage to our cells can accumulate for various reasons leading to DNA damage. We want our body to kill cells that start to replicate or mutate on their own. If mutations are left unchecked, it can lead to uncontrolled cell growth, eventually leading to big problems.

Properly functioning cell signaling, programmed cell death, and mitigation of accumulated DNA damage are imperative to healthy aging. To read more about this topic, see the Mighty Mitochondria article in The Supervital.

INOTODIOL AND TRAMETENOLIC ACID

Inotodiol and trametenolic acid are anti-inflammatory triterpenoids that can be found both in the inner and outer portions of wild cultivated Chaga Sclerotium. [10] Their anti-inflammatory effects can translate into wellness protection of the liver, lungs, and nerves.*

One study in 2020 examined this relationship and found inotodiol and trametenolic acid to offer protection against free-radical damage to nerve cells that would otherwise lead to cell death. [10] Similar studies have found this effect to carry over to the lungs and liver. [11-12] Additionally, liver protection was also noted concerning improper fat storage within the organ, promoting healthy fat metabolism.* [13]

MELANO-GLUCAN COMPLEXES

The high concentration of melanin in Chaga comes from its dark, almost black exterior. [14] The melano-glucan complexes formed as the Chaga sclerotium matures have shown the ability to reduce certain microbes that lead to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in our intestines. Its broad anti-microbial activity promotes balance of the intestinal microflora and calming inflammation that typically occurs with bacterial overgrowth in conditions like IBS. [15] Additionally, the polysaccharides in Chaga can induce changes in the gut bacteria and promote a healthy gut profile.* [16] 

As well as providing protection from light and radiation, melanins are involved in DNA repair, mitochondrial health, and cell metabolism.* Melanins from mushrooms, particularly, have high anti-inflammatory properties due to their antioxidant and gene-protecting properties. Melanins have great potential for skin health promotion because they can reduce the oxidation of fatty acids and membrane damage.* [17-18]

PHENOLS

Chaga is also high in phenolic compounds. Phenolic compounds are phytochemicals found in most plants, including fruits and vegetables. The main phenols in Chaga are phenolic acids and are known for their antioxidant, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory potential. [19-22]

Polyphenols and phenolic acids have been shown to stimulate the activity of SIRT1, which exerts neuroprotective effects. SIRT1 acts as a "rescue gene," capable of repairing damages caused by the action of free radicals and preventing premature death of cells. The gene also signals the mitochondria to produce more significant amounts of energy, which is typical for the metabolism of younger cells. As a result, SIRT1 is believed to be a principal regulator of lifespan. [23-24]

DETOXIFICATION AND ANTIOXIDANT ENZYMES

Mushrooms contain several essential enzymes involved in detoxification and the destruction of superoxide free radicals. One 2017 comparative analysis investigated various medicinal mushrooms for their concentration of enzymes related to detoxification and combating oxidative stress. This analysis found Chaga contained the highest levels of essential enzymes involved in detoxification and removing free radicals: Superoxide Dismutase, Cytochrome P-450, Cytochrome P-450 reductase, Catalase, Glutathione peroxidase, and Glutathione.* [25] 

SUPEROXIDE DISMUTASE

In Chaga mushrooms, Superoxide Dismutase, or SOD for short, is the anti-oxidative enzyme that packs the biggest wellness punch.* SOD is an enzyme that breaks down and disarms free radicals in the body, notably the superoxide radical. Unpaired electrons in free radicals scavenge or steal electrons from other molecules, thereby damaging DNA, enzymes, proteins, and cell membranes. The antioxidant effect of SOD prevents free radicals from causing further damage by donating an electron to them.

Furthermore, Chaga contains 19 of the 20 amino acids our bodies require, which aids the body in rebuilding itself. In accordance with research conducted by Tufts University and presented at the National Project Expo by the Institute of Health in 2003, Chaga mushrooms contain more than 20 times more active SOD than the next most substantial SOD-containing medicinal mushroom, Agaricus, making them the most powerful option available.

CYTOCHROME P450

Cytochrome P450 (CYP450) is a superfamily of enzymes part of our Phase I Detoxification System. They are responsible for the initial recognition and clearance of various compounds deemed foreign to our body: alcohol, drugs, chemicals, poisons, and environmental toxins. Additionally, they are essential for hormone synthesis and breakdown. [26]

When you take an NSAID to block the pain of a headache, you will notice that the effects of the medicine wear off within a few hours. This is because our body has a great detoxification system that finds and removes odd chemicals such as drugs. All kinds of unpleasant chemicals are destroyed by this system, including pharmaceuticals, poisonous compounds found in plants, environmental pollutants, and carcinogens formed during cooking. The CYP450 enzymes are our first line of defense in this chemical battle.

All organisms contain and build multiple CYP450 enzymes, each acting on a different selection of molecules. Typically, bacteria make about 20 various forms of these enzymes, whereas humans produce about 60. It is not uncommon for plants to create hundreds of different versions. Plants produce unusual pigments and exotic toxins to protect themselves. The CYP450 enzymes are involved in many reactions that make these molecules.

Eating plants or food that support the function of our CYP450 enzymes also boosts our Phase I Detoxification System, making it more efficient.*

FINAL THOUGHTS

Growing Chaga in a lab is not the same as cultivating Chaga in the wild! According to the conditions under which it grows (different types of substrate, various environmental conditions, etc.), wild cultivated Chaga will have a different composition and therapeutic properties.

Chaga grows wild for three to five years before being harvested. Birch trees are a source of many compounds that make up Chaga, such as betulin and betulinic acid. These compounds will not be present if no birch trees are involved, such as in the lab-grown process.

If there is no black outer layer, there will be no melanin. Lab-grown Chaga consists primarily of mycelium grown on grain (MOG). This means there will be a large concentration of grain sugars in the final product instead of actual Chaga sclerotium.

We are deeply committed to bringing you the highest quality mushrooms with the most bioactive and bioavailable compounds for long-term health support. For this reason, we only source our wild cultivated Chaga from family farms in the Northern Midwest, USA, and Canada.

THRIVE & BESUPERVITAL®

We are huge fans of optimizing what we interact with daily: physical, mental, and emotional in the pursuit of Supervital Active Longevity. We control what we apply to our body, what we consume, and our well-being approach. Our strategy for life can set us up to exceed our goals or exponentially get in the way of where we are going and what we are trying to accomplish. Follow along with us in The Supervital for more. Thrive & Besupervital®​

Travis Gerhart, DC, RYT-500

Travis Gerhart, DC, RYT-500

Founder of Best Health Co & The Supervital Journal. Topics focus on the mind, body, & soul aspects of Supervital Active Longevity. Dr. Gerhart enjoys studying the latest developments in biochemistry, phytochemistry, epigenetics, & aging.
@traviswgerhart • @besthealthco

*Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for individual medical advice.

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