Chaga Mushroom Evidence Review: Are the Benefits of Chaga Real?

Chaga Mushroom is purported to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, cognitive enhancing, anti-diabetic, pain-relieving, and anti-viral properties. Are these claims backed by science? Watch this video to find out if Chaga is actually worth a try.

Video transcript:

In this video, I will discuss the Chaga mushroom, based on a request from one of my subscribers. The Chaga mushroom is purported to kill cancer cells, stimulate the immune system, protect the liver, reduce inflammation, and enhance cognition and reduce fatigue. This video discusses whether there is enough data to show that Chaga mushroom actually has these effects on humans.

The Chaga mushroom aka Inonotus Obliquus is a parasitic black fungus that grows on Birch trees and grows in colder regions such as Northeast China, Russia, Japan, and North America. It is extremely resilient and can withstand major environment stressors such as freezing temperatures, UV radiation, and invasive pathogens. These resilient properties likely are why the Chaga mushroom may hold medicinal value in humans.

The Chaga mushroom has been used as a folk remedy in Russia and Europe historically. It was made popular in the Western World when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn mentioned it in his novel Cancer Ward.

What is the Data on Chaga Mushroom?

There are many studies published on the Chaga mushroom. To be exact, there are over 190 studies published on Chaga. However all of these are laboratory in vitro or animal studies. None are human clinical trials.

To give you perspective, there are approximately 170 published research articles on Lion’s Mane, two of which are human clinical trials. There are over 800 published studies on psilocybin, and over 50 of these are human clinical trials. 

In vitro studies:

In-vitro studies show that Chaga mushroom exhibits anti-canceranti-viral (specifically against the herpes virus), anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory effects.

Animal studies:

Chaga demonstrates cognitive enhancinganti-oxidantanti-inflammatory and pain-relievingexercise endurance enhancinganti-diabetic, and anti-cancer properties in mice.

Human Studies

There have been no human clinical studies to date. However, Chaga mushrooms have been studied on human cells. The Chaga mushroom has been shown to have inhibitory and pro-apoptotic effects (apoptosis means cell death) on human colon cancer cellscervical cancer cellsbrain cancer cellshepatoma cells, and lung cancer cells.

Some studies show that extracts from the Chaga mushroom selectively kills cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched

Another study found that cells isolated from gastrointestinal tracts of humans with Inflammatory Bowel Disease that were exposed to Chaga extract exhibited reduced inflammatory markers. Chaga mushroom extract was also found to lower inflammatory markers in gut cells from healthy individuals.

Please note however that despite these studies performed on human cells, they were in vitro studies, meaning they were ultimately performed in petri dishes—not live individuals.

my consensus

While there is much evidence that Chaga holds promising therapeutic value from in vitro studies and animal studies, I was not able to find any human clinical trials on Chaga mushroom. Without human data it is difficult to say whether Chaga mushroom holds the same therapeutic values that it shows in in vitro studies and animal studies.

Just because it works in a petri dish or in a mouse does not mean it will work in humans. Research shows that only about 10% of positive drug study results in mice end with similar results in humans. In other words, of all the drugs that are shown to be effective in mice, only about 10% are effective in humans.

Conclusion:

There is no evidence to support that Chaga mushroom is effective in humans. Human randomized control clinical trials (RCTs) must be performed to truly identify if Chaga holds therapeutic value in the realms of cancer, inflammation, diabetes, pain relieving, and cognitive and endurance enhancement. I am not saying it doesn’t work. I am just saying that based on scientific literature that has been published, there is no evidence to say that it works in humans. Please feel free to share your experience with Chaga mushroom, I am open to hearing about it. The lack of evidence does not mean evidence of lack. I also find it quite peculiar that despite the abundance of laboratory evidence of Chaga’s effectiveness, there are no RCTs on humans. This is likely because pharmaceutical industries which generally fund large RCTs (RCTs are expensive) have no incentive to pour millions of dollars of research into a supplement that they cannot patent (mushrooms and herbal supplements are not able to be patented).

Chaga Mushroom Safety:

Chaga mushroom holds blood thinning properties. This can be dangerous if a person who is already on a blood thinning medication consumes chaga mushroom, because the blood thinning effects can compound.

The Chaga mushroom also holds anti-diabetic properties, which means that it can lower blood sugar. Consuming Chaga can be dangerous for diabetics who are already taking blood sugar-lowering medications.

Chaga contains oxalates. If consumed in high amounts, oxalates can cause kidney stones. One case report was published of a woman who suffered kidney injury from oxalates after consuming high amounts of chaga mushroom extract.