MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS: IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOSTERS
Medicinal mushrooms have been studied for decades. Researchers have found and continue to find a wide range of benefits especially for the immune, endocrine and central nervous systems.
Mushrooms have been prized in traditional medicine since ancient Egyptian and Chinese healers used them to promote health and longevity. But it wasn’t until 1928 that scientists learned to identify the beneficial properties of mushrooms and extract the active ingredients for medicinal use. It was found that medicinal mushrooms produce medically significant metabolites, which could be beneficial for supporting human health. Since then, medicinal fungi have been used in a wide range of clinical and traditional therapies for their ability to support health in various ways.
Medicinal mushrooms are different from the ones you would typically eat. They’re found in different locations and often require a different type of preparation. These fungi often contain immune-supporting beta-glucans and other polysaccharides that more common mushrooms lack. Beta-glucans are known as biological response modifiers because they stimulate the immune system. Polysaccharides are carbohydrates that support general health in a number of ways. Some of these mushrooms are also adaptogens, which are substances that help your body cope with stress.*
MEDICINAL MUSHROOM VARIETY
There are many varieties of medicinal mushrooms. Most have wonderful characteristics that can provide benefit for overall well-being. Let’s look at a few in a little more detail to learn the benefits of each and how they compare to one another.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) – This medicinal mushroom superstar was used in Russian folk medicine as early as the 16th century. A West Siberian tribe of people, the Khanty, gave chaga its name. They drank chaga in as a tea and believed that it supported general well-being while also promoting internal cleansing healthy digestion.
Some medicinal mushrooms can be grown on farms on oat or wood. Chaga, however, is unique and if grown artificially it provides very little to zero health supporting benefits. Only chaga harvested from a living tree offers optimum benefits. Chaga grows best in very cold habitats, almost exclusively on birch and beech trees, though it can also form on chestnut, alder, and hornbeam trees.
Chaga is known for its ability to support the immune system, promote detoxification of the body, stimulate the central nervous system, promote healthy skin and nails, and help support a youthful look. *
Maitake (Grifolafrondosa) – Maitake means “dancing mushroom”. It is also known as hen-of-the-woods, ram’s head, and sheep’s head. It is native to northeastern Japan and North America, and grows at the base of trees, particularly oaks.
Maitake is known in the Italian American community as the signorina mushroom. The maitake mushroom is prized in traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine for its ability to bring body systems back into balance. In Japan, the maitake is nicknamed the “King of Mushrooms” because it can grow to more than 100 pounds. It is one of the major mushrooms used in Japanese cooking. It is known for its ability to support the immune system, promote healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and regulate cholesterol levels. *
If you have any questions about medicinal mushrooms and their ability to support the health of the body, give us a call or send us an e-mail. We’d be glad to help you learn more about these wonderful gifts from nature.
THE RESEARCH OF CHAGA – THE ULTIMATE BETTER HEALTH SOLUTION
The post-antibiotic world of Western Medicine is now beginning to study, evaluate, and test Chaga for the active compounds underlying its historically understood homeopathic benefits.
As with many other natural medicinal foods and herbs, the modern medical and scientific community is coming to understand that dietary supplements offer a complex balance of active compounds, delivery mineral structures, and co-agents, more effective to sustaining a healthy immune balance than isolated compounds synthesized from these natural products. As a result, Chaga is often recognized as a health booster by many people.
Below is just a short list of findings from studies on Chaga mushrooms:
● Melanin complex of the fungus Inonotus obliquus.
● Chemical Constituents of Inonotus obliquus.
● Immuno-supporting effect of the endo-polysaccharide produced by submerged culture of Inonotus obliquus.
● Reversal of the TPA-induced inhibition of gap junctional intercellular communication by Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extracts: effects on MAP kinases
● Antioxidant effect of Inonotus obliquus.
● Structure determination of inonotsuoxides A and B and in vivo anti-tumor promoting activity of inotodiol from the sclerotia of Inonotus obliquus.
● The effect of aqueous extracts from Inonotus obliquus on the mitotic index and enzyme activities.
● Antimitotic activity of aqueous extracts of Inonotus obliquus.
Giridharan VV, Thandavarayan RA, Konishi T. Amelioration of scopolamine induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress by Inonotus obliquus – a medicinal mushroom. Food Funct. Jun 2011;2(6):320-327. Yue Z, Xiuhong Z, Shuyan Y, et al.
Effect of Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on physical fatigue in mice. J Tradit Chin Med. Aug 2015;35(4):468-472. Park YM, Won JH, Kim YH, et al.
In vivo and in vitro anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of the methanol extract of Inonotus obliquus. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct 3 2005;101(1-3):120-128.
For more information, visit Pubmed (an immense governmental database with links to scientific research articles) and use “Chaga’ or “Inonotus Obliquus” as a search term.
THE BENEFITS OF CHAGA
Extraction Methods for Chaga Extract
A few of the most important active compounds in Siberian Chaga mushroom are polysaccharides, phenols, variety of triterpenes, sterols and melanin. Recent research is now beginning to demonstrate that these compounds could effectively improve human health. Given this broad range of ingredients Chaga is one of the most useful mushrooms for general immune support. *
Melanin compounds play an important role and help to nourish the skin and hair, and protect the damage that comes from aging and excessive exposure to the sun.
If you are like most people who rely on Chaga mushroom extract for the health benefits, you want to gain the most out of your supplements by using the highest potency and well-studied products available. However, not all companies that sell chaga extract use the same extraction process. Many use extract that is made by traditional water extraction process while some others use “dual extraction” that Chinese companies started to produce in the early 2000s.
With that in mind, we want to offer a difference between the two methods of producing Chaga mushroom extracts:
● Water extraction
● Dual extraction (water + alcohol)
Some mushroom supplement companies sell mushrooms prepared and preserved through the dual extraction method that uses alcohol. Mushroom supplements created in this fashion present a fraction of the potency in comparison to those made with hot water extracts.
Scientists have done very limited research for mushroom supplements made by alcohol extraction. Also, traditional herbal practitioners avoided alcohol extraction methods. There are questions as to whether the alcohol extraction provide any health benefit at all.
At present, companies, often from China, present dual extraction with alcohol as something beneficial for mushroom extracts and other supplemental products. This is not supported by research. This method is often cheaper for the company to perform and may result in slightly lower prices for consumers. But the slight cost changes are offset by the unknown.
Mushroom extracts created using water extraction, like those offered by the supplement professionals at Sayan, are the only type of mushroom extracts used by traditional herbal practitioners and studied by scientists. Sayan only manufactures and sells extracts made by low pressure freeze-dry process, which ensures the maximum preservation of the active compounds in wild harvested Chaga mushroom.
The main benefit of water extraction, using hot water, is that all of the compounds found in the raw chaga remain present in the final product. In dual extraction, many beneficial compounds are removed, which provides less benefit for the consumer. The water extraction process is relatively simple. It’s like creating a stock from any vegetable or bones to create a broth. The water removes the beneficial elements from the items and can be consumed as a liquid or the water can be evaporated leaving a powder for later use.
THE TROUBLE WITH FREE RADICALS
Every day we breathe polluted air, eat food with artificial additives, drink water, containing dozens of harmful substances, and lead a life full of stress. Scientists have found that under the influence of the above factors, formation of so-called “free radicals” takes place in the human body, which are responsible for the accelerated destruction and deformation of the body’s cells.
They can also damage DNA molecules, impairs memory and accelerates aging.
The problem lies with the structure of oxygen atoms. Normally, the nucleus of an atom of oxygen is surrounded by 8 electrons, which are combined in pairs to form a stable and safe molecule. But sometimes, under the influence of external factors, one electron is taken away from, or vice versa, is added to the molecule. Then, extremely active formations are born, known as free radicals.
Free radicals “wander” the living cells of the body, plunging everything into chaos. In an effort to gain a normal amount of electrons, they are ready to “tear” the missing particle in any molecule they meet, causing a chain reaction of destruction. This process, known as “oxidative stress”, is considered responsible for weakening a healthy person.
Free radicals can form when oxygen interacts with some types of molecules, in a process known as oxidation. Free radicals are single atoms or groups of atoms that are “unpaired,” meaning they are unstable and like to steal an electron from a nearby atom or groups of atoms to stabilize themselves.
Unfortunately, losing an electron causes the other atom or atoms to become unstable free radicals, which then try to steal electrons from their neighbors. Left unchecked, this can cause a chain reaction that causes widespread damage to cellular components, such as DNA and the cell membrane. Widespread damage can also result in premature cell aging.
Excess levels of free radicals may be the result of a variety of factors including:
● Pollution and other environmental factors
● Weakened immune system
● Ultraviolet (UV) light
It’s impossible to be fully protected against free radicals. But they may be neutralized. That’s where chaga mushroom, with its high ORAC levels, can help.
ANTIOXIDANTS – OUR HEALTH’S BEST FRIEND
So, how do we remove free radicals?
You now know how dangerous free radicals can be to your health, but you may not know the best natural way to control and eliminate them. It is not easy to avoid the oxidative damage associated with free radicals, but it is possible. Unfortunately, many consumers are not aware how the active ingredients in our food work to stop free radicals in their tracks.
To prevent oxidation, the body absorbs anti-oxidative nutrients from some of the foods you eat. Foods with antioxidant properties neutralize free radicals by donating an electron, which effectively halts the chain reaction. Unlike other molecules, however, antioxidant molecules are stable even after donating an electron so these molecules never become free radicals. In fact, antioxidant molecules hunt down free radicals to help prevent cellular and molecular damage.
Consider free radicals as enemies and antioxidants as the defenders of health.
Scientists have assigned each food a ranking of its Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, or ORAC, based on its ability to stop a cascade of dangerous oxidation and free radicals before they can cause damage. Foods with high ORAC levels provide a great deal of antioxidants, while those with low ORAC levels have fewer antioxidants.
In other words, substances with high ORAC levels provide the greatest protection against harmful free radicals. Recent marketing has increased the popularity of certain foods such as blueberries, pomegranates, and Açaí berries among people who hope to reduce free radicals and control the damage they cause. Chaga mushroom is now taking center stage for its ability to control dangerous free radicals because of it high ORAC value.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND CHAGA AND ANTIOXIDANTS
Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) tests are among the most acknowledged methods to measure antioxidants value in food. ORAC tests measure antioxidant scavenging activity against oxygen radicals that could affect our health.
Chaga is unique among medicinal mushrooms. In addition to its potent immune stimulating properties Chaga has an extremely high ORAC content.
This assessment is based on performing tests which were done by one of the most respected laboratories in the world, Brunswick Labs. These tests assign product an ORAC score as a way to compare properties between different foods. There are several tests which were developed by Brunswick Labs that determine the content of antioxidants in any food product.
AOAC International, a global leader in the development and standardization of validated analytical methods has approved ORAC analysis, developed jointly by Brunswick Laboratories and the USDA.
Sayan always looks for the most updated tests and laboratory analysis which could provide scientific prove about Siberian chaga health benefits. We worked closely with Brunswick Lab, to determine ORAC value in our Siberian chaga extract.
In 2011 Sayan chaga extract powder sample was sent to Brunswick Lab be studied for ORAC Total – hydrophilic (H-ORAC) and lipophilic (L-ORAC) – Peroxyl Radical Absorbance Capacity, expressed as Trolox Equivalent. The result was 1,532 µmol TE/gram.
The high ORAC content properties are attributed to an active compound unique only to Chaga mushroom bodies. In addition to many valuable ingredients, Siberian Chaga mushroom provides health benefits in the form of antioxidants – a unique quality that sets Chaga apart from other medicinal mushrooms.
Lab tests have shown that Siberian chaga extract, with its high concentration of antioxidants, has great potential to find and destroy free radicals, thereby protecting cells from the oxidation process. The ORAC value of 1,532 µmol TE/gram for Sayan Siberian chaga extract was much higher than blueberries, pomegranate, or acai extracts.
You can see the comparison below:
|Siberian chaga extract powder||1,532||µmol TE/gram|
|Acai Extract||1,027||µmol TE/gram|
Later, Brunswick lab developed a new method for ORAC testing – Total ORAC FN / ORAC 5.0, which consists of five types of assays that evaluate the antioxidant capacity of a material against five primary reactive oxygen species found in our body. These five predominant reactive species, commonly called “oxygen radicals”, are: peroxyl radicals, hydroxyl radicals, peroxynitrite, superoxide anion, and singlet oxygen. Total ORAC FN provides a measure of the total antioxidant power of a food/nutrition against the five predominant reactive species.
We submitted Sayan chaga extract powder sample for testing one more time, and below is the table with results (µmol TE/gram):
|Antioxidant power against peroxyl radicals||1,584|
|Antioxidant power against hydroxyl radicals||29,300|
|Antioxidant power against peroxynitrite||107|
|Antioxidant power against super oxide anion||8,825|
|Antioxidant power against singlet oxygen||163|
Total capacity of our chaga extract to destroy free radicals is 39,979 mole TE/gram.
The result proved that Sayan Chaga extract powder is a product with high ORAC content. This means that Sayan chaga extracts could improve your body ability to fight dangerous free radicals which could harm your cells.
Such high concentration of antioxidants is not found in any known natural plant product. For comparison, pomegranate has a value (µmol TE/gram) of 105, blueberries of 26, and chocolate of 40.2, which were obtained by the same test.
We feel it is vital to accurately analyze, measure, and report the effectiveness of our Sayan Siberian Chaga products to help consumers who want to improve their health.
Chaga vs. Other Superfoods
If you’re not familiar with what makes specific foods healthy, you may be confused by comparisons of foods that claim to be best for our health. There’s no need for concern though. There are a lot of foods beneficial for a variety of health challenges, or simply when looking to alternatives for a new health regime.
You will find chaga a one-stop-shop for improved health. Here we have an immune-boosting friend for life helping to support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level and also an excellent source of antioxidants.
Chaga’s nutrition benefits are well documented, but let’s look at a comparison between chaga and a few other superfoods.
Chaga contains Beta D Glucans which help improve higher cholesterol levels. This component helps to stop bad cholesterol from entering the bloodstream. Avocados are high in vitamin D and folic acid and also assist to keep normal cholesterol value.
Goji and Acai Berries
These berries contain a high amount of polysaccharides. This is a major factor in their popularity and a big selling point. This component is found in the form of pectin. Chaga has the same benefits as these berries and shares a similar history. However, Chaga’s polysaccharide is chitin, which is incredibly beneficial for humans.
This grain has received positive press over the past few years. It has a high level of vitamins
and antioxidants. Chaga mushrooms, however, have an even higher level of antioxidant.
Spinach, Kale and other Dark Leafy Greens
Typically, beneficial for the skin, eyes and hair, leafy greens contain chlorophyll with is said to assist with the removal of toxins in the body. Chaga can be consumed with little effort when compared to greens. One needs to consume a relatively large amount of these greens to experience a real benefit.
Once considered to be merely a garnish, parsley is actually quite nutritious. However, as with other greens, one needs to consume a large amount of parsley to experience any benefit. One can experience the same benefit with chaga tea.
So we’ve looked at the nutritional and overall health elements when compared to a few foods known to be great for our bodies. But there is another aspect to using chaga.
Getting young adults to eat more nutritional foods can be a challenge. However, with a little creativity you can often get them to consume foods like chaga. For example, chaga can be added to muffins and smoothies.
It is true that certain foods will have a varying effect on different kinds of palates. So choose what suits you best. You may find chaga is both appealing and appetizing.
There’s not much point in forcing foods or supplements. That will only cause anxiety and guilt if you feel you should be enjoying them. It’s all about wellness and overall health for ourselves, and the ones around us.
Chaga has been around for centuries. Many civilizations have used it for general well-being and we continue to learn more about it, more and more people will likely seek it out. Research continues on the benefits of chaga. More people are growing interested and using this and other medicinal mushrooms. Your body will thank you for incorporating more into your everyday. You will likely see the benefits in your general health and overall feeling of wellness. Considering trying chaga today
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Cited material is from research and testing to-date and is for informational and educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Only a licensed medical practitioner can offer medical advice.