The History, Use, and Benefits of Chaga

The Black Diamond in the Forest

Chaga is an incredibly valuable medicinal mushroom, one that should be added daily for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune supporting properties.

Chaga is a parasitic fungus that grows predominantly on birch trees and can be found on other hardwood trees, including alder, ash, maple, poplar, and oak.

Due to its value and rarity, Chaga was known as the Black Diamond in the Forest,” and has been called both The Gift from God” and the Mushroom of Immortality—although Reishi mushroom is the Mushroom of Immortality.

The medicinal, therapeutic use of Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) originates in 12th century Russia, born with the Khanty (formerly the Ostyaks, an ethnic group from Siberia). In traditional herbal medicine, Chaga was used primarily as a tonic to strengthen the body and to combat disease and infection, including as a traditional remedy for the following various ailments and diseases:

  • Cancer;
  • Diabetes;
  • Gut health;
  • Liver disease;
  • Lung disorders and infections;
  • Vascular diseases effecting the brain.

Research on Chaga has shown potential for cancer therapy, its use as an antioxidant, for supporting immune system health (in repairing and modulating immune response) and as an essential anti-inflammatory agent (regulating cytokines and the "cytokine storm," as implicated in SARS-CoV-2 infection).

Chemical analysis indicates that Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) contains a range of secondary metabolites, including phenolic compounds such as melanins and lanostane-type triterpenoids, including betulinic acid and inotodiol. These can be grouped together into the following four major classes of therapeutic compounds present in Chaga, together accounting for its medicinal properties and possible health benefits:

  • Melanin;
  • Polyphenols;
  • Polysaccharides;
  • Triterpenes.

Together, the melanin, polyphenols, polysaccharides, and triterpenes present in Chaga are responsible for the following properties and areas of research:

  • Adaptogenic, improving endocrine and hormone function;
  • Anti-cancer, anti-mutagenic, and anti-tumor;
  • Anti-inflammatory;
  • Antioxidant;
  • Blood sugar regulation;
  • Immune system health, immunomodulatory.*

Chaga Is Adaptogenic and Tonic

Adaptogens are a class of therapeutic herbs (and other substances) which work with the body to produce beneficial effects, most notably improved endocrine (hormone) system health and improved stress response. Adaptogens help the body to adapt.

While not a strict adaptogenic herb (although you may see it referred to as such), such as Reishi, Pine Pollen, or Astragalus Root, Chaga contains adaptogenic & tonic qualities, which may lead to increased energy and lower stress.

Antioxidant Properties of Chaga

Chaga has one of the highest ORAC ratings know. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, and it is the test used to determine how strong of an antioxidant something is. Chaga is off the charts.

The polyphenols present in Chaga are antioxidant.

As an antioxidant, molecules in Chaga aid in eliminating free radicals from the body. Free radicals result in oxidation, the rust that forms in our bodies and ages us. You want antioxidants.

Supporting Immunity and Immune System Health with Chaga

Chaga nourishes and supports the immune system. It is an immune system modulator, which means that it can help calm down and correct an overactive immune system, such is the case in auto-immune disorders, and it can ramp up a sluggish immune system.*

This is because Chaga is rich in polysaccharides and triterpenes—the food of the immune system.

Polysaccharides, including Beta-glucan—a subtype of polysaccharides—are essential in supporting digestive and immune system health.*

Beta-glucan is considered "the food of the immune system" and support healthy immune response.*

Triterpenes, including betulinic acid, are sterols present in Chaga which aid the immune system, promote healthy cell division, and regulate inflammation.*

In addition to betulinic acid, Chaga contains the beneficial triterpenes sterols betulin (a precursor to betulinic acid), ergosterol peroxide inotodiol, and lanosterol.*

Contemporary research into Chaga supports the traditional use of Chaga as being anti-tumor, where betulinic acid inhibits an enzyme—topoisomerase—that implicated in abnormal cell growth.*

Chaga Reduces Harmful Inflammation

Chaga is a strong anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is the root of many common diseases—especially modern diseases—and is even known to drive depression and cancer. In Chinese medicine, we would call inflammation Heat. Pestilent and pathogenic Heat. And Chaga clears this Heat. It is strongly anti-inflammatory.

Chaga and Superoxide Dismutase (SOD)

Both SOD and the antioxidants in Chaga enhance the immune system and assist in regenerating the body. But Chaga contains several unique compounds which really drive its ability to protect the body from pathogens and cancer.

Additionally, SOD and Chaga may support and promote healthy cellular detoxification.

In addition to the unique compounds found in Chaga, it also contains some of the highest levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD is a naturally occurring enzyme used in the health food community to remove wrinkles, rebuild tissue and extend the life span.

In the clinical setting, SOD is used to treat pain and swelling (inflammation) caused by osteoarthritis, sports injuries, and rheumatoid arthritis. Also, SOD is used to cure the kidneys of kidney disease, to clear gout and to treat cancer. In addition to SOD, Chaga has one of the highest levels of antioxidants known (second only to clove bud essential oil), as measured by Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC). Oxidants are caused by metabolism in the body and are involved in many aging diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Oxidants contribute to DNA mutations that prevent healthy, normal cell division.

They also damage cell walls, blood vessel walls, and cause neuronal damage. Antioxidants neutralize oxidants, render them harmless and prevent injury. That keeps the body young. Many customers are surprised when they use our Chaga Extract that their fine lines and wrinkles begin to fade and disappear every day. The tissues are repaired, and DNA is renewed, mutation and cancer, as well as other diseases, are prevented, and the immune system is boosted.

Chaga and Traditional Medicine

Among the indigenous and people of Siberia Khanty, Chaga is the most renowned medicinal plants or fungi, used traditionally to enhance the immune system, for its strong anti-tumor effects, and to help fight infections.

Anthropological reports indicate that Chaga has been used to regenerate the endocrine system—of particular interest to those interested in androgenic and endocrine and reproductive health.

Lore into the namesakes of Chaga abound, including the following (all of which are unsubstantiated):

  • Gift from God
  • Mushroom of Immortality
  • Black Diamond in the Forest
  • King of Plants

Regardless, Chaga—this strange parasitic fungus that grows on trees—has been used by humans for several centuries.

Russian Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote two pages on Chaga 's medicinal use and value in his autobiographical novel, based on his experiences in a hospital in Tashkent where he used Chaga to heal a a lesion of cancer on his lip.

A vast amount of traditional use and reporting behind Chaga exists, although very little of it is written. And while Chaga has not been part of the Chinese herbal pharmacopeia, is has been used by indigenous populations since time immemorial for improving health and wellness and healing tumors and endocrine disorders.

Chaga is an incredibly valuable medicinal mushroom, one that should be added daily for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune supporting properties.

Chaga also tastes great, containing the compound vanillin (which give the vanilla its vanilla flavor). If you're a hot beverage in the morning kind of person (tea, coffee, whatever), add a half teaspoon to a full teaspoon each morning to your favorite brew. You'll feel—you'll see—the difference.

Important Medicinal Compounds Identified in Chaga

As discussed above, many therapeutic and medicinal compounds have been identified in Chaga.

Betulin (Betulinol) and Betulinic Acid

Technically a sterol (similar to a plant hormone), betulinic acid is naturally occurring in the Chaga fruiting body and is one of the most—if not the most—important of all the triterpenes present in the mushroom.

Betulinic acid supports immune health, healthy cell division, and modulates inflammation, with the following properties and possible health benefits:

  • Anti-inflammatory;
  • Antiarthritic;
  • Antidiabetic;
  • Antimalarial;
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antiretroviral;
  • Hepatoprotective.*

Betulinic acid has shown potential as an anticancer agent. In 1995, betulinic acid was reported as a selective inhibitor of human melanoma (Lee IS, et al. 1995). Additionally, betulinic acid was found active in vitro against brain cancer and malignant brain tumors, ovarian carcinoma, in human leukemia cells, and malignant head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (Righetti SC, et al. 2002).

More recently, research into the betulinic acid present in Chaga has identified possible anticancer properties, due to inhibition of the enzyme topoisomerase (please note, we are not suggesting nor promoting Chaga or betulinic acid as a cancer therapy or treatment).*

What is Best Chaga Extract for Betulinic Acid?

In Chaga (as well as all medicinal herbs and mushrooms), different compounds are best extracted using different extraction methods. Here, betulinic acid, as a triterpene, is best extracted using alcohol.

This Chaga Extract Powder is extracted using both hot water and alcohol, allowing us to capture the important triterpenes, including betulinic acid, and the beneficial polysaccharides (which are best extracted with hot water).

The common misunderstanding that only alcohol tinctures are able to extract the betulinic acid (and other triterpenes) present in Chaga is due to an incorrect belief that all extract powders are produced using only hot water.

As mentioned above, our Chaga Extract Powder is dual hot water and alcohol. In fact, to an order of magnitudes, extract powders allow for a much stronger concentration when compared to tinctures.

Inotodiol (Obliquol)

Inotodiol is tetracyclic triterpene and is the most abundant triterpene present in Chaga. The major benefits of inotodiol are its anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative (reducing rapid cell growth) properties.


Is an important pigment in the human body, and its presence protects us from cancer, especially skin cancer, by absorbing the harmful effects of sunlight.

Trametenolic Acid

The Synergy of Chaga

All of the compounds found in Chaga are beneficial and healthy by themselves, but in unison, they give additional effects and boost your health in multiple dimensions.

Together, these compounds allow Chaga to strengthen the immune system, better-combating pathogens, including viruses and bacteria. Studies have shown its use to produce a 300% increase in natural killer (NK) cells. Natural killer cells are specialized cells of the immune system responsible for killing cancer and combating viruses. The unique compounds betulin and betulinic acids found in Chaga have been shown to be anti-tumor, prohibiting the growth of tumors.

The oxygenated triterpenes in Chaga contribute to its anti-viral and anti-protozoa effects, showing actions against both the HIV retrovirus and the protozoa that cause malaria (Plasmodium). So, Chaga not only helps strengthen the immune system by itself, but it also helps it perform its function by combating viruses and other infections and pathogens by having the antiviral and antimicrobial action of its own.

Is Chaga right product for you?

We  think so. We think everyone can benefit from Chaga. Our bodies are increasingly inundated with oxidative stress, we're becoming more and more inflamed, autoimmune disorders are widespread.

And this is what Chaga speaks to. It's know as "The Diamond in the Forest." And maybe—and we think definitely—it possesses a little bit of that Wisdom of the Forest that we need in these times of uncertainty.

Chaga. It speaks to us here at RAW Forest Foods. And we're certain that it's going to speak to you.