Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a fungus found primarily on birch trees that has been used in the folk medicine of Russia, Japan, and Europe.
Traditional uses for this mushroom include improving the immune response and treating stomach issues. However, none of them has been proven in clinical trials and only animal and cell-based research have been conducted.
Chaga has the strongest antioxidant activity when compared against three other common antioxidant mushrooms.
In human lymphocytes, chaga extract reduced DNA damage caused by hydrogen peroxide by over 40%.
In mice, chaga extract’s antioxidant activity protected against the effects of chronic inflammation of the pancreas.
Chaga may reduce inflammation by blocking an over-activated immune response.
Its extract reduced pro-inflammatory pathways (NF-kB) and messengers (nitric oxide and PGE2) in rats and decreased the response to pain.
Chaga also reduced inflammation in mice with IBD by suppressing cytokines (TNF-alpha and IL-1beta) and messengers (nitric oxide).
In mice and cells, chaga extract lowered NF-kappaB binding activity. This may reduce inflammatory pain by blocking the effects of enzymes such as nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2).
In fact, inhibition of COX-2 is the mechanism by which traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin, reduce pain and swelling.
Animals studies determined that compounds in chaga may increase exercise tolerance. Mice given chaga extract were able to swim for a longer period of time. The animals treated with Chaga also had higher energy stores in the muscles and liver.
Chaga’s complex carbohydrates significantly reduced blood lactate levels in exercising mice. This may also help boost endurance since an accumulation of lactate in the body can cause fatigue.
Chaga also decreased blood urea nitrogen levels, which can contribute to fatigue.
Chaga extract activates PPARγ, which could help maintain energy metabolism and promote physical endurance.