According to folk experiences in Olonets province of Westeastern of old Russia, there was a fungus normally growing on Birches (bouleau) and other trees and helping to treat cancer as well as indicated in the folk treatment results in Siberia, Baltic area and Finland. Especially, spores are made into a medicinal tea for cancer patients only. In Russia, chaga mushroom, besides its cancer treatment, is considered as a nutritious medicine for blood filter and fulgurant pain cure. Chaga mushrooms have been used in Poland since 1961, recommended and approved by Russian Academy of Medical Sciences since 1955 to treat cancer. In the book known as “Atlas of Medical Plants” published by Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in 1962, chaga mushrooms have been recommended to be used in tea, extract and nastoyka (chaga mushrooms steeped in Vodka) to treat cancer, especially being unlikely to take operation and radiation therapy. National Cancer Institute, which is one of 11 agencies that are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of USA, also received the reports of research on using chaga mushrooms to treat cancer in Australia.
Chaga mushroom, also known as Pilat mushroom, has a scientific name being Inonotus obliquus (or Poria obligua, Polyporus obliquus) belonging to Polyporaceae family. (Inos = fiber; noton = behind the back; oblique = having unequal sides).
This mushroom is also known as Black birch touchwood; Birch mushroom; Clinker Polypore; Tschagapilz; Schiller-porling and Kofukisaruno-koshikake.
This mushroom has a black, hard and footless mass sticking on the trunks of the trees such as birches, elms, alders, etc. and looks like burnt wood in which the mushrooms grow if seeing faraway. The fruiting body in transitional shape can be found very rarely. The mass of chaga mushroom may grow up to 1.2 – 1.5 metres but about 25 – 40 centimetres in length, 10 – 15 centimetres in thickness and 4 – 5 pounds (about 2 kilos) in weight.
This mushroom generally includes 3 layers as follows:
(1) the first rough layer mixed with barks and needed to be well cleansed,
(2) the inner soft layer lying near the trunk should be removed
(3) the middle layer with spots will be used.
This mushroom grows easily in Poland, Western Siberia, Canada and Northeastern USA.
Chaga mushrooms may be harvested throughout the year but Russian traditional physicians often use the mushrooms collected in autumns and springs. Since their hardness, these mushrooms are often chopped with axes. After being harvested, the mushrooms are chopped into the 3 – 6 centimetre pieces, dried in ventilated and dark rooms or stretched and fried in spans at 60oC. When getting fully dried, these mushrooms will get hard and have a dark brown in colour.
I. Chemical composition:
Chaga mushroom includes inooidiol, oxidized triterpenes, trametenolic acid, tannins, steroids, compounds alkaloid-oramin–like compounds, obliquol and trimethylsilyl esters of lanostanoid triterpenes, especially lanosterol and inotodiol.
Moreover, a substance of pteroiloglamic acid was extracted in 1983 with acid benzoic such as vanillic, syringic and r-hydroxybenzoic.
II. Medicinal properties:
Based on folk experiences of using mushrooms to treat cancer, the scientists in Eastern Europe tested the mushroom in laboratories about anti-tumor properties. Since 1954, Gatty Kostyal has proved the anti – tumor effects of mushroom extract with alcol, then the Poland and Russian pharmacists tested many forms of in vitro and in vivo extract to create befungin, which is officially permitted to use for cancer treatment. Befungin contains 50% chaga extract associated with Chlorine and Cobalt sulfide. Befungin is also used to support drugs in cases of chemical cancer treatment.
Oxidized triterpenes in Chaga mushrooms, especially inotodiol, prevents tumor growth (in vitro), breast cancer carcinoma MCF-7 and in vivo on mice (Kahlos trong Acta Pharm. Fenn. No 96-1987). On animals, when using a harmless dose of mushroom extract, it was showed anti-tumor effects. However, the official substance which contained active properties was not found. Some researchers indicated that was owning to triterpenes such as obliquol, but there were such low rates of these substances in Befungin (less than 0.2%). Therefore, Grzybek tested polysaccharides of allium in mushroom (by measuring mitotic index) and observed that polysaccharide B in the mushroom remained positive with the test (Herba Hung No 22-1983). Anti-tumor effects only perform where mushroom extract was cooked for long time (traditional infusion). In contrary, if being boiled like dipping in boiled water, there will be no active properties.
Chaga mushrooms have no in vitro effects on Staphylococcus aureus and E.coli. A study in Poland on 48 patients who had breast and uterine cancer in stage 3 – 4 indicated that chaga extract in form of extract with cobalt salt is the most effective one. That is, 10 patients had smaller tumors, reduced pains and blood disimbursement, they felt easier to sleep and eated well (Piaskowski, 1957).
Other clinical tests were conducted on the patients who had lung cancers by using a product in steamed form (aerosol) and the patients who had uterine cancer with getting inoperable activities, by using injected drugs and vagina pills (Hartwell, 1971).
III. Chaga in traditional medicine:
Russian traditional medicine uses chaga mushroom to treat cancer, even in case of inoperable breast cancers, lip cancers, stomach cancers, lung cancers, liver cancers, etc. and Hodgkin’s disease.
Chaga mushroom is also used for treating stomach ulcer and swelling.
In Western Siberia, Khanty residents are still using chanta tea to treat tuberculosis, stomachache, heart and liver diseases and considerring this mushroom as a organs cleansing drugs. Chanta is made as a kind of ‘savon water’ to be used for women hygiene during their period and bathing newborn babies (savon water is made by heating chaga mushrooms until turning red and then stirring the heated mushroom in water until blocking the dispersed coal fungus, such water will be black) (J. Ethnopharmacol. No. 31-1991).
Chaga tea is very popular in Russia. It is made by boiling the small pieces of mushroom in water for a few minutes. Each piece, being about 3 square centimetres, may be cooked into 2.5 litres of tea. According to Hutchens (1973), we should drink 3 cups (240ml) of tea 3 hours before eating every day from 12 to 20 weeks with break time from 7 to 10 days. Hutchens has also suggested using the middle part of this mushroom and warm water should be used to steep the mushroom in 48 hours with the rate being 5 water portion per 1 chaga mushroom. However, the method given by Hutchens is contrary to that of Khanty people. That is, cut the mushroom into small pieces and boil them for several minutes (every three- centimetre mushroom is cooked in a tea pot) .. and according to the science researchers, unless they are boiled, it is impossible to extract the active ingredients that are able to treat cancer!
IV. Some relevant kinds of mushroom:
Inonotus sciurinus, I. tabacinus and I. orientalis have a really high rate of restraining tumors such as Ehrlich carcinoma and Sarcoma 180. I. orientalis has the strongest effect with the rate of up to 100% on 2 above tumors.
I. cuticularis may restrain Ehrlich carcinoma with a rate of 100% and up to 90% to Sarcoma 180. This kind grows popularly in Canada and USA..
According to Belova and Varentsova (1962), Russian authors, it is possible to make Chaga tincture with 1:10 (weight/volume), store with ethanol 10%. Content of active ingredients of tincture will be about 2-2.3%, medicinal water extracted from the mushroom and cooked at 80oC in 1 hour contains from 6-9%: medicinal water can be filtered and condensed in vacuum until getting 20% condensed mixture and then store in ethanol 10% or make dry powder in the water pump. Andreeva (1961) indicated that the extracted polyphenol mixture would get the highest amount when being cooked at 100oC, but the self-condensation reaction would alter the composition of the product .
By Pharmacist TranVietHung – tvvn.org