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The Chaga Mushroom
The Chaga Mushroom
The Siberians of old called chaga mushrooms, “the gift from god.” As far back as the 16th century, chaga mushrooms were being used to treat such ailments as cancer, gastritis and ulcers as well as bone disorders. Modern scientific studies suggest that this belief in the healthful properties of chaga mushrooms was not misplaced.
The chaga mushroom (inonotus obliquus) is a fungal parasite found most commonly on the trunks of birch trees. It is native to Canada, the North Carolina mountains of the United States, Russia, eastern and northern Europe and Korea. Unlike most mushrooms, chaga mushrooms have a tough and woody exterior that looks very much like a blackened growth of the tree bark in which they live.
Chaga mushrooms are very high in B-vitamins as well as being a rich source of enzymes, flavonoids and phenols. In addition, they are among the densest natural sources of pantothenic acid. Chaga mushrooms also contain high levels of calcium, copper, iron, manganese, potassium and zinc. Most notably, they are a rich source of superoxide dismutase, which is a powerful antioxidant.
Antioxidants are important because they fight the production of free radicals that occur as a by-product of your natural metabolic processes as well as the effects of pollutants like cigarette smoke and other environmental toxins. Free radicals cause oxidation which works on your body in much the same way as rust works on iron. It damages your tissues, causing and supporting many of the more problematic aspects of aging and contributing to certain cancers.
According to an overview of studies published by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, chaga mushrooms have proven benefits above and beyond their antioxidant properties.
Chaga mushrooms have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels in those at risk for, or dealing with, type 2 diabetes. A 2008 study done at Jiangnan University in Wuxi, China showed that diabetic mice given chaga mushroom extracts showed less fluctuation in their blood glucose levels than those that had not been treated with the extracts.
A 2009 study done at Daegu University in Korea showed that chaga mushroom extracts inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells. These results are supported by a study isolating a substance in chaga mushroom extracts called beta glucans, which help to regulate and support your immune system. Beta glucans help your immune system to recognize cancer cells as threats rather than as natural and beneficial cells, meaning that your immune system can fight them earlier.
Other studies have proven the beneficial effects that chaga mushroom extracts have on inflammation and on pain, as well as on helping you to lose and maintain weight.
Chaga mushrooms have a very bitter taste, so they are not usually eaten in any form, either raw or cooked. However, they are commonly mixed with herbs and served as a tea, or dried, ground and formed into tablets or liquid extracts.
The natural and herbal health experts at Fungi Health remind you that it is crucial to deal with reliable professionals when purchasing any health products, from teas to supplements.
A polysaccharide is a long molecule of carbohydrates, and is composed of repeated monomers that are joined together by bonds known as glycosidic bonds. The bonds are products of a condensation reaction. Polysaccharides range in structure, from highly branched structured polysaccharides to linear structured ones.
Often they are quite heterogeneous and may contain slight modifications with repeating units of the monomers. The macromolecules may be amorphous or water soluble and this largely depend on structure as well as the monosaccharide building blocks.
A polysaccharide is called a homopolysaccharide if it all the monosaccharide is of the same type and a heteropolysaccharide/ heteroglycan if it has been formed from more than one type of monosaccharide. (Stout and Taylor)
Polysaccharides are divided into two major categories namely:
Structural polysaccharides include
Cellulose– this is one of the main components of plant cell walls. As an un-branched polymer, cellulose is composed of about ten thousand units of glucose per chain. A hydroxyl group, which forms hydrogen bonds with other chains projects out from each of the chains, and forms rigid cross links in between the chains. This is what makes cellulose a strong support material. Cellulose is one of the most abundant organic substances in the world.
Chitin– this is closely related to cellulose in terms of the structure. The difference between the two is that while cellulose has a hydroxyl group, has (–NH.CO.CH3). Chitin may be found in some fungi and green algae cell walls and cuticles of arthropods.
Characteristics of storage polysaccharides
Insoluble to water,
Can fold into smaller shapes,
Can be converted to sugars easily
Glycogen– glycogens are the main form in which carbohydrates are stored in the body liver and muscles. Glycogen is branched structures and is broken down to produce sugars in cases where the body is starved.
Starches are found in plant cells, some bacteria and protists and are made up of amylopectin and amylose.
Pectins– this is a group of complex polysaccharides and present in a majority of primary cell walls and non- woody terrestrial pants. They also contain a 1, 4 linked alpha D- galactosyluronic acid residues (Dongowski, Gebhard & Flamme 2002).
These compounds are made up of D- glucose and contain beta glycosidic bonds. They are diverse vary in terms of:
They are better known as a class of soluble fibers found in many plants such as wheat, oats and barley. Beta glycans occur largely as cellulose and contribute positively in the nutrition of the human body, soluble fiber supplements and texturing agents.
Beta glycan derived from medicinal mushrooms and yeast is used to boost the immune system, and studies have showed the insoluble beta glycans to have a higher biological activity as compared to the soluble ones (Dongowski, Gebhard & Flamme 2002).
Some types of beta glycans such as those made from barley and yeast are used to reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol for individuals with high cholesterol following some weeks of treatment (Patchen & MacVittie1986). Moreover, it is used to increase the chances of survival in individuals suffering from cancer, prevent infections and boost the immunity of HIV/ AIDS patients.
Green, Stout and Taylor, Biological Science 1&2, 2nd ed. Cambridge Cell and Molecular Biology by Sheeler and Bianchi, 3rd ed. Wiley
Dongowski, G; Huth M, Gebhardt E, Flamme W (December 2002). “Dietary fiber-rich barley products beneficially affect the intestinal tract of rats”. The Journal of nutrition (United States: American Society of Nutritional Sciences) 132 (12): 3704–3714
Patchen, ML; MacVittie TJ (February 1986). “Comparative effects of soluble and particulate glucans on survival in irradiated mice”. Journal of biological response modifiers (United States: Raven Press) 5 (1): 45–60
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The health benefits of mushroom include relief from high cholesterol levels, breast cancer, prostrate cancer, and diabetes. It also helps in weight loss, increasing immunity.
Almost all of us are familiar with mushrooms and their miraculous and magical powers. Particularly those who have read or heard a lot of fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland, Three Bears and a Baby etc. or those who have been playing the Super Mario Brothers.
You have seen mushrooms making somebody big or playing shields against the dreaded monsters. Actually, these are just symbolic representations of the actual health benefits of mushrooms. Believe me! They can really make you big and protect you against diseases and infections, as they are full of proteins, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, anti biotic and anti oxidants. Mushrooms are edible fungi bearing a common scientific name “Agaricus”, having different names for different species. They are essentially Saprophytes, the organisms (plants without chlorophyll) which thrive by extracting nutrients from the dead and decaying plant and animal matters. They vary greatly in their color, texture, shape and properties.
The health benefits of mushroom include the following:
Cholesterol Levels: Mushrooms themselves provide you with lean proteins as they have zero cholesterol, fats and very low carbohydrates. The fiber and certain enzymes in them also help lower cholesterol level. Moreover, the high lean protein content in mushrooms helps burn cholesterol when they are digested.
Breast Cancer & Prostrate Cancer: Mushrooms are very effective in preventing cancer of breast and prostrate due to presence of Beta-Glucans and conjugated Linoleic Acid having anti carcinogenic effects. Out of these two, linoleic acid is particularly helpful in suppressing effects of estrogen. This estrogen is the prime reason for breast cancer in women after menopause.
The Beta-Glucans, on the other hand, inhibit growth of cancerous cells in cases of prostrate cancer. Selenium in mushrooms is very effective in inhibiting cancerous cells.
Diabetes: Mushrooms can be an ideal low energy diet for diabetics. They have no fats, no cholesterol, very low carbohydrates, high proteins, vitamins and minerals, a lot of water and fiber. Moreover, they contain natural insulin and enzymes which help breaking down of sugar or starch of the food. Again, they are known to contain certain compounds which help proper functioning of liver, pancreas and the other endocrinal glands, thereby promoting formation of insulin and its proper flow. Diabetics often suffer from infections, particularly in their limbs, which tend to continue for long. The natural antibiotics in mushrooms can help protect them from this dreaded situation too.
Immunity: Ergothioneine, a powerful anti oxidant present in mushrooms is very effective in giving protection from free radicals as well as boosting up immunity. Mushrooms contain natural antibiotics (similar to penicillin, which itself is extracted from mushrooms) which inhibit microbial and other fungal infections. They also help heal ulcers and ulcerous wounds and protect them from infections. A good combination of vitamins A, B-Complex and C, found in mushrooms also strengthens immune system.
Weight Loss: Would you believe me if I say that a totally lean protein diet is ideal for losing fat and building muscle mass? Perhaps no! But it is true. A lot of fats are burnt to digest (break-down) proteins in the food, more so when the protein is accompanied by a very low carbohydrate, zero fats and cholesterol and a good amount of fiber. This is exactly what mushrooms offer.
Other Benefits: Mushrooms are the only vegetable and the second known source (after cod liver oil) to contain vitamin-D in edible form. They are rich in calcium (good for bones), iron (benefits in anemia), potassium (very good for lowering blood pressure), copper (anti bacterial) and selenium (very good for health of bones, teeth, nails, hair and as an anti oxidant). The best source of selenium is animal proteins. So, mushrooms can be the best choice for vegetarians to obtain selenium[…]
This article by Aparup Mukherjee.