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4 Reasons to Protect Your Liver with this Medicinal Mushroom

Discover how chaga, a little-known treasure from Siberia, can help protect and support your liver.

Your liver is an organ worthy of protection. Many people automatically think of the heart or kidneys as one of our most precious organs, but the importance of the liver should not be underestimated.

Those with a liver ailment are likely aware of the liver’s far-reaching implications to our well being. However, those with a healthy liver may never even consider the need to take care of their liver’s health.

Some of the best strategies for maintaining liver health include:

  • alcohol and toxin avoidance
  • healthy food consumption
  • regular physical activity
  • taking supplements that increase liver cell resistance to injury

Falling somewhere between a healthy food and a supplement, chaga is a medicinal mushroom steadily gaining recognition for its ability to support your liver.

What Does Your Liver Do?

We cannot live without a functioning liver. One of your liver’s main responsibilities is to filter the blood before it is disseminated throughout your entire body.

A handful of other jobs performed by your liver include:

  • detoxifying the blood from chemicals.
  • metabolizing drugs.
  • metabolizing carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins into biologically useful materials.
  • secreting bile to digest fat.
  • making proteins needed for blood clotting.
  • manufacturing cholesterol and triglycerides, and over 10,000 enzymes.
  • transforming glucose into glycogen – and storing glycogen for when an energy boost is needed.
  • helping regulate blood sugar.

If modern medicine discovered a substance that aided your liver’s ability to function optimally by helping to prevent liver cancer, reduce inflammation in your liver, deflect against liver viruses, and stimulate your body’s immune response, it would certainly become a standard therapy for those with a liver condition.

Although no drug currently fulfills these needs, a substance occurring in nature does.

Traditional medicines in certain areas of the world recognize chaga as a means to protect liver health, and modern researchers seem to be in agreement. Chaga is a type of fungus that grows on birch trees in Siberia and other cold regions (like Alaska and Northern Canada), and appears to offer all of these benefits.

Learn More About Chaga

Chaga is one stage in the life cycle of Inonotus obliquus, a polypore mushroom that usually parasitizes birch and beech trees but may also be found on alder, chestnut, and hornbeam trees.

This fungus differs from true mushrooms in its appearance. Chaga:

  • has a tough exterior resembling burnt charcoal with a rust colored interior.
  • can weigh up to 30 pounds.
  • can grow up to 12 inches in diameter.
  • can help a sick birch tree remain healthy and grow.

Indigenous Siberians grounded chaga down and added it to their stews and soups to boost endurance and stave off degenerative diseases. Interestingly, Inuit Siberians had significantly greater life spans than Inuit from regions where they did not use chaga.

4 Ways Chaga Benefits Your Liver

The health benefits of chaga constitute a long list, but several apply specifically to those with liver concerns.

  1. Anti-cancer – One of the reasons that those with chronic liver disease must be proactive in maintaining liver health is to prevent injured liver cells from becoming cancerous. Research has demonstrated chaga to inhibit tumor growth and spread. Experts believe this property is due to chaga’s triterpene compounds, which cause tumor cells to self-destruct (apoptosis). Chaga appears to be ideal for this purpose as it induces apoptosis in old or dysfunctional cells without having any effect on nearby normal cells.
  2. Antioxidant – An overabundance of free radicals is a major factor in the development of severe liver disease. Antioxidants that reduce inflammation by neutralizing free radicals are one of the best-known routes to prevent this fate. A potent antioxidant, superoxide dismutase (SOD) is present in chaga in substantial quantities. According to the ORAC scale (a scale which measures the ability of food to deal with oxidative stress and absorb free radical damage), chaga has the highest ORAC rating, containing up to 50 times more SOD enzymes than fruit juices, leafy greens, truffles and seaweed. Chaga’s high antioxidant content helps protect liver cells from free radical damage.
  3. Anti-inflammatory – Several compounds in chaga – such as betulinic acid and inotodiol – help reduce inflammation within your body. Inflammation in your liver perpetuates cell damage, which can eventually lead to the permanent hardening and scarring of liver tissue. Chaga has been shown to inhibit the production of cytokines, especially tumor necrosis factor alpha. Tumor necrosis factor alpha is a prime culprit in inflammation and is implicated in the liver inflammation cycle.
  4. Immune Booster – Chaga is considered to be an adaptogen, meaning that it adapts to your body and provides what is needed. Adaptogens are often advised for those with immune system challenges. Any anomaly of the liver will inevitably cause impairment or weakening of the immune system. One of chaga’s most well-known and studied components is a type of polysaccharide called beta glucans –which can aid your immune system by activating white macrophage blood cells to destroy foreign substances in our bodies and stimulating natural killer cells and T-cells to fight infection. Did you know that several studies point towards natural killer cells as the key to their Hepatitis C protection? Learn more.

The evidence pointing to chaga’s ability to accomplish this is exciting and should be taken seriously. Because chaga may help prevent liver cancer, minimize liver inflammation, prevent liver cell damage, and support your liver’s ability to defend against infection, this fungus is rightfully gaining acceptance into the liver health community., Chaga Mushroom Benefits: The Facts, Retrieved January 2018, Chaga HQ, 2018., 10 Proven Benefits of Chaga, Marc Seward, Retrieved January 14, 2018, Healthy Focus, LLC, 2018., 5 Reasons Why You Should Eat Chaga Mushroom, Retrieved January 28, 2018, Four Sigmatic, 2018., Chaga, the Clinker Fungus: This Mushroom Looks Scary But Can Benefit Health, Paul Stamets, Retrieved January 14, 2018, Oath, Inc., 2018., Anatomy and Function of the Liver, Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Retrieved January 28, 2018, MedicineNet, Inc., 2018., Hepatoprotective Activity of Water Extracts from Chaga Medicinal Mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Higher Basidiomycetes) Against Tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide-Induced Oxidative Liver Injury in Primary Cultured Rat Hepatocytes, Hong KG, et al, Retrieved January 14, 2018, International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 2015.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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