Chaga Mushroom

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More

Chaga Mushroom

Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More
Chaga Mushroom

Common Names

  • Cinder conk
  • Birch conk
  • Clinker polypore

For Patients & Caregivers

Tell your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you’re taking, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural or home remedies. This will help them manage your care and keep you safe.

What is it?

Chaga mushroom is a type of fungus that’s commonly found on birch trees in cold climates. It’s used in folk medicine for various ailments across northern Europe. Chaga mushrooms are edible but because of their bitter taste, most people drink chaga mushroom as a tea.

Chaga mushroom supplements come as tablets, capsules, or powders.

What are the potential uses and benefits?

Chaga mushroom is used to:

  • Boost the immune system
  • Reduce inflammation (swelling)

Chaga also has other uses that haven’t been studied by doctors to see if they work.

It’s generally safe to eat chaga mushroom and drink it as a tea. But talk with your healthcare providers before taking chaga supplements. Herbal supplements are stronger than the herbs you would use in cooking. They can also interact with some medications and affect how they work. For more information, read the “What else do I need to know?” section below.

What are the side effects?
  • There aren’t any reports of side effects from using chaga mushroom.
What else do I need to know?
  • Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®). Chaga mushroom may increase your risk of bleeding.

For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name
Inonotus obliquus
Clinical Summary

Chaga mushroom is commonly found on birch trees in cold climates. It is used as a folk remedy in Russia and other northern European countries to treat various ailments and diseases including cancer. The conk that is used medicinally comprises wood from the substrate tree and mycelium of the invasive fungus (12).

In preclinical studies, chaga showed antitumor (12) (13), anti-mutagenic (9), antiviral (14), antiplatelet (2), antidiabetic (15), antioxidant (8), analgesic (3), immunomodulating (16), anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving (3) (19), anti-allergic (17), cognition-enhancing, and antioxidant effects (18). Oral administration of polysaccharides from chaga increased exercise endurance and biological measures related to fatigue (20) and may also have antidiabetic effects (4) (27).

In addition, chaga extracts and its constituents showed inhibitory and pro-apoptotic effects against colon (5) (21) (22), lung (28) and liver cancer (1) cells, and the active constituent Inotodiol exhibited antitumor activity against cervical cancer cells (23). Chaga has also been shown to induce selective apoptosis in tumor cells without impacting healthy cells (1), and inhibited melanoma in a murine model (7).

But the safety and efficacy of chaga have yet to be evaluated in clinical studies. Because natural reserves of this fungus have nearly been exhausted, scientists are seeking to develop cultivated substitutes of wild chaga (4) (25).

Food Sources

Although chaga is an edible fungus, it is not commonly ingested due to its bitter nature. Instead, tea made from the whole mushroom is consumed.

Purported Uses and Benefits
  • Inflammation
  • Hepatoprotection
  • Immunostimulation
Mechanism of Action

Oxalic, gallic, protocatechuic and p-hydroxybenzoic acids have been identified in chaga extracts (12). In vitro, antidiabetic effects are attributed to terpenoids that inhibit alpha-glucosidase (15). Anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties may occur via inhibition of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) (3). Immunomodulating effects are attributed to Th1/Th2 cytokine secretion in immune cells and regulation of antigen-specific antibody production (16). Anti-quorum sensing activity in chaga conks suggests broader anti-infection attributes beyond immunomodulatory effects (12).

In animal studies, a methanolic extract of chaga produced beneficial effects on learning and memory via decreased malondialdehyde and nitrite levels, decreased acetylcholinesterase activity, and restored glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and acetylcholine levels (18). Antifatigue effects were attributed to polysaccharides from chaga, which increased endurance and glycogen content of liver and muscle in mice, while decreasing blood lactic acid and serum urea nitrogen levels (20). Anti-inflammatory effects in animal colitis models were related to suppression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, iNOS, and interleukin (IL)-1beta (19).

3beta-hydroxy-lanosta-8, 24-dien-21-al, and inotodiol constituents in chaga produce antimutagenic and antioxidative activities (9). Water-soluble lignin derivatives have also been identified as bioactive constituents with anticancer properties (26). A hot-water extract of chaga exhibited inhibitory and proapoptotic actions against colon cancer cells via upregulation of Bax and caspase-3 and downregulation of Bcl-2 (5). Inhibition of colorectal cancer was exerted by the constituent ergosterol via downregulation of the beta-catenin pathway (21). Inotodiol, a triterpenoid isolated from chaga, inhibited proliferation of cervical cancer cells and induced apoptosis in vitro via increased Bax expression, decreased Bcl-2, cyclin E downregulation, and p27 up-regulation (23). Aqueous extracts of chaga inhibited growth of human hepatoma cells via G0/G1 phase cell-cycle arrest and selective apoptotic induction (1). Other apoptotic characteristics can induce caspase cleavage and nuclear fragmentation (7).

Adverse Reactions
  • Oxalate nephropathy: In a 72-year-old woman with liver cancer after ingesting chaga mushroom powder (4-5 teaspoons daily for 6 months). Hemodialysis was required but renal function did not recover (24). In a 69-year-old man after consuming chaga mushroom powder (10-15 g per day) and vitamin C (500 mg per day) for 3 months. Kidney function improved after hemodialysis and high-dose steroids (30).
  • End stage renal disease: In a 49-year-old man following long-term consumption of chaga mushroom for atopic dermatitis. Hemodialysis was required but renal function did not recover (29).
Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs: Chaga extract inhibited platelet aggregation in a murine model (2). It may also have synergistic effects when used with anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs, but clinical relevance is not known.
  • Hypoglycemic agents: In vitro, chaga had additive effects in lowering blood sugar levels (15). Clinical significance is yet unknown.
Dosage (OneMSK Only)
  1. Youn MJ, Kim JK, Park SY, et al. Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) induces G0/G1 arrest and apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells. World J Gastroenterol. Jan 28 2008;14(4):511-517.
  2. Hyun KW, Jeong SC, Lee DH, Park JS, Lee JS. Isolation and characterization of a novel platelet aggregation inhibitory peptide from the medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus. Peptides. Jun 2006;27(6):1173-1178.
  3. Park YM, Won JH, Kim YH, et al. In vivo and in vitro anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of the methanol extract of Inonotus obliquus. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct 3 2005;101(1-3):120-128.
  4. Sun JE, Ao ZH, Lu ZM, et al. Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Jun 19 2008;118(1):7-13.
  5. Lee SH, Hwang HS, Yun JW. Antitumor activity of water extract of a mushroom, Inonotus obliquus, against HT-29 human colon cancer cells. Phytother Res. Apr 15 2009.
  6. Zhong XH, Ren K, Lu SJ, Yang SY, Sun DZ. Progress of research on Inonotus obliquus. Chin J Integr Med. Apr 2009;15(2):156-160.
  7. Youn MJ, Kim JK, Park SY, et al. Potential anticancer properties of the water extract of Inonotus [corrected] obliquus by induction of apoptosis in melanoma B16-F10 cells. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan 21 2009;121(2):221-228.
  8. Najafzadeh M, Reynolds PD, Baumgartner A, Jerwood D, Anderson D. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Biofactors. 2007;31(3-4):191-200.
  9. Ham SS, Kim SH, Moon SY, et al. Antimutagenic effects of subfractions of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract. Mutat Res. Jan 10 2009;672(1):55-59.
  10. Caifa Chen WZ, Gao X, Xiang X, et al. Aqueous Extract of Inonotus obliquus (Fr.) Pilat (Hymenochaetaceae) Significantly Inhibits the Growth of Sarcoma 180 by Inducing Apoptosis. Am J Pharmacol Toxicol. 2007. 2(1):10-17.
  11. Shashkina MY, Shashkin PN, Sergeev AV. Chemical and Medicobiological Properties of Chaga (Review). Pharmaceutical Chemistry Journal 2006. 40(10):560-568.
  12. Glamoclija J, Ciric A, Nikolic M, et al. Chemical characterization and biological activity of Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a medicinal “mushroom”. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar 13 2015;162:323-332.
  13. Ning X, Luo Q, Li C, et al. Inhibitory effects of a polysaccharide extract from the Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (higher Basidiomycetes), on the proliferation of human neurogliocytoma cells. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2014;16(1):29-36.
  14. Pan HH, Yu XT, Li T, et al. Aqueous extract from a Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (higher Basidiomycetes), prevents herpes simplex virus entry through inhibition of viral-induced membrane fusion. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(1):29-38.
  15. Ying YM, Zhang LY, Zhang X, et al. Terpenoids with alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity from the submerged culture of Inonotus obliquus. Phytochemistry. Dec 2014;108:171-176.
  16. Ko SK, Jin M, Pyo MY. Inonotus obliquus extracts suppress antigen-specific IgE production through the modulation of Th1/Th2 cytokines in ovalbumin-sensitized mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct 11 2011;137(3):1077-1082.
  17. Yoon TJ, Lee SJ, Kim EY, et al. Inhibitory effect of chaga mushroom extract on compound 48/80-induced anaphylactic shock and IgE production in mice. Int Immunopharmacol. Apr 2013;15(4):666-670.
  18. Giridharan VV, Thandavarayan RA, Konishi T. Amelioration of scopolamine induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress by Inonotus obliquus - a medicinal mushroom. Food Funct. Jun 2011;2(6):320-327.
  19. Mishra SK, Kang JH, Kim DK, et al. Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus ameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Sep 28 2012;143(2):524-532.
  20. Yue Z, Xiuhong Z, Shuyan Y, et al. Effect of Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on physical fatigue in mice. J Tradit Chin Med. Aug 2015;35(4):468-472.
  21. Kang JH, Jang JE, Mishra SK, et al. Ergosterol peroxide from Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) exhibits anti-cancer activity by down-regulation of the beta-catenin pathway in colorectal cancer. J Ethnopharmacol. Sep 15 2015;173:303-312.
  22. Lee HS, Kim EJ, Kim SH. Ethanol extract of Innotus obliquus (Chaga mushroom) induces G1 cell cycle arrest in HT-29 human colon cancer cells. Nutr Res Pract. Apr 2015;9(2):111-116.
  23. Zhao LW, Zhong XH, Yang SY, et al. Inotodiol inhabits proliferation and induces apoptosis through modulating expression of cyclinE, p27, bcl-2, and bax in human cervical cancer HeLa cells. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(7):3195-3199.
  24. Kikuchi Y, Seta K, Ogawa Y, et al. Chaga mushroom-induced oxalate nephropathy. Clin Nephrol. Jun 2014;81(6):440-444.
  25. Sun Y, Yin T, Chen XH, et al. In vitro antitumor activity and structure characterization of ethanol extracts from wild and cultivated Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.) Pilat (Aphyllophoromycetideae). Int J Med Mushrooms. 2011;13(2):121-130.
  26. Wang Q, Mu H, Zhang L, et al. Characterization of two water-soluble lignin metabolites with antiproliferative activities from Inonotus obliquus. Int J Biol Macromol. Mar 2015;74:507-514.
  27. Wang J, Hu W, Li L, et al. Antidiabetic activities of polysaccharides separated from Inonotus obliquus via the modulation of oxidative stress in mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes. PLoS One. 2017;12(6):e0180476. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180476
  28. Baek J, Roh HS, Baek KH, et al. Bioactivity-based analysis and chemical characterization of cytotoxic constituents from Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) that induce apoptosis in human lung adenocarcinoma cells. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct 5 2018;224:63-75.
  29. Lee S, Lee HY, Park Y, et al. Development of End Stage Renal Disease after Long-Term Ingestion of Chaga Mushroom: Case Report and Review of Literature. J Korean Med Sci. 2020 May 18;35(19):e122.
  30. Kwon O, Kim Y, Paek JH, et al. Chaga mushroom-induced oxalate nephropathy that clinically manifested as nephrotic syndrome: A case report. Medicine (Baltimore). 2022 Mar 11;101(10):e28997.
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