Chaga Mushrooms as an Adjunct Treatment to Pancreatic Cancer

Last Updated on November 8, 2022

Some types of cancer are more difficult to treat than others. Pancreatic cancer is one of these types. According to The American Cancer Society, about 3% of cancer cases and 7% of cancer-related deaths in the US are caused by pancreatic cancer. The pancreas is a large gland that produces enzymes that help with digestion. It also produces hormones, such as insulin, that help regulate blood sugar levels. Chaga mushroom has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and there are a few small studies that suggest it may be helpful in treating pancreatic cancer.

What Is Chaga Mushroom?

Chaga mushrooms, Inonotus obliquus, are a type of medicinal mushroom that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Russian medicine. These mushrooms are typically found growing on birch trees in cold, northern climates such as Russia, Siberia, Canada, Alaska, and many Circumboreal cultures. Chaga is produced by a fungus called Inonotus obliquus which parasitizes mostly on Birch trees. Although rare, Chaga has been reported from Alder, Beech, and Maple amongst others. It is estimated that Chaga only grows on less than 0.1% of Birch trees.

Health benefits of Chaga

Chaga mushrooms traditionally used for many different purposes, including digestive issues, cancer, viral infections, and skin problems. Today it has become popularized for its high antioxidant content, immuno-modulatory effects, and the potential treatment/prevention of cancer. Studies also suggest it could help with diabetes and other chronic health conditions. The main health benefits of Chaga include:

  • Improve Immune Function
  • Antiviral Properties
  • Anti-Cancer Potential
  • May Help With Diabetes
  • May Improve Brain Health
  • May Improve Gut Health
  • (Source of studies)

Active compounds

  • Betulin is a triterpene that also occurs within the bark of Birch, Chagas host tree. It has been shown to have various anti-cancer properties. 
  • Betulinic Acid is a triterpenoid derived from Betulin that is produced by the Chaga fungus. It has been shown to have a number of properties including being anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and a good source of antioxidants.
  • Lupeol is another compound that originates from the Birch shown to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

pancreatic cancer

pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that usually starts in the cells that line the ducts of the pancreas. These cells are called exocrine cells. Pancreatic cancer can also start in the cells that make up the islets of Langerhans, which are clusters of cells in the pancreas that make hormones like insulin.

Pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive form of cancer. It is often caught at a late stage, when it has already spread to other organs in the body. This makes it difficult to treat. 

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer

The symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be hard to spot in the early stages. This is because the pancreas is deep inside the body and symptoms often do not appear until the cancer has grown and spread.

Common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Pain in the abdomen or back
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression

Complications of pancreatic cancer

Complications of pancreatic cancer can include:

  • Pain
  • Jaundice
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Pancreatitis ( inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Liver damage
  • kidney damage
  • difficulty breathing

Pancreatic cancer can also spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, and brain. This makes it difficult to treat.

Traditional treatments for pancreatic cancer

The most common treatment for pancreatic cancer is surgery. During surgery, the surgeon will remove part or all of the pancreas. The stomach, small intestine, and other nearby organs may also be removed.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be used to treat pancreatic cancer. These treatments can help kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Studies on Chaga Mushrooms to treat pancreatic cancer

Chaga mushroom is being used as an adjunct alternative treatment for pancreatic cancer.

The betulinic acid and betulin, found in Chaga mushroom have cytotoxic effects (which means they can kill cancer cells), according to this 2009 report.  Here, researchers compared the cytotoxic activity of betulin and betulinic acid towards human pancreatic carcinoma cells that were either drug-sensitive or resistant to treatment with daunorubicin and mitoxantrone.

The results suggest that both the naturally occurring triterpenes in Chaga can be considered promising compounds in the treatment of cancer, including that of the pancreas.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Chaga 

Inflammatory processes have emerged as key mediators of pancreatic cancer development and progression. Pancreatic cells display an adaptive response to repeated inflammatory episodes that initially protects against tissue damage but can promote tumor formation.
Several studies have demonstrated the strong anti-inflammatory activity of Chaga mushrooms.

Chaga Anti-inflammatory Study #1

In a 2005 South Korean study, the in vivo and in vitro anti-inflammatory effects of the methanol extract of Inonotus obliquus (Chaga) were evaluated. 100 or 200 mg/kg/day of the alcoholic extract of the Chaga mushroom reduced paw swelling in rats as well as pain-relieving effects. The Chaga mushroom extract was found to significantly inhibit the production of nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in the cells. These chemicals are key mediators of inflammation.

The data from the study indicates that the Chaga mushroom has noteworthy anti-inflammatory properties.

Chaga Anti-inflammatory Study #2

Likewise, the anti-inflammatory effects of the Inonotus obliquus were assessed in 2009, where the results demonstrate that the extracts obtained from the mushroom possess anti-inflammatory properties when tested in vitro.

Chaga Anti-inflammatory Study #3

Ergosterol, ergosterol peroxide and trametenolic acid isolated from Chaga mushroom showed anti-inflammatory activities in another study from 2013.

Chaga Anti-inflammatory Study #4

Our bodies comprise specific cells known as mast cells that dilate the blood vessels and make them leaky, contributing to the redness and swelling seen in many inflammatory conditions.

Mast cells are capable of releasing pre-packaged inflammatory mediators from intracellular stores and many inflammatory conditions and diseases (like Pancreatitis, Chronic Kidney Disease, inflammatory arthritis, multiple sclerosis, sepsis, atherosclerosis, obesity, and diabetes) are linked with these cells.

Studies have demonstrated a direct link between mast cell activation and Chaga mushrooms. A 70% ethanol extract of Chaga mushroom has shown significant mast cell stabilizing activity.

Chaga Anti-inflammatory Study #4

Likewise, the anti-inflammatory activity of Chaga was observed in a study from 2019, wherein authors reported that the mushroom attenuated inflammation induced by histamine. This is one of the most potent inflammatory agents that is released from mast cells.

This was an in-vitro study where cells from the mouse were incubated with the extracts of Chaga mushroom. The anti-inflammatory potential of Inonotus obliquus was analyzed by assessing histamine-induced TNF-α production (a potent pro-inflammatory protein molecule).

Results demonstrated that the extracts of Chaga significantly inhibited histamine-induced TNF-α production by > 90%, indicating its strong potential in treating inflammation.

Consumption Method of Chaga for pancreatic cancer

Extracts

Extracts are the most common method of consumption of Chaga for pancreatic cancer. Extracts are concentrated forms of the medicinal constituents that have been separated from the raw biomass.  These are much more potent and completely bioavailable and available in powder or capsule form.

If you are considering taking Chaga as an adjunct treatment for pancreatic cancer, it is important that you choose the best Chaga supplements from reputable producers in the United States, Australia, and Canada that have a proven history and experience in medically treating illnesses. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I take Chaga mushroom with my pancreatic cancer medication? 

There are many different types of pancreatic cancer medications such as:

  • Abraxane (Paclitaxel Albumin-stabilized Nanoparticle Formulation)
  • Afinitor (Everolimus)
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • Everolimus
  • 5-FU (Fluorouracil Injection)
  • Fluorouracil Injection
  • Gemcitabine Hydrochloride
  • Gemzar (Gemcitabine Hydrochloride)
  • Infugem (Gemcitabine Hydrochloride)
  • Irinotecan Hydrochloride Liposome
  • Lynparza (Olaparib)
  • Mitomycin
  • Olaparib
  • Onivyde (Irinotecan Hydrochloride Liposome)
  • Paclitaxel Albumin-stabilized Nanoparticle Formulation
  • Sunitinib Malate
  • Sutent (Sunitinib Malate)
  • Tarceva (Erlotinib Hydrochloride)

Chaga is generally safe to be taken with pancreatic cancer medication however, it is important that you consult with your doctor first. If you are pregnant or on blood thinning medication, please consult with your doctor. 

Is drinking chaga tea the best way to get the health benefits for the pancreas?

No, because tea will only extract the water soluble compounds. If you use raw chaga to make a hot tea, you will only get the benefits of water-soluble chaga compounds. The alcohol component used in a dual extracted Chaga supplement is important for the extraction process in Chaga because it extracts the medicinal compounds known as triterpenes. These compounds are important for treating pancreatic issues and are not consumed when someone makes a simple tea out of raw Chaga. The Chaga tea you should be drinking should contain Chaga extract powder.

Can I take Chaga with other medicinal mushrooms to improve pancreas health?

Yes. Many people take a combination of medicinal mushrooms such as Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Maitake, Reishi, Maitake and Turkey tail to improve their pancreas health.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the chaga mushroom is a powerful natural remedy that has shown promise in cytotoxic cells’ ability to kill cancer skills, including pancreatic cancer. Though more research is needed to learn its efficacy, the available evidence suggests that these mushrooms could be a promising option for those seeking an alternative treatment for this disease. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, be sure to discuss the possibility of using Chaga with your doctor.

References

  1. Improve Immune Function
  2. Antiviral Properties
  3. Anti-Cancer Potential
  4. May Help With Diabetes
  5. May Improve Brain Health
  6. May Improve Gut Health
  7. https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/14/4/1639
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6373214/#:~:text=Pancreatic%20cancer%20is%20a%20devastating,pancreatic%20cancer%20development%20and%20progression.
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15905055/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19577624/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23561137
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29175507/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6706056/

Author

  • Dr. Sony Sherpa has a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from the Guangzhou Medical University and has been studying medicinal mushrooms for more than 7 years. Her knowledge of medicinal mushrooms is backed by a master's degree in Holistic Medicine and contributes to many health articles around the health benefits of medicinal mushrooms.

We are not a traditional society or club. World Mushroom Society is a collective of fungi enthusiasts and health advocates, sharing information and identifying top producers of high quality medicinal mushroom supplements.

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DISCLAIMER

DISCLAIMER
The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information found here is not meant as a substitute for, or alternative to, information from your doctor for ongoing medical treatment you currently receive. If unsure, please consult with your doctor before using medicinal mushrooms. Any content related to cancer should not be considered as prescriptive medical advice and should not be a substitute for any cancer treatment, unless advised by your doctor first. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by TGA and FDA-approved research. If you are pregnant or on prescription drugs that thin the blood, consult with your medical professional before using medicinal mushrooms.
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