How Chaga Mushrooms Can Benefit Arthritis

Last Updated on November 8, 2022

Chaga is an amazing mushroom with powerful medicinal properties. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Russian medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments, including arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 in 4 US adults (23.7%) or about 58.5 million people have medically-diagnosed arthritis. Compared to those who are inadequately active or who satisfy physical activity recommendations, arthritis prevalence is highest among adults who report no leisure-time physical activity (23.6%).

The main active ingredient in chaga mushrooms is a compound called Beta-D-Glucan. This compound has powerful anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. It is able to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Beta-D-Glucan is also a potent antioxidant, helping to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. In this article we will explore how Chaga mushrooms can help inflammatory arthritis.

Chaga Mushroom

chaga mushroom texture

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.

Arthritis

arthritis x ray

Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues. Joints are places where bones come together, such as the knees, hips, or fingers. The ends of the bones are covered with a smooth tissue called cartilage. Cartilage allows the bones to move smoothly against each other.

When arthritis occurs, the cartilage breaks down and the bones rub against each other. This can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness. There are many different causes of arthritis. The most common cause is wear and tear on the joints from aging. Other causes include:

  • Injury to the joints
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Infections, such as tuberculosis or Lyme disease
  • Metabolic disorders, such as gout or pseudogout

Arthritis can affect people of all ages, but it is most common in adults over the age of 65. There are many different types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of arthritis

The most common symptom of arthritis is pain in the joints. This can range from a mild ache to severe pain that makes it hard to move. Other symptoms include:

  • Stiffness in the joints, especially in the morning or after sitting for a long time
  • Swelling in the joints
  • Redness or warmth in the joints
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Difficulty moving the joints through their full range of motion

Complications of arthritis

If left untreated, arthritis can lead to joint damage and disability. It can also cause other problems such as:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Problems sleeping
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Traditional treatments

There is no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatments that can help relieve the symptoms. The most common treatments are medication, physical therapy, and surgery.

Medications that are commonly used to treat arthritis include:

  • Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate
  • Biologic agents such as adalimumab or etanercept

Physical therapy can help improve joint function and relieve pain. Therapists may use exercises, massage, and other treatments to help reduce symptoms. Making lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing stress can also help relieve symptoms of arthritis.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair damage to the joints or to replace a joint that has been severely damaged by arthritis.

There are many complementary and alternative treatments that have been shown to be effective in treating arthritis. Some of these include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Exercise
  • Dietary supplements such as fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate
  • Medicinal mushrooms (as we will explain below!)

Chaga Mushroom In Treating Arthritis

Chaga mushroom is being used as an adjunct treatment for arthritis.

Triterpenoid Acids relieving inflammation in gout

The triterpenoid acids from Inonotus obliquus can alleviate hyperuricemia and inflammation in hyperuricemic mice, thus potentially providing benefits in crystal-induced arthritis like gout.

Studies have shown that the triterpenoid acids from Inonotus obliquus had a strong inhibitory effect on xanthine oxidase activity, an enzyme that plays a crucial role in the metabolism of uric acid.

In this 2022 Chinese study published in the Journal of food biochemistry, researchers measured biochemical markers in the blood of mice who had hyperuricemia and attempted to decipher the underlying xanthine oxidase inhibitory mechanism.

In vivo, the Chaga mushroom triterpenoid efficiently decreased uric acid levels, blood urea nitrogen activities, and levels of xanthine oxidase in the liver of hyperuricemic mice. This result suggests that the triterpenes isolated from Chaga mushroom may have an inhibitory effect on xanthine oxidase activity. Additionally, it also has the potential to relieve inflammation and ameliorate kidney damage in hyperuricemic mice. 

These findings proved that triterpenoids from Chaga mushrooms would have the potential biological characteristics to control hyperuricemia and gouty arthritis and be used as an active supplement.

Chaga to combat hyperuricemia

Similarly, another 2018 study, yet again from China, explored the actions of Inonotus obliquus against hyperuricemia. The alcoholic extract of Chaga mushroom suppressed xanthine oxidase activity in the blood and liver. It also down-regulated the transporters of uric acid in the kidney.

Furthermore, the extract did not show any toxic impact on the functions of the kidney and liver of the mouse.

Potent Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Inflammatory arthritis (IA) is joint inflammation caused by an overactive immune system. 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 (such as inflammatory arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, 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 Methods of Chaga for arthritis

chaga supplement powder

Chaga Dual Extracts

Dual extracts are the most common method of consumption of Chaga for inflammatory arthritis. Dual extracts are concentrated forms of the medicinal constituents that have been separated from the raw biomass. These are much more potent and bioavailable. 

Chaga Powdered Extracts 

Powdered extracts are the medicinal constituents in their most potent form. This is often the most effective way to consume Chaga. They are also convenient when added to other supplement blends or food items.

  • Dose for arthritis: Around 500-1000mg but you should consult the packaging or producer directly.

Chaga Capsules

Capsules are the second most common method of consumption of Chaga for arthritis. Capsules typically contain powdered extracts. They are convenient as the doses are pre-measured so there’s no guesswork involved. Also, they can be easily incorporated into existing routines.

  • Dose for arthritis: 1 to 2 pills a day or as indicated by the producer.

Chaga Tinctures 

These are  liquid extracts that most often contain a water extraction and alcohol extraction mixed into one.

  • Dose for arthritis: About 1-2 dropper fulls but consult with the product packaging or producer directly.

 

High quality Chaga supplements for treating arthritis

If you are considering taking Chaga to improve the inflammation associated with arthritis, it is important that you choose the best medicinal mushroom products from reputable producers that have a proven history and experience in treating inflammation:

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to feel the health benefits of Chaga for arthritis?

Most studies conducted on Chaga mushrooms and arthritis have not observed the short-term effects caused by the consumption of Chaga. Instead, scientists have looked at its effects when consumed over long periods of time, for a minimum of 6 weeks or longer. The effects of Chaga for inflammation are cumulative over an extended period of time and many people experience some benefits within the first three weeks of use. 

Can I take Chaga mushroom with my arthritis medication? 

There are many different types of arthritis medications such as NSAIDs, methotrexate, leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine. Chaga is generally safe to be taken with arthritis medication however, it is important that you consult with your doctor first, especially if you are pregnant or taking blood thinning medication.

Does raw Chaga tea help arthritis?

No, because tea made from raw chaga 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 in extracting the medicinal compounds known as triterpenes. These compounds are important for treating arthritis and are not consumed when someone makes a simple tea out of raw Chaga. Making tea using Chaga extract powder is much more beneficial.

Can I take Chaga with other medicinal mushrooms to help my arthritis?

Yes, many people take a combination of medicinal mushrooms such as Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Maitake, Reishi, Maitake and Turkey tail to assist with their arthritis symptoms.

Can I get addicted to Chaga?

No, Chaga is not addictive.  Unlike some pharmaceutical medicines, Chaga does not have any addictive qualities or any withdrawal effects upon cessation. You can stop taking a Chaga extract whenever you choose to, and you won’t experience any side effects or withdrawal symptoms. A negative effect you may experience is that the therapeutic benefits of Chaga in supporting your arthritis will diminish over time once you stop taking the medicinal mushroom.

Conclusion

Arthritis is a debilitating condition that can make everyday tasks excruciating. There is still much research to be done on the Chaga mushroom and its potential to treat arthritis, but it is strong evidence that Chaga is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which makes it an ideal natural treatment for inflammatory arthritis. If you are looking for an alternative or adjunct to traditional arthritis treatments, Chaga mushroom may help. 

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://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30340390/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34528276/ 
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19577624/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23561137
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29175507/
  12. 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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