Chaga: The Next Big Thing?
Since I am a super fun guy, I want to talk about another super fungi: The Chaga mushroom. I’ve grown accustomed to hearing about the latest and greatest natural “cure” for psoriasis. Over the years I have wasted hope and money on many of these acclaimed miracles.
I have become quite a bitter skeptic when it comes to any proposed treatment for my disease. As you can imagine, when I first heard that there was a fungus that could alleviate my symptoms, I was understandably unconvinced.
I always order mushrooms on my pizza, so I thought I might as well research Chaga to see what the hype was about. My curiosity grew when I saw an advertisement on Amazon for some Chaga coffee. It looked like this was going to be the next Acai berry. Much to my surprise, what I found in my research was actually encouraging.
So, what are Chaga mushrooms anyway?
Well, if you are into sounding super smart, the scientific name for Chaga is Inonotus Obliquus. Psoriasis is a hard enough word for most people to pronounce, so I am going to stick with just “Chaga” since I am not worried about sounding smarter than I am.
Basically, it is a parasitic mushroom that hangs out on birch trees in the colder climates of the Northern Hemisphere. If the thought of a parasitic fungus doesn’t get you salivating already, the look of this thing probably won’t help either. It looks like a giant burnt marshmallow stuck on the side of a tree.
Ok, I know I am not giving a good first impression of Chaga so far, but stick with me. According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, this ugly mushroom has a wide variety of health benefits. Chaga has been used in teas in other parts of the world for centuries and has been shown to have antiviral, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and immune-stimulating properties1.
It all comes back to the immune system
This all is starting to sound a lot better, huh? Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease that causes systemic inflammation, so a natural approach to reducing inflammation and stimulating the immune system sounds like the golden ticket!
Unfortunately, there is a lack of human studies looking at Chaga, but I did find some really interesting animal studies done that show a lot of promise backing up the rumored benefits of the extract taken from Chaga. In one study, mice with intestinal inflammation were given Chaga extract.
What they found: The mice introduced to the Chaga had suppressed edema, mucosal damage, and the loss of crypt [epithelium]2. What was even more interesting is that they found it also suppressed TNF-alpha, which is a big player in psoriasis.
This same phenomenon was observed in many other studies I read. Whether the researchers were looking at cancer treatments or colitis, the suppression of TNF-alpha was observed3, 4. This is fascinating! I hope we will see large scale human studies in the future that explore this even further.
It's important to talk to your doctor
It is always exciting to hear of a natural remedy that may help alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis. After all, prescription medications can be expensive and come with the possibility of side effects.
Even with natural supplements and therapies, you should always consult your doctor. Chaga has been shown to have the potential to cause increased bleeding and/or hyperglycemia when taken with certain anticoagulant and diabetic medications5.
Thankfully I am in a period of remission from my symptoms, but Chaga is on the top of my list to talk to my doctor about in the event of my next flare. Psoriasis is such a crafty disease, so it is helpful to have an arsenal of traditional and homeopathic therapies available in the holster.
Does your psoriasis skin feel out of control? How are you managing?