Chaga and Ganoderma/Reishi - Usages and Cautions
Natural Sources Provide Potent Medicines
Chaga and Ganoderma (Reishi) are only two of many natural substances that have been shown to be a source of potential medicinal benefits. Even though many medicines, once only derived from natural sources can now be duplicated in labs, there are still many that cannot. This is one of many reasons that we should cherish and protect our natural resources such as our forests. Once certain habitats necessary for the growth and harvesting of many natural medicines are gone, the potential cures from these lost sources are gone forever until we find another way to find a cure. Precious time and lives are lost which can never be reclaimed.
As I mentioned in other articles, our FDA is so overwhelmed with the influx of new prescription drugs that they have little time to monitor the use of herbs and other "natural" medicines. Slowly but surely, independent labs are experimenting and studying "old wives tales/cures". This experimentation and exploration has resulted in many important medicines. Let's look at two: a fungus and a mushroom. Grandma and the 'old wife' knew better than many scientists and learned professions. We "professionals" just had to listen and learn. The best way to approach any herb, vitamin and prescription med is with an open mind and enough knowledge.
Potential Benefits of Chaga and Ganoderma
As with all herbals and "natural medicines", many of the attributes given to these increasingly popular substances are not absolutely proven or substantiated. Having said this, the voices and claims of many who have tried it and report their experiences does carry a lot of weight. The claims carry weight with me because of the sheer number and that the vast majority of these claims are from sources that have no financial goals attached to their claims.
Let's look at some of the POTENTIAL benefits:
1) Very effective anti-tumor properties
3) Strong anti-oxidant protection
6) Lots of beta-glucans, saponins, amino acids, minerals and botulin.
7) Regulate blood pressure
8) Regulate glucose levels
9) Contains melanin
10) Works on digestive problems
12) Reduces fatigue
13) Improves mental sharpness
14) Improves sleep
15) Improves metabolism
16) Promotes cellular health
17) Positive effect on the CNS, benefitting things such as neuropathies
18) Ulcers due to the bacteria H. Pylori. Here is where it's ability to fight infection that it helps with ulcers.
19) Lowers cholesterol by breaking up LDL
20) Longevity- of course if one is basically healthier due to better immune response and the ability to fight cancers, infections, etc., one would expect the quality and length of one one's lifeline to improve.
21) Bronchitis and Asthma
22) Stress relief
23) Herpes reduction
24) Altitude sickness
25) Kidney and Liver disease(s)
26) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Many of these things are inter-related and therefore one claim gives some credence to another claim. In other words, if one claim is true then one would see a benefit in another area. For example, Chaga and Ganoderma contain beta-glucans which boost the immune system which helps fight certain viral and bacterial infections. Keeping this in mind, many gastric ulcers are actually caused by a bacteria in the stomach called H. Pylori. If the immune boosting aspect is as beneficial as claimed, then one would expect to see an improvement in the ulcers caused by H. Pylori. Preliminary studies support this. Hence, one benefit supports and lends credence to another. This is what one expects and sees in independent studies. As I learned with intense lab work in college, even the most complex studies are based in common sense. I will focus on what is best known about Chaga and Ganoderma in respect to their biochemistries.
1) They contain what are known as beta-glucans. They have immunomodulating activities. They bind to the complement receptor-3 sites of cancer sells which allow immune cells to "see" cancer cells as "non-self". In other words, now the cancer cells are correctly seen as cells 'not supposed to be there' and therefore subject to attack and removal by the immune system. It is a fact that a cancer cell's ability to grow unchecked is from it's ability to fool the immune system that is is supposed to be there. Beta-glucans help remove this 'mask' that cancer cells utilize. It is this same process that allows beta-glucans to theoretically fight diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis among many other immunocompressing disease states. It is claimed the Betaculinic Acid, a beta-glucan derivative, that acts as a chemotherapeutic agent. This is not proven but it is a theory with much merit.
2) They contain Superoxide Dismutase - SOD - which counteracts the superoxides which are one of the most damaging free radicals in the human body. These superoxides, among other factors, are what help speed-up the aging process. Melanin which is in huge amounts in Chaga is an important part of the skin, eyes and parts of the brain. Melanin is known to be important protective features in these areas and therefore helpful in these areas.
3) They are also thought to inhibit intrinsic-oxide synthase and COX-2 which are crucial in the inflammation and pain process. It only makes sense that if this inhibition is strong enough, inflammatory diseases such as Crohns Disease, irritable bowl disease, arthritis, neuropathies and many etc., that they would be beneficial to many inflammatory disease processes.
As Chaga and Reishi have been shown to be effective lowering blood pressure, increase insulin and therefore lower glucose levels, one must be cautious that it does not lower blood pressure and glucose levels too much. Chaga has also shown to be an effective anti-coagulant and therefore potential increases in bleeding times should be monitored. Dry mouth and sore throat have also been attributed to Chaga.
It is not my position to promote- or 'demote'- the use of Chaga and Reishi. Though the study of Chaga and Reishi is still in its infancy in the US, they have been widely studied in other countries such as Russia and many of its proposed benefits have a great deal of credence due to it's usage and research there. Chaga in particular has been used to treat many cancers such as breast and colon in Russia since 1955 with some success.
As with any medicine be it RX or OTC, one should always work with a medical professional for guidance and help. There was a great deal of additional info I discovered but I felt it more important to focus on those that have had the most support with credible studies.
Chaga and Ganoderma (Reishi) are only two of many natural substances that have been shown to be a source of potential medicinal benefits. Even though many medicines, once only derived from natural sources can now be duplicated in labs, there are still many that cannot. This is one of many reasons that we should cherish and protect our natural resources such as our forests. Once certain habitats necessary for the growth and harvesting of many natural medicines are gone, the potential cures from these lost sources are gone forever until we find another way to find a cure. Precious time and lives are lost which can never be recouped. for example, Chaga mainly grows only on birch trees therefore birch trees should be protected from deforestation and disease.
Reishi/Ganoderma and Chaga have been used for thousands of years. No, our ancient ancestors did not have the lab expertise we have today but their observations of cause and effect were as acute and sharp as ours. They could observe the effect, positive and negative, of the application or ingestion of substances. Pity the poor "test studies" when poisons were being tested.
Ganoderma is also associated with longevity, more so than Chaga. Both are in their infancy in the US as far as qualifying research goes but as with many herbs and natural sources, it has been studied more intensely and extensively in Europe and Asia. Therefore, much of what we know is based on those studies.
Many of the chemicals in Reishi are the same as those in Chaga hence there similar spectrum of activity. Of course with research on both Chaga and Reishi in it's infancy, but growing, more chemicals such as beneficial enzymes are coming to light and their purpose(s) becoming known.
Both substances should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding, not because ill effects have been documented but because little to no knowledge in this area has been studied. Better to stay on the safe side of caution until more is known. Reishi has also been known to cause increased bleeding times so those on drugs like warfarin or aspirin or have disease states such as thrombocytopenia need to be cautious.
Be cautious of anyone making extreme claims regarding it's positive or negative effects. Not enough is known to make many absolute claims. However, I personally feel that there is enough evidence to support cautious usage of both entities. As with any substance you put into your body for some beneficial result, medicinally speaking, you should make sure your doctor and pharmacist are aware of them in case a side effect does occur or for potential drug interactions.
The fact that you are on-line reading this article shows that you have internet access. With that access you have the capability to study any "medicine" you are thinking of taking and by doing this, can make a wiser and better informed decision. Of course, there is a great deal of garbage on the internet so one must have knowledge and confidence with the sources they utilize on the internet. As I like to say, you are the pilot of your body. Your research and medical team are merely co-pilots or navigators to help you make the right decision.
I tried to keep the information straight forward and simple to understand. If anyone ever wants biopharmaceutical, pharmacodynamic or pharmacokinetic information on a medicine, herb, substance- legal or unlegal- I have always enjoyed finding that info to satisfy the patient's curiosity and needs. Always- always- always- verify and make sure whatever information you discover on your own or especially someone else gives to you- has substance to it, has verifiable studies to support it. Anyone can make a pie in the sky claim, good or bad; but unsubstantiated information can be very dangerous. I am not saying do not try new or different methods for a better or higher level of good health. I am saying do it with open eyes, an open mind, open ears and COMMON SENSE. Always ask questions ( I love questions!) and always get verifiable facts to those answers.