Chaga is big in the health community right now. So many claims have been made at the feet of this “King of the Mushrooms” that it seems to those believers to be a panacea.
While research into chaga is at an all time high, it is still an insignificant amount to prove beyond a doubt that this medicinal mushroom does everything it is claimed to do.
So looking into that research, let’s see what has been shown to be by diving into the research done on one of its main active components; that of Inotodiol.
What is Inotodiol?
Inotodiol is named after Chaga itself, the Latin name being Inonotus obliquus combined with –diol which, in chemistry means two additional alcohols are attached to the molecule.
This means that this is viewed as an alcohol, to be exact, a steroidal alcohol or more commonly referred to as a sterol.
You might know one of these molecules that you use plenty of in your own body as cholesterol. Just as cholesterol holds your cells walls together, sterols do the same in plants and fungi by holding their cell walls together.  Inotodiol is an important component of Chaga’s very structure.
Just as some plant sterols have been shown to be an effective nutritional supplement approved by the FDA, it makes sense that some fungi sterols would have a similar healthful effect on us. All the science points to this being true with medicinal mushrooms, so it’s nice to see where some of these effects originate.
How does chaga make this?
Inotodiol is an end product. So how is it made? It comes from triterpenes, specifically ones found in the trees it grows on.  Its favorite partnership by far is the birch tree family.
“Birch trees contain precursor compounds such as the triterpenoid betulin. Chaga draws betulin and other precursors directly from the birch tree and turns them into inotodiol, trametenolic acid and betulinic acid. Chaga needs the tree-bound precursors to synthesize the triterpenoids for which it is famous.”
The Research on Inotodiol
Unfortunately, at this time there are no human trials. Human trials are expensive (our literature researcher just told me we would need $200,000 just to get a small one going) and as such, most herbal companies that would like to prove/disprove the claims of our ancestors regarding these medicines, they simply cannot afford to do so.
In fact there are hardly any studies at all! I could only find three, one from China and two from Japan. All three involved the use of inotodiol on abnormal cells.
The Chinese study showed that inotodiol isolated from Chaga promoted apoptosis in human cervical cancer cell lines through up and down regulation of certain mechanisms in the metabolic cycles.
One of the Japanese studies was done on mice with leukemia and found that inotodiol was found to promote Caspase-3.
This enzyme cleaves the inhibitor of DNase allowing that enzyme to go to work at cleaning up DNA. Caspase-3 will also move to the cytoskeleton, cleaning the proteins that hold the cell together. This makes it possible to break it up into smaller units which can be absorbed by immune cells like macrophages. This prevents inflammation in the surrounding area . Inflammation is the source of many health issues, so this is important to note.
If you wish to understand this process a bit better check out this video.
The other Japanese study is redundant in its findings so I will not go into that. Here is the link though if you are interested. 
The Bigger Picture of Chaga
It should be noted that this is just one active component of chaga so there are more research on other components and on the whole organism. We’ll be covering some of those in the future. All the research must be considered when reviewing the health effects of an herb and as more comes out, we can update these pages to show all sides of the compound at hand.
The science may be helpful to know, but simple truths like diversifying your diet to be more in line with what humans used to eat and making whole foods the prominent factor in said diet are easy, common sense items to stick to.
- Basic IUPAC Organic Nomenclature Dr. Ian Hunt, Department of Chemistry University of CalGary
- Ma, L; Chen, H; Dong, P; Lu, X (2013). “Anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities of extracts and compounds from the mushroom Inonotus obliquus”. Food chemistry 139 (1–4): 503–8
- Ostlund RE, Racette SB, Stenson WF (1 June 2003). “Inhibition of cholesterol absorption by phytosterol-replete wheat germ compared with phytosterol-depleted wheat germ”. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 77 (6): 1385–9
- David S. Seigler, Integrative Biology 425, Plant Secondary Metabolism, Department of Plant Biology, 265 Morrill Hall, 505 S. Goodwin Ave., University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801
- Ma L, Chen H et al., Anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities of extracts and compounds from the mushroom Inonotus obliquus. Food Chem. 2013 Aug 15;139(1-4)
- Inotodiol inhabits proliferation and induces apoptosis through modulating expression of cyclinE, p27, bcl-2, and bax in human cervical cancer HeLa cells.
- Inotodiol, a lanostane triterpenoid, from Inonotus obliquus inhibits cell proliferation through caspase-3-dependent apoptosis.
- Nakata, T., Yamada, T., et al. Structure determination of inonotsuoxides A and B and in vivo anti-tumor promoting activity of inotodiol from the sclerotia of Inonotus obliquus. Bioorg Med Chem. 2007 Jan 1;15(1):257-64. Epub 2006 Sep