By Victor Smirnov
Today, in many countries, Chaga mushroom extract is considered an effective means for the prevention of various health problems. Since the 1950s the Chaga mushroom extract has been officially approved in Russia for the prevention and treatment of cancer.
However, very few people are aware that not every Chaga extract is equally beneficial for human health. I have decided to write this article in order to enlighten Chaga users about how the definition of 'high-quality Chaga extract' should really be understood.
Our company has been receiving many questions about how to distinguish good Chaga extract from the bad one. Well, I’ll try to explain it as simply as possible.
People tend to believe that all manufacturers try to do their best to make a really high-quality product. Maybe most of them sincerely try to make their best but they simply cannot. And just trying is not enough. In fact, very few producers can achieve a really high-quality stage of the end product. Why? Because the process of manufacturing premium quality Chaga extract not only requires profound scientific knowledge, professional skills, and appropriate experience but also depends on a number of other factors. And the majority of manufacturers have difficulty dealing with them.
Those factors and requirements include the following:
To produce premium Chaga extract, manufacturers must use the raw materials of the best quality. “The best quality” means ecological cleanness and appropriate chemical composition of a raw Chaga mushroom collected in wild nature. And this strongly depends on the geographical location where the Chaga has been collected from.
We have been engaged in the Chaga related business for more than 20 years. This is why we believe, that the most valuable Chaga grows in Siberian taiga forests. Thanks to the high content of the chromogenic complex, melanins, and polysaccharides, Siberian Chaga outruns Chaga mushroom collected from the other regions of Russia and probably from all other countries too.
It is a well-known fact that some countries cultivate Chaga mushroom artificially. For a number of reasons, "the creature" cannot be called “real Chaga”. The paramount reason is that artificially grown Chaga does not possess any of the most valuable substances such as humic-like Chaga acids (chromogenic complex), which can be found only in wild Chaga mushrooms.
Thus, beware of Chaga mushroom grown on a farm. There is no point in wasting money on a useless product.
When we talk about Chaga extract, we call the extraction method “appropriate” if it is based on the water and not on alcohol. The water extraction method serves the goal of withdrawing as much of the key water-soluble substances from Chaga as possible. The primary substance which gives Chaga its healing power is a complex of chromogens (melanins, Chaga humic acids). This chromogenic complex is the principal feature of wild Chaga mushrooms and is the most valuable one.
Many highlight the importance of the number of polysaccharides in Chaga. This should not be sought after because polysaccharides can be found in other foods too. The same relates to B-glucans as they can be found in non-Chaga products as well. But Chaga acids and melanins are only available in natural Chaga mushroom.
By the way, the chemical structure of Chaga melanin resembles that of human melanin. This melanin (aka chromogenic complex) can only be dissolved in water which implies that it can be withdrawn from Chaga also only with water. Besides, the water should be hot but not too hot. The temperature should be carefully observed and must not exceed 60 degrees Celsius.
This subject is probably the most talked-about among chaga consumers.
“Is this a real FD extract?”.
”How to distinguish Freeze-dried from Spray-dried Chaga extract?”
The above questions have been frequently asked by the people that are truly interested in finding an effective Chaga mushroom extract.
Most Chaga manufacturers and the majority of merchants have been reluctant to answer these questions. Not necessarily because they are trying to cheat or something, but mostly because they do not have the capability to produce a premium quality Freeze-dried Chaga extract.
The Chaga extract manufacturing process comprises seven basic stages:
The dehydration process is necessary to transform the half-liquid dense mass of Chaga extract which had been obtained by stage #4 into dry powder. In other words, we want to remove water from the dense mass.
There are three widespread methods of dehydration used in Chaga extract manufacturing:
1. Spray-dry method. The extract powder gets sprayed in a centrifugal machine by compressed hot air.
2. Infrared drying. The drying occurs in the IR ovens.
3. Freeze-dried method. The extract powder gets sublimated.
Having been processed with a Spray-dry or IR method, the Chaga mushroom molecules undergo a strong thermal impact. Inevitably, this would affect the chemical composition of Chaga which will result in its diminished healing power.
As you may know, the temperature for processing Chaga should not exceed 60 degrees celsius. Right?
Now, I am going to reveal the secret being kept from you by manufacturers: the SD dehydration process involves hot air with temperatures that exceed 150 degrees Celcius! How about that?
And did you know that 90% of all manufacturers of Chaga extract mostly use the SD or IR dehydration methods?
Why are they doing that? The answer is simple. These methods allow them to obtain a less expensive and cost-effective product despite worsening of its quality.
Then why do they claim that their Chaga extract still contains a lot of polysaccharides and chromogenic complex? Are they lying?
You will know by the end of this article. But prior to that, I would like you to learn some basics about the sublimation process, or so-called “freeze-drying”.
The principle of sublimation is illustrated in this flowchart. It is very different from the thermal method of dehydration.
Sublimation (lyophilization) is a process of solvent removal from the frozen solution, gels, suspensions, and biological objects.
Simply put, sublimation is a process where the consolidated solvent (ice) bypasses the liquid phase.
The word "lyophilization" translated from the Greek language means "dissolve with love". In other words, Chaga extract dehydrated in sublimation dryer units is a product made by the soft method, i.e. "made with love".
Now let us explain why the sublimation dryer is better in the both scientific and practical sense.
Dehydration of chaga extract with sublimation method allows preserving the maximum quantity of key chaga substances without causing any damage to molecules of chaga in the process. Such chaga extract has a pleasant flavor and pronounced taste. The freeze-drying process retains the structural integrity of Chaga mushroom and its biological activity. Moreover, Chaga extract made with sublimation stays fresh longer.
Why most manufacturers do not employ the Freeze-dried method?
Because the Freeze-drying process is more complicated, labor-intensive, and much expensive compared to the other methods.
Thanks to the meticulous removal of non-soluble admixtures and ballast from the half-liquid form of Chaga extract, the finished Chaga extract powder acquires its highly water-soluble properties. On the other hand, SD Chaga extract doesn’t dissolve quickly, it keeps floating on the water surface for a long time until thoroughly stirred.
Moreover, creating high vacuum conditions is crucial for the production of Chaga extract with the required level of moisture. The freeze-dried extract cannot be overdried whereas the spray-dried can.
On the contrary, IR and spray-dry methods cannot facilitate accurate moisture control. As a result, it often happens that the finished product is overheated and overdried ("overdone") thereby increasing the ash content, giving an unpleasant smell, and even more destroying the useful substances of Chaga.
It is often believed that the dark brown or black color of Chaga extract guarantees its high quality. It makes sense but not always is true though.
The Chaga extract may acquire a dark-brown or black color in two cases:
- When the extract has been freeze-dried. In this case, the black color is an indicator of the high content of melanin.
- When the extract has been made by the spray-dry method. In this case, the dark brown or black color of the powder tells about the fact of overheating.
Take a look at this picture. You can see two types of Chaga extract powders. One is brown and the other is black. Both were produced with a Spray-dried dehydration process! However, one of them was adequately dried, while the other was overheated. You can see it from its darker color.
Now compare it with the FD Chaga extract depicted below. It is also black but has these small crystal-like shiny particles. This is the main distinguishing feature of FD Chaga extract. It is black because it possesses tons of melanin. Not because of overheating. By sublimation drying, it is impossible to overheat anything because there is no heat involved.
The Chaga extract manufactured with the sublimation method preserves its organoleptic and chemical properties, is instantly soluble in water, is lightweight, and has prolonged shelf life. In fact, given adequate storage conditions, freeze-dried Chaga extract can stay fresh for 3 years and longer. Such Chaga extract retains all vitamins, proteins, Chaga acids, and nutrients and can be recommended for health improvement.
Do you know why we do not offer SD Chaga extract on this website? Because we don’t want to deprive people of their expectations. We know that for some folks our chaga is their last chance.
It is a well-known fact that plant-based raw food is being digested by the human body much quicker than processed food. 'Digested' means that all nutrients, vitamins, ferments, and other beneficial substances have been absorbed and used by your body providing you with all the benefits. It is happening because the molecules of raw food fit into your body’s multidimensional molecular lattice perfectly, whereas processed food molecules don’t fit into it at all. So, instead of getting energy from consumed food, our body has to waste a lot of its own power in order to process and utilize these “alien” molecules.
To summarize, you should understand a very simple but important thing. When it comes to chaga extract, the QUANTITY (rendered by numbers) of any substance is NOT so much important. What is more important is the QUALITY– the content of “live” substances in Chaga extract.
I repeat: Under the impact of hot air the structure of the Chaga molecular crystal cell gets changed. They still remain molecules of Chaga but at the same time they become different, not 'alive' anymore and the beneficial substances cannot be fully utilized by your body. As a result, you are not getting the full benefits from Chaga extract you paid for.