By Victor Smirnov
Today, in many countries, chaga mushroom extract is considered an effective means for prevention of various health problems. In Russia, chaga extract has been officially approved for prevention and treatment of cancer.
However, very few people know that not every chaga extract can be beneficial for health. I have decided to write this article in order to enlighten inexperienced chaga users about how the definition 'high quality chaga extract' should be understood. Our company is receiving many questions about how to distinguish good chaga extract from the bad one, SD extract from FD extract.
Ok, I’ll try to explain everything as simple as possible.
People tend to believe that all manufacturers are trying to do their best to make a really high-quality product. Maybe most of them do try, maybe even all of them do try to do their best. But with chaga extract just trying is not enough. In fact, very few producers are capable of getting the job done. Why? Because the manufacturing of high-quality chaga extract requires not only high professional skills, but also depends on a number of factors which the majority of manufacturers have have difficulty in providing.
Those requirements may include but not be limited to the following.
In order to produce high quality chaga extract, manufacturers should strive to use raw materials of the best quality. “The best quality” means ecological cleanness and appropriate chemical composition of raw materials, which strongly depends on the location where the chaga has been collected.
We have been dealing with chaga mushroom for more than 20 years, and this long experience allows us to state that the most valuable chaga grows in Siberian taiga forests. Thanks to the high content of chromogenic complex, melanins and polysaccharides, Siberian chaga outruns chaga mushroom collected from other regions of Russia and from all other countries too.
Of course, any artificially cultivated chaga mushroom cannot be called “real chaga”. The reason: 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 mushroom.
Thus, beware of non-wild crafted chaga – I mean.. there is no point in wasting money on useless product.
When we say “appropriate extraction” regarding chaga extract, we mean water extraction, not alcoholic extraction. This method serves the goal of withdrawing as much of the key substances from chaga as possible. The primary substance to which chaga healing power has been attributed is a complex of chromogens (melanins, chaga humic acids). This chromogenic complex is the principal feature of wild chaga mushroom and the most precious one. Polysaccharides should not be sought after (they can be found in other products), nor B-glucans (they can be found in non-chaga products as well) but chaga acids and melanins. By the way, the structure of chaga melanin is very close to human melanin. This chromogenic complex dissolves only in water hence can be withdrawn from chaga only by water. Hot water. Not too hot though, as you may understand. The temperature should be carefully observed and should not exceed 60 degrees Celsius.
This subject is probably the most talked about among chaga consumers. “Is this real FD extract?”. ”How to distinguish Freeze-dried from Spray-dried chaga extract?” - These are frequent questions from people interested in effective chaga extract.
Meantime, chaga manufacturers and majority of merchants have been reluctant to answer these questions. Not necessarily because they are trying to conceal this information, but mostly because they are not aware about the ways to improve the quality.
Chaga extract manufacturing comprises seven basic stages:
Dehydration process is necessary to transform the half-liquid mass of chaga extract obtained by the stage #4 into dry powder. In other words, we want to remove water.
There are three methods that can be applied for chaga extract dehydration:
1. Spray-dry - Spraying the extract in a centrifugal machine by compressed hot air.
2. Infrared drying (IR ovens).
3. Freeze-dried – sublimation.
Processed with Spray-dry or IR methods, chaga mushroom undergoes strong thermal impact. Inevitably, this affects the chemical composition of chaga and is greatly diminishing its healing power.
As you may know, the temperature for treating chaga should not exceed 60 degrees celsius. Right?
Now, I am going to reveal the secret kept from you by manufacturers: SD dehydration method applied to chaga provides for hot air with temperatures exceeding 150 degrees celcius! How about that?
And did you know that 90% of all manufacturers of chaga extract use SD or IR dehydration methods? Interesting, isn’t it?
Why are they doing that? The answer is simple: using the heat is much less expensive and more profitable.
Then why do they claim 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 before that, I would like you to learn some things about sublimation process, or “freeze-drying”.
The principle of sublimation is illustrated on this flowchart. It is very different from thermal method of dehydration. Sublimation (lyophilization) is the process of solvent removal from the frozen solution, gels, suspensions and biological objects.
The basis consists in the process of sublimation of the consolidated solvent (ice) bypassing the liquid phase.
The word "lyophilization" translated from Greek language means "I am solving and love". In other words, chaga extract dehydrated in sublimation dryer is a product made with soft method, i.e. "made with love".
Now let us explain why the sublimation dryer is better in both scientific and practical sense.
Dehydration of chaga extract with sublimation method allows to preserve 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. 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 neglect Freeze-dried method?
Because the Freeze-drying process is more complicated, labour-intensive and 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 is instantly and fully soluble in water. SD chaga extract doesn’t dissolve quickly, it keeps floating on the surface of water for a long time until thoroughly stirred.
Moreover, a high vacuum is crucial for producing chaga extract with the correct moisture level. Simply speaking, freeze-dried extract cannot be overdried.
On the contrary, IR and spray-dry methods fail to control the moisture content. 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 destroying even more useful substances of the chaga.
It is often believed that dark brown or black color of chaga extract guarantees its high quality. Well, it makes sense but not always is true.
Chaga extract may gain a dark-brown and a black color in two cases:
- if the extract was freeze-dried then the reason for its black color is a high content of melanin.
- if the extract was made with the spray-dry method, it may me dark brown or black in color due to its overheating.
Take a look at this picture. You can see two chaga extract powders. One is brown and the other is black. Both were produced with 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, please compare it with FD chaga extract on the next picture below. It is also black but has the small crystal-like shiny particles. This is the main distinguishing feature of FD chaga extract. It is black because it has a lot of melanin and not because of overheating. By sublimation drying it is impossible to overheat anything because there is no heat involved.
Chaga extract made with 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 more. Such chaga extract retains all vitamins, proteins, chaga acids and nutrients and can be recommended for health improvement.
Then why do they claim that SD chaga extract also contains a lot of polysaccharides and chromogenic complex? Moreover, sometimes the claims are supported with certificates of analysis.
Yes, if the producer provides COA, most probably he is not lying. The matter is that SD and IR chaga extracts too may have a high level of chromogenic complex content. Especially if all the other production stages were done properly.
So, where’s the catch?
Do you know why we do not offer SD chaga extract on this website? Because we don’t want to deprive people from their expectations, because we know that for some of them chaga is their last chance.
And this is why.
It is a well-known fact that plant raw food is digested 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 summorize, 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 is getting 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.