By Victor Smirnov
Today, in many countries, chaga mushroom extract is considered an effective means of preventing various health problems. In Russia, chaga extract is officially approved for the 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 inform inexperienced chaga users about the definition of "high quality chaga extract". Our company receives many questions about how to distinguish good chaga extract from bad, SD extract from FD extract.
Ok, I'll try to explain it as simple as possible.
People tend to believe that all manufacturers try their best to make a really high quality product. Maybe most of them are trying, maybe all of them are trying to do their best. But with chaga extract, trying is not enough. In fact, very few producers are able to get the job done. And why is that? Because the production of high quality chaga extract not only requires a high level of professional skill, but also depends on a number of factors that the majority of manufacturers find difficult to provide.
These requirements may include, but are not limited to, the following
In order to produce high quality chaga extract, manufacturers should strive to use the best quality raw materials. The "best quality" means ecological purity and appropriate chemical composition of the raw materials, which strongly depends on the place where the chaga was collected.
We have been dealing with chaga for more than 20 years, and this long experience allows us to say that the most valuable chaga grows in Siberian taiga forests. Owing to the high content of chromogenic complex, melatonin and polysaccharides, Siberian chaga surpasses chaga collected in other regions of Russia and even in other countries.
Of course, any artificially cultivated chaga mushroom cannot be called "real chaga". The reason is that artificially cultivated chaga does not contain any of the most valuable substances, such as humic acids (chromogenic complex), which are found only in wild chaga.
So beware of non-wild chaga - I mean... there is no point in wasting money on a useless product.
When we say "proper extraction" with respect to chaga extract, we mean water extraction, not alcoholic extraction. The purpose of this method is to extract as much as possible of the key substances from chaga. The main substance to which the healing power of chaga is attributed is a complex of chromogens (melatonin, chaga humic acids). This chromogenic complex is the main and most valuable characteristic of wild chaga. We should not look for polysaccharides (they can be found in other products), nor for B-glucans (they can be found in non-chaga products), but for chaga acids and melatonin. By the way, the structure of Chaga melatonin is very similar to human melanin. This chromogenic complex dissolves only in water, so the only way to extract it from chaga is with water. Hot water. But not too hot, as you may understand. The temperature should be carefully monitored and should not exceed 60 degrees Celsius.
This is probably the most talked about topic among chaga consumers. "Is this real FD extract? "How do you tell freeze-dried from spray-dried chaga extract?" - These are common questions asked by people interested in effective chaga extract.
Meanwhile, the majority of chaga manufacturers and distributors have been reluctant to answer these questions. Not necessarily because they are trying to hide this information, but mostly because they do not know how to improve the quality.
The production of chaga extract involves seven basic stages:
The dehydration process is necessary to convert the semi-liquid mass of chaga extract obtained in step #4 into dry powder. In other words, we want to remove the water.
There are three methods that can be used to dehydrate chaga extract:
1. Spray-drying - Spraying the extract in a centrifugal machine with hot compressed air.
2. Infrared drying (IR ovens).
3. Freeze drying - sublimation.
When chaga is processed by spray-drying or IR methods, it is subjected to intense heat. This inevitably affects the chemical composition of chaga and greatly reduces its 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 that the manufacturers have been keeping from you: The SD dehydration method applied to chaga calls for hot air with temperatures exceeding 150 degrees Celsius! How about that?
And did you know that 90% of all chaga extract manufacturers use SD or IR dehydration methods? Interesting, isn't it?
Why do they do this? The answer is simple: it is much cheaper and more profitable to use heat.
Then why do they claim that their chaga extract still contains a lot of polysaccharides and chromogenic complex? Are they lying?
You will find out by the end of this article. But before that, I want you to learn a few things about the sublimation process, or "freeze-drying".
The principle of sublimation is illustrated in this flow chart. It is very different from the thermal method of dehydration. Sublimation (lyophilization) is the process of solvent removal from frozen solutions, gels, suspensions and biological objects.
The basis consists in the process of sublimation of the solidified solvent (ice) bypassing the liquid phase.
The word "lyophilization" translated from the Greek language means "I dissolve and love". In other words, chaga extract dehydrated in a sublimation dryer is a product made by a soft method, i.e. "made with love".
Now let us explain why the sublimation dryer is better both scientifically and practically.
Dehydration of Chaga extract by the sublimation method allows to preserve the maximum amount of the main Chaga substances without damaging the Chaga molecules. Such chaga extract has a pleasant aroma and distinctive taste. Freeze-drying preserves the structural integrity of the Chaga mushroom and its biological activity. In addition, freeze-dried chaga extract stays fresh longer.
Why do most manufacturers neglect lyophilization?
Because the freeze-drying process is more complicated, labor-intensive and expensive compared to the other methods.
Thanks to the careful removal of insoluble impurities and ballast from the semi-liquid form of chaga extract, the finished chaga extract powder is instantly and completely soluble in water. SD chaga extract doesn't dissolve quickly, it floats on the surface of the water for a long time until it is thoroughly stirred.
In addition, a high vacuum is critical to producing chaga extract with the proper moisture content. Simply put, lyophilized extract cannot be overdried.
On the contrary, IR and spray drying methods cannot control the moisture content. As a result, the finished product is often overheated and overdried ("overdone"), increasing the ash content, creating an unpleasant odor, and destroying even more of the chaga's beneficial compounds.
It is often believed that the dark brown or black color of chaga extract guarantees its high quality. Well, it makes sense, but it is not always true.
Chaga extract can be dark brown and black in two cases:
- If the extract was freeze-dried, the reason for its black color is a high content of melanin.
- If the extract is spray dried, it may be dark brown or black due to overheating.
Look at this picture. You can see two chaga extract powders. One is brown and the other is black. Both were produced using the spray-dried dehydration process! However, one of them was properly dried while the other was overheated. You can tell by its darker color.
Now compare it to the FD Chaga extract in the next picture below. It is also black, but has the small crystal-like shiny particles. This is the main characteristic of FD chaga extract. It is black because it has a lot of melanin, not because it has been overheated. With sublimation drying, it is impossible to overheat anything because there is no heat involved.
Chaga extract produced by the sublimation method preserves its organoleptic and chemical properties, is instantly soluble in water, is light and has a long shelf life. In fact, under proper storage conditions, freeze-dried chaga extract can remain 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? Besides, sometimes the claims are supported with certificates of analysis.
Yes, if the producer provides a COA, he is most likely not lying. The point is that even SD and IR chaga extracts can have high levels of chromogenic complexes. Especially if all other production steps have been done correctly.
So what's the catch?
Do you know why we do not offer SD chaga extract on this website? Because we don't want to disappoint people, because we know that for some people chaga is their last chance.
And this is why.
It is a well-known fact that raw plant foods are digested much faster than processed foods. Digested" means that all the nutrients, vitamins, enzymes, and other beneficial substances have been absorbed and utilized by your body, providing you with all the benefits. This happens because the molecules of raw foods fit perfectly into your body's multidimensional molecular lattice, whereas the molecules of processed foods don't fit at all. So instead of getting energy from the food we eat, our body has to waste a lot of its own energy to process and use these "foreign" molecules.
To summarize, you should understand one very simple but important thing: When it comes to Chaga extract, the QUANTITY (expressed in numbers) of any substance is NOT so important. What is more important is the quality - the level of "living" substances in the chaga extract.
I repeat: Under the influence of hot air, the structure of the chaga molecular crystal cell changes. They are still chaga molecules, but at the same time they become different, not "alive", and the beneficial substances cannot be fully utilized by your body. As a result, you are not getting the full benefits of the chaga extract you paid for.