Mushrooms are part of a plant family known as fungi. While they are not really vegetables in the strict sense of the word, they are nevertheless served as such in every part of the globe. Chaga mushrooms are often referred to as the “king of mushrooms” due to the numerous benefits it provides. This mushroom is widely known in herbal medicine for its many healing properties. These include:
- Stronger immune system
- Powerful antioxidant properties
- Cancer prevention and treatment
- Inflammation-reducing properties
- Liver detoxification
- Antimicrobial and antiviral properties
- Relieves stress
- Boosts energy
- and many more
How To Identify Chaga Mushroom
Chaga mushroom has been consumed as herbal tea in the East for hundreds of years. It is generally found growing on aging birch trees and comes in various shapes and sizes. It does not look anything like the mushroom we are used to seeing, but remotely like it. It can be identified by its cone or dome-like appearance, most of the time like a stump of a burned-out branch. Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) thrives on birch trees that grow in cold regions across the northern hemisphere. They can be found mostly in forests in the northern parts of Europe, the United States, Canada, Russia, and Korea.
Chaga mushrooms can be tricky to spot as people can mistake them as decayed patches or blackened stumps on birch tree trunks. Its hard, crusty, burnt charcoal-like exterior hides a rust-colored yellow-brown interior. While it may not be attractive to look at, it does provide plenty of health benefits to its users.
The Amazing Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga mushroom owes its numerous health benefits to its rich content of antioxidants and nutrients that increase the body’s resistance to disease.
Chaga improves the immune system
Chaga has plenty of powerful antioxidants that help give the immune system that extra boost. It also helps regulate the body’s immune response. For instance, it can slow down the system response rate if it behaves unevenly and when unpleasant symptoms show up. Research has revealed that chaga can set immune cells in motion that can hold back the growth of cancer-causing cells. However, further research and clinical tests are required in this area. Chaga showed its effectivity when used alongside conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. Chaga’s primary function is to decrease the side effects of standard treatments.
Chaga has inflammation-reducing properties
Chaga mushroom helps to minimize inflammation in the blood vessels, as well as relieve discomfort and reduce inflammation in other parts of the body. People who have arthritis and other inflammatory conditions can find discomfort of their symptoms alleviated with regular chaga consumption.
Chaga can ward off and cure stomach ulcers
Because of its capability to boost the immune system, the chaga mushroom has been consumed particularly in Eastern societies. Stomach ulcers are primarily caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacterium. A weak immune system can easily yield to the attack of this microorganism. Current ulcer sufferers who use chaga may also notice a decrease in stomach discomfort, thanks to chaga mushroom’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Chaga can help normalize cholesterol levels and blood pressure
Chaga’s anti-inflammatory action on the circulatory system allows blood to flow more freely in the blood vessels which, in effect, helps normalize blood pressure levels. Research has shown that a certain triterpene found in chaga called betulinic acid can get rid of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Chaga can inhibit the growth of disease-causing microorganisms
One study found that chaga’s chemical and biological components possess powerful antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities. The results show great potentials in future studies and research to examine the mushroom’s capability to treat and prevent certain diseases.
Chaga can protect the body at a cellular level
We are exposed to pollution and various toxins each day. As a result, our body gets damaged at a cellular level and makes it susceptible to premature aging and dread diseases like cancer. One study revealed that cells treated with chaga mushroom extract received less damage than the untreated cells.
Chaga can slow down the aging process
Physical signs of aging in the body like graying hair, wrinkles, and sagging skin are the results of oxidative stress. Pollution, overexposure to the sun, constant stress, and other factors cause free radicals to rise in the body. If left unchecked, this can cause the skin to age prematurely. It is theorized that increasing the body’s antioxidant supply could postpone the visible signs of the body’s wear and tear, and prevent its aging at a fast rate. While there is no conclusive research on chaga’s anti-aging benefits, its potency in fighting other forms of oxidative stress points to the possibility that it could also slow down the aging process.
Chaga has antiviral properties
Numerous research and studies have been conducted to examine chaga mushroom’s antiviral properties. A couple of studies have recently shown that chaga could suppress a viral skin infection from spreading.
Chaga has a powerful enzyme and antioxidant content
Chaga mushroom contains powerful substances that discourage oxidation or suppresses harmful changes that result from the action of oxygen and peroxides. A huge amount of melanin, which is rich in polyphenols, is found in chaga’s sclerotium or outer layer. Additionally, chaga has the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) value of all mushrooms.
Betulin And Betulinic Acid (Triterpenes)
Chaga mushroom derives Betulin And Betulinic acids from the birch tree that hosts it. These two powerful triterpenes are presently being studied for their capability to normalize cholesterol levels. Research is also ongoing on Betulin And Betulinic acids and their effect on viruses and cancer.
Also known as plant sterols, phytosterols are a molecular group similar to the cholesterol found in plant cell membranes. In chaga, phytosterols include ergosterol, inotodiols, and lanosterol. The inotodiols and lanosterol derived from chaga have been found to get rid of cancer cells and fight viruses.
Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD)
The enzyme Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD) found in chaga functions as a potent antioxidant. Its strength has been determined by its ORAC value. SOD acts as a defense against the harmful effects of oxidation caused by free radicals.
Beta-D-Glucans are associated with helping the body’s immune system. They have been found to balance cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Chaga mushroom contains plenty of long-chain sugars, also known as polysaccharides. These are made up of simple sugars or monosaccharides with its glycoside derivatives. Polysaccharides that are water-soluble promote cellular health and boosts the body’s immune response.
Chaga can treat psoriasis
Chaga mushrooms are being eyed for the treatment for psoriasis. A Russian study in 1973 found proof of the mushroom’s effectiveness against. Psoriasis. All of the participants in the study had their psoriasis healed completely after taking chaga. For more information about Using Chaga Mushroom To Treat Psoriasis.
Chaga can be an effective combination with HIV/AIDS treatment drugs
Chaga can potentially be used as an adjunct treatment for HIV/AIDS victims. The strong antiviral components in chaga have been found to suppress the growth and development of certain viruses associated with HIV and AIDS. Japanese researchers have proven that chaga mushroom’s antiviral properties restrain the actions of HIV-1 which is largely responsible for the growth of the AIDS virus.
Chaga is a potential cure for diabetes
A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that chaga mushroom demonstrated promising possibilities in the treatment of diabetes. Tests on mice with diabetes showed that chaga lowered blood sugar as well as cholesterol levels.
Chaga could possibly prevent cancer
A study in 2008 found that chaga mushroom could be a possible source of cancer prevention. Liver tumor cells were tested during the study. Results have shown that chaga extract discouraged the growth of cancer cells. This implies that chaga offers promise in liver cancer treatment.
Chaga is an adaptogen that can reduce stress
Constant conditions of stress can damage your health physically and psychologically. Studies have shown that certain mushrooms and herbs have adaptogenic properties which can help alleviate stress. Adaptogens aid the adrenal glands to work normally. They also help get rid of stress-producing chemicals in the body. Adaptogenic herbs create some form of stimulation, but they don’t impact your nervous system in the same manner as caffeine and other stimulants. Its effect is more subdued and creates minimal stress on the body. Chaga is an adaptogen and a powerful one at that. It is found to inhibit the onset of fatigue and boost your capability to focus even when exposed to stressful conditions. Chaga does not directly alter your mood. Rather, it helps you adapt and function as best you can when you are under stress.
Chaga can prevent drug side effects
Chaga mushroom has been found to prevent drug side effects on people undergoing certain treatment like radiation, chemotherapy, and taking assorted prescription drugs for various diseases.
Chaga can help detox the body’s cells
This means chaga has the capability to detoxify all of the body’s cells which include the kidneys, heart, lungs, and skin. It can also eliminate heavy metals and other harmful chemicals that have accumulated in your system. This detoxifying action triggers the body’s ability to absorb more beneficial nutrients.
Overview of Chaga Mushroom Products
While it would be very helpful to consume freshly harvested chaga mushroom, this herb is not that all easy to find. Most people who should benefit from chaga’s healing properties, unfortunately, don’t live close enough to a forest of birch trees. The good news is chaga can be bought in various forms online and in health stores.
How Chaga Can be Taken
Chaga is available in different consumable forms – tincture, powdered, tea, and through other ways. Each form has its own set of merits and demerits. The various benefits of chaga mushroom have been discussed. However, more benefits can be derived depending on how the product is consumed. Below are the ways that chaga is consumed along with their accompanying advantages.
Chaga Tincture and Benefits
Tincture uses alcohol in its extraction process. While both forms provide great healing and health, it is claimed that chaga tincture has more effectivity than chaga tea. This is due to the double-extraction process used which extracts more healthful nutrients from chaga. An advantage of tincture is that it keeps chaga in a highly concentrated form. Compared to tea, a chaga tincture is 10 to 100 times more concentrated. One misconception is that the extra nutrients collected from chaga are due to the action of alcohol. There is no evidence to support that. Alcohol merely does the job of extracting nutrients efficiently and extends the product’s storage life.
Chaga Powder and Benefits
Across preparations, chaga powder is a widely preferred form when it comes to yield. Compared to raw and chunked chaga, the powdered form provides a higher surface area that allows liquid to penetrate the nutrients much faster. Chaga mushroom chunks need more time for the liquid to reach the inside parts and soak out the nutrients in there. Another benefit of powdered chaga is that it is very versatile. Most of the chaga recipes and suggestions you will find often make use of to the powdered form. It is great to use with cakes, tea, coffee and is an active ingredient in making soaps and other chaga health products.
Chaga Tea and Benefits
Chaga tea does not contain caffeine and has a mild soothing taste. Since it is caffeine-free, there is no need to worry about getting an upset stomach as experienced in other types of herbal tea. The tea can be further enhanced by adding lemon or vanilla flavor. Chaga chunks are often combined with the mushroom’s extract to increase the blend’s potency. Apart from the hydrating benefits of a pleasantly warm drink, regular tea has not much to offer in terms of nutrition. Chaga tea, on the other hand, possesses all the healthful benefits of chaga mushroom. Tea form simply provides another convenient way to take it. It is the oldest and most common way to derive all the healing ingredients of chaga mushroom.
Chaga Mushroom Tea Preparation
Tea is the most preferred way of consuming chaga mushroom. Raw food advocates are against this as they claim heating sources of food above 135 degrees Fahrenheit can destroy a lot of their nutritional content. In the case of chaga tea, heat is important for extracting the healthful components it contains. The antioxidant enzymes in chaga need only a small amount of heat to be released in the drink. Fast boiling can destroy these enzymes. By subjecting the mushroom to slow heat, and cooking it over hours at low heat, chaga’s essential nutrients and enzymes are not destroyed and are released into the tea.
Chaga Mushroom Tea Recipe
- Measure 5 cups of purified water. Reduce heat when water begins to boil. If you are using an electric element, switch to another element when water comes to a boil.
- Add a small amount (about a handful) of chaga mushroom chunks into the pan of boiling water and cover with a snug-fitting lid.
- Leave the chaga chunks to simmer in hot water for 3 to 4 hours. Do not boil.
- Do a check every now and then to ensure that the brew is not boiling. If it boils, take the pan away from the heat for 15 minutes or until the boiling stops. Return the pan to the stove using the lowest heat setting.
- After simmering the tea, let it stand for 15 minutes to give the brew time to cool.
- Pass the chaga tea through a strainer to filter out the mushroom chunks. Transfer the tea into a glass container and refrigerate.
- If you plan to make a large quantity of tea, chaga mushroom chunks and water can be added in correspondingly.
Chaga mushroom is not only good as a decoction. It has been used for hundreds of years in extracts, tinctures, tablets, and powders. It has even been used in aerosol products. Many choose chaga’s dense orange mass found near the center of its body as it contains a lot more nourishment.
Traditional Way of Preparing and Dosing Chaga Mushroom Tea
While extraction through hot water (decoction) is the traditional way to use chaga mushroom, certain acid derivatives (triterpenoid betulinic, not polysaccharides) are preferred since they are more soluble in alcohol. This is why tinctures and other alcohol-based extracts are combined with hot-water extracts that are rich in polysaccharides. People in Russia and many Baltic countries have been using chaga as an herbal treatment for a long time. Based on folk medicine practice, about 3 square centimeters of chaga mushroom is used for every 10 cups of water. The user is instructed to drink a cup of chaga tea three times daily, about thirty minutes before meals. This treatment method is to be complied with for a period of up to 20 weeks to cure a variety of illnesses.
Side Effects of Chaga Mushroom
Although chaga mushroom provides a lot of amazing nutritional as well as healing benefits, it also comes with some adverse drug interaction and potential side effects. Excessive consumption of chaga can result in some notable side effects including:
Compromised Immune System
Chaga is beneficial against auto-immune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis because it enhances the body’s immune system. This provides a great advantage for the body. The problem arises, however, when the immune system gets over-stimulated. If you suffer from any of the mentioned diseases, do not chaga to avoid auto-immune problems.
A case study showed that a Japanese woman developed oxalate nephropathy from taking too much chaga powder in a period of just six months. Chaga contains very high levels of oxalate. Normal levels of oxalate in the body can be beneficial but consuming it beyond recommended amounts can cause impairment or even kidney failure.
Bleeding and Bruising
Chaga side effects are mostly the result of its interaction with other drugs. For instance, Chaga extract may conflict with warfarin, aspirin, and other drugs that diminish blood coagulation. Since chaga has a blood-thinning effect, combining it with other blood coagulants can result in bleeding.
Complications in Surgery
Chaga has a blood-thinning effect that can cause bleeding during and after a surgical procedure. It is advised to avoid taking chaga-based supplements for at least two weeks before undergoing surgery.
Drop in Blood Sugar Levels
When blood sugar level plummets, the condition is known as hypoglycemia. It causes uncontrolled tremors, irritability, hunger and thirst, speech difficulty, confusion, and general weakness. There were reported incidents where chaga-based supplements don’t interact well with insulin and other drugs designed to control blood sugar levels. The above are warnings you should be aware of regarding some potential side effects of chaga mushroom. No comprehensive findings are available for chaga’s side effects. More information is known, however, about a related fungus – the Reishi mushroom. Studies have shown that this type of mushroom can cause upset stomachs, skin irritation, dry mouth and throat, bloody stools, and nosebleeds.
Potential Problems for Pregnant and Breast-Feeding Women
There is insufficient research on women’s safety in consuming chaga during pregnancy. There are no expert findings of whether pregnant and breastfeeding women should take chaga. If you are expecting a child, talk with your obstetrician before thinking of consuming chaga in whatever form. To be on the safe side, expectant and nursing mothers should avoid taking chaga tea or supplements without first consulting a medical professional. One of the possible side effects of chaga on pregnant women could come from the way the mushroom was raised and harvested. Since they come from a natural source, there is no way to determine the soil condition or how the herbs were harvested. Pollution-contaminated soil will, in turn, produce contaminated mushrooms. Since taking chaga supplement can carry such potential risks, it would be best to consult your obstetrician before incorporating chaga mushroom into your daily diet. Not enough data has been gathered about expectant and breastfeeding women who use chaga supplements. When prepared correctly, chaga tea could be a nutritious drink for non-pregnant women because it does not contain caffeine and is composed of all-natural ingredients. To avoid any potential problems, however, pregnant women are advised to avoid using chaga while they are at this interesting stage.
Reminders Before Using Chaga Mushroom as Supplement
Like any medication, chaga could pose some problems if not used properly. Here are some important points you should keep in mind before considering the use of chaga mushroom:
- Chaga research is still in its early stages, but if this herb stands up to its potential for fighting health problems like arthritis and cancer, it could well be a great alternative possibility to conventional medical treatments.
- Not all chaga mushrooms are born equal. This means that they will have varying attributes basing on where and how they were harvested. Take fruits, for example. Fruits raised in artificial light will show different properties than those raised and harvested in natural sunlight. Chaga offers better healing benefits when harvested from clean and unspoiled forests, instead of those near smog-filled urban areas. Chaga that is raised and harvested far from polluted areas are of better quality.
- Chaga mushroom is available as a supplement in the form of powder, extract, tincture, chunks, and herbal teas.
- Chaga is not an alternative, nor is it suggested as such, for traditional medical treatment. Individuals who suffer from medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, psoriasis, or cancer should go on with their ongoing treatment.
- Instead of thinking of it as a cure, the chaga mushroom can be integrated into the diet as a food supplement under the supervision of a health professional.
- Individuals who intend to derive health supplements from chaga mushroom, or prefer to include chaga nutrition in their diet, should first discuss their plans with their doctor beforehand. The proper daily supplementation of chaga is based according to the condition that needs to be treated.
The Final Word
This article strives to be honest and circumspect at the same time. You should be careful and circumspect as well. Chaga mushroom is not really a magic bullet to cure all diseases, as you may have read in many websites. We believe, however, that taking a chaga supplement as maintenance can help in preventing certain diseases. If you think that you are suffering from a serious disorder, don’t take risks by trying self-medication. We recommend seeing a certified medical professional before consuming any form of drug or health supplement. Don’t forget that hope and following the right medical advice is essential for a successful treatment.