If you’re always on the lookout for the new types of health foods, you must have heard the buzz about chaga mushroom. It’s the chief ingredient in mushroom tea or coffee. Fondly referred to as “the king of medicinal mushrooms,” chaga, a fungus – or Inonotus obliquus – grows on the surface of birch trees. It is covered with a black layer on the outside with yellow flesh on the inside. Chaga mushroom is not a recent discovery of health enthusiasts. It has long been used medicinally in Russia, Scandinavian countries, and Northern Europe. Till date, several animal studies on the health benefits of chaga have yielded positive results, and of late it has gained some currency in popular usage. Here’s why you should try out this antioxidant remedy.
1. Boosts Immunity
Chaga mushrooms have a high amount of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD). This is considered to be among the most powerful antioxidants in the body that fights free radicals and prevents inflammation. Thanks to this, chaga mushroom has the highest oxygen radical absorbing capacity (ORAC) or the highest antioxidant capacity among mushrooms, with an ORAC score of 146, 700 μ mol TE/100 g.1 To put this in perspective, this value is way more than that of dark chocolates or most berries, common antioxidant foods.
Thus chaga can boost your immunity and keep diseases at bay. Chaga mushrooms also contain a sugar called beta-d-glucan, which can improve your immune responses. In fact, the traditional uses of the mushroom revolve around its antiviral and antibacterial properties that can reduce your risk of infections and communicable diseases.2
2. Prevents Cancer
Regular consumption of chaga could help reduce the size a tumor by up to 60 percent.3
Chaga mushroom is used as a folk medicine for cancer treatment. Due to the presence of two chemicals called betulinic acid and ergosterol peroxide, the mushroom can inhibit the multiplication of human cancer cells and thus check the progression of cancer. Thus, chaga mushrooms can be included in cancer treatments as an effective food supplement.4 5
3. Manages Diabetes
If you’re suffering from type 2 diabetes, chaga mushrooms can help reduce the sugar level in your blood. A study conducted on mice showed that chaga mushrooms can regulate the blood sugar levels in diabetic mice. The blood and urine samples of mice that were fed chaga powder for 8 weeks proved the hypoglycemic (blood sugar-reducing) nature of the mushroom. Although no study has been conducted on humans, the traditional uses of chaga mushrooms to regulate diabetes have been considered effective, hinting that they can indeed be included in your anti-diabetes diet.6
4. Lowers Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels in your blood can increase your risk of developing heart disease or stroke. To reduce your cholesterol levels, include chaga mushrooms in your diet. The mushrooms – thanks to their antioxidant content –prevent cholesterol buildup in your blood and restrain the cholesterol-increasing activity of high-fat diets.7
Chaga tea also contains other compounds known as triterpenes. Triterpenes are special compounds which can break down LDL cholesterol in your body before it can be absorbed into the blood stream. If you want to lower or maintain your cholesterol levels, drinking a mug of chaga tea every day might do the trick.
5. Reduces Inflammation
While local inflammation helps your body heal wounds and bruises, chronic inflammation could result in diseases like arthritis, colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. If you are affected by inflammatory diseases, chaga mushroom could be of help. The mushrooms can regulate the release of cytokines, which are proteins responsible for inflammation. Thus, chaga mushrooms can effectively monitor the inflammatory responses of your body and treat chronic inflammatory diseases.8
6. Improves Digestion
If you frequently suffer from stomach upsets or bloating, your digestive enzymes could be to blame. If your body isn’t able to produce adequate amounts of digestive enzymes, then you end up suffering from poor digestion. Chaga mushrooms stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes and ensure proper digestion. The anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of mushrooms can also protect your digestive tract and facilitate the entire process of digestion.
7. Prevents Liver Disease
Chaga extracts are capable of enhancing liver function and aiding detoxification. Chaga shields your liver from harmful toxins and prevents cytotoxic injury. It also protects your liver from disease by reducing oxidative damage and preventing the leakage of liver enzymes like ALT (alanine transaminase).9
8. Boosts Brain Function
Consumption of chaga mushroom has been linked to improved memory and better learning. A study revealed that the methanolic extract of chaga fed to mice for 7 days resulted in an enhanced cognitive function. By reducing oxidative stress in the brain, the mushrooms can protect the brain cells from damage and boost their function.10
Moreover, chaga mushroom tea acts as a coffee-like stimulant and improves alertness. Fortunately, it doesn’t cause jitters or restlessness unlike coffee or other energy-boosting drinks. So, it helps you become more alert when you need to be, yet doesn’t interfere with your sleep or prevent you from relaxing.
9. Increases Physical Endurance
If you are a fitness enthusiast or are looking for ways to exercise without immediately feeling tired, you might want to consider chaga mushroom. A study revealed that chaga mushroom can increase the duration of physical activity (swimming, in this case) in mice and reduce exercise-induced fatigue. This energy-boosting ability of chaga mushroom makes it a potential remedy for fatigue, especially if you’re performing intense workouts or running marathons.11Hong, Ki Bae, Dong Ouk Noh, Yooheon Park, and Hyung Joo Suh. “Hepatoprotective Activity of Water Extracts from Chaga Medicinal Mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Higher Basidiomycetes) Against Tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide− Induced Oxidative Liver Injury in Primary Cultured Rat Hepatocytes.” International journal of medicinal mushrooms 17, no. 11 (2015).[/ref]
10. Delays Aging
Chaga mushroom contains high levels of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD). It’s hailed for its ability to fight oxidative stress as well as aging-related changes caused by free radicals. Therefore, consumption of chaga can increase longevity and delay aging. Also, chaga mushrooms are rich in vitamin C, which is known for its ability to prevent wrinkles, loose skin, and other signs of aging.12 13
How To Make Chaga Mushroom Tea
Chaga mushroom cannot be eaten raw but is widely consumed in the form of tea. Follow the steps below to make a perfect cup of chaga tea.
- Boil a cup (about 500 ml) of water.
- Add 2 tsp chaga powder to the water, and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Strain the tea and add honey for added taste.
Side Effects Of Chaga Mushroom
To prevent side effects, drink no more than 1 or 2 cups of chaga tea.
Chaga mushroom is a natural blood thinner. If you drink more than the required amount of chaga – whether in the form of tea or in the form of herbal supplements – it could affect your hemoglobin levels. Since chaga contains fairly high amounts of potassium and magnesium, excess consumption could also result in liver damage. Furthermore, if you are diabetic, limit the intake of chaga tea to no more than one cup per day. Chaga lowers your blood glucose levels, so consuming too much of it could lead to hypoglycemia.
Additionally, if you are on any medication, consult your doctor before consuming chaga, as it might interact with your prescription drugs.
|↑1||Magical Mushroom Chaga: Functional Components and Biological Activity. Brunswick Laboratories.|
|↑2||Kim, Yeon-Ran. “Immunomodulatory activity of the water extract from medicinal mushroom Inonotus obliquus.” Mycobiology 33, no. 3 (2005): 158-162.|
|↑3||Arata, Satoru, Jun Watanabe, Masako Maeda, Masato Yamamoto, Hideto Matsuhashi, Mamiko Mochizuki, Nobuyuki Kagami, Kazuho Honda, and Masahiro Inagaki. “Continuous intake of the chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) aqueous extract suppresses cancer progression and maintains body temperature in mice.” Heliyon 2, no. 5 (2016): e00111.|
|↑4||Youn, Myung-Ja, Jin-Kyung Kim, Seong-Yeol Park, Yunha Kim, Se-Jin Kim, Jin Seok Lee, Kyu Yun Chai et al. “Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) induces G0/G1 arrest and apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells.” World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 14, no. 4 (2008): 511.|
|↑5||Lee, Hyun Sook, Eun Ji Kim, Sun Hyo Kim, Jin Ah Cho, Eunmi Park, Jae Hyun Ahn, Ji Won Choi et al. “Ethanol extract of Innotus obliquus (Chaga mushroom) induces G1 cell cycle arrest in HT-29 human colon cancer cells.”|
|↑6||Cha, Jae-Young, Bang-Sil Jun, Jung-Wook Kim, Sang-Hyun Park, Chi-Hyeoung Lee, and Young-Su Cho. “Hypoglycemic effects of fermented Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) in the diabetic Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rat.” Food Science and Biotechnology (2006).|
|↑7||Liang, Liya, Zesheng Zhang, Wei Sun, and Yuben Wang. “Effect of the Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on Blood Lipid Metabolism and Oxidative Stress of Rats Fed High-Fat Diet In Vivo.” In Biomedical Engineering and Informatics, 2009. BMEI’09. 2nd International Conference on, pp. 1-4. IEEE, 2009.|
|↑8||Van, Q., B. N. Nayak, M. Reimer, P. J. H. Jones, R. G. Fulcher, and C. B. Rempel. “Anti-inflammatory effect of Inonotus obliquus, Polygala senega L., and Viburnum trilobum in a cell screening assay.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 125, no. 3 (2009): 487-493.|
|↑9||Hong, Ki Bae, Dong Ouk Noh, Yooheon Park, and Hyung Joo Suh. “Hepatoprotective Activity of Water Extracts from Chaga Medicinal Mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Higher Basidiomycetes) Against Tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide− Induced Oxidative Liver Injury in Primary Cultured Rat Hepatocytes.” International journal of medicinal mushrooms 17, no. 11 (2015).|
|↑10||Giridharan, Vijayasree Vayalanellore, Rajarajan Amirthalingam Thandavarayan, and Tetsuya Konishi. “Amelioration of scopolamine induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress by Inonotus obliquus–a medicinal mushroom.” Food & function 2, no. 6 (2011): 320-327.|
|↑11||Xiuhong, Zhong, Zhong Yue, Yang Shuyan, and Zheng Zhonghua. “Effect of Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on physical fatigue in mice.” Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 35, no. 4 (2015): 468-472.|
|↑12||Telang, Pumori Saokar. “Vitamin C in dermatology.” Indian dermatology online journal 4, no. 2 (2013): 143.|
|↑13||Faass, N. “The Healing Powers of Wild Chaga. An Interview with Cass Ingram, MD.” Journal of Health and Healing 35, no. 4 (2012): 6-11.|