Chaga mushroom, crowned as the king of medicinal mushrooms, is a charcoal and rot-like fungus that grows on alder, cherry, maple, rowan, oak, and birch trees. Known by its scientific name, Inonotus obliquus, Chaga is one of the most highly revered medicinal fungi.
They are found in the northern hemisphere, particularly in Canada, North America, Alaska, Finland, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Chaga mushroom benefits have been touted for centuries. Currently, there is scientific evidence to confirm the health benefits of Chaga mushroom.
Before you start using the Chaga mushroom you might wonder: what does Chaga do to your body to be touted as the king mushroom? Or does Chaga have side effects? This article will explore Chaga benefits and potential side effects. Let’s dive into it!
What Is Chaga?
Chaga is also commonly known as Kabanoanatake in Japan and Tchaga in Russia.
Contrary to popular belief, Chaga is not a pure mushroom. It can be considered to be a compact hardened mass of fungal mycelium. When the parasitic fungus, Inonotus obliquus, infects the hardwood trees, they form a sterile canker or conk. The fungus degrades the three main biological constituents of the tree, lignin hemicellulose, and cellulose. This weakens the structure of the tree, allowing the Chaga to protrude from it.
Nicknamed the diamond of the forest, the Chaga mushroom certainly does not look like one. The lumpy ash-like mushroom resembles the clinker left behind from burning coal.
What Are The Benefits Of Chaga Mushroom?
Is Chaga good for you? Absolutely!
Many cultures have used the mushroom and its extracts for many centuries. The following benefits of Chaga mushroom make it a preferred health and wellness supplement around the world:
- Maintenance of blood sugar levels
- Improves the health of skin, liver, and stomach
- Helps combat tiredness
- Supports heart health
- Increases energy, stamina, and endurance
What Makes Chaga So Good?
The benefits of Chaga mushroom are attributed to its bioactive metabolites(1). There are over 200 different compounds in the mushroom, like Triterpenes, Benzoic acid derivatives, Hispidin, Melanins, Sesquiterpene Ergosterol, ergosterol peroxide, and Polysaccharides, including beta-glucans.
Zinc present in Chaga boosts the immune system, sexual functions, wound healing, and skin quality. Chaga mushrooms are also high in germanium, which is an immune enhancer and an anti-viral agent. The polysaccharides are the most active compounds of Chaga mushroom.
The mushroom is also packed with Vitamin D and B, amino acids, iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and fibers. It is a powerhouse of nutrients, which makes the mushroom an excellent choice in the health and fitness world.
How To Use Chaga?
There are many ways to enjoy the benefits of Chaga. The mushroom has been traditionally consumed as tea in countries like Finland. The raw chunks of mushroom can be soaked in hot water. This leads to the extraction of water-soluble nutrients from the mushroom.
Chaga mushroom is also available in the form of powders and supplements. AChaga dosage of 1000mg daily is enough to enjoy the Chaga powder benefits. Tinctures of Chaga are made by soaking the mushroom in alcohol. However, these are not a replacement forusing high-quality mushroom extract powders.
Regardless of the form of the mushroom, research shows that the best way to reap Chaga mushroom health benefits is consistency. To experience the benefit of Chaga mushroom, you have to take it regularly.
How To Choose Chaga Supplements?
Not all forms of mushroom supplements are of the same quality. This means that the benefits of Chaga tea vary depending on the quality of the mushroom one is using.
Commercially farmed Chaga is cultivated on grain, sawdust, or wood chips. Cultivated Chaga mycelium does not contain the same amount of nutritional dense components as wild Chaga. Extracted wild-crafted Chaga is the best form of mushroom.
To enjoy maximum Chaga health benefits, always look for Chaga supplements that are wild-harvested, certified organic, and contain beta-glucans. Keep in mind that the wild Chagga mushroom always offers the most Chaga mushroom powder benefits.
Chaga Mushroom Benefits: A Detailed Guide
Chaga mushrooms are known for their myriad health benefits! The benefits of Chaga mushrooms include:
1. Chaga Mushroom Supports The Immune System
Chaga mushroom has powerful immune-supporting properties. The mushroom contains immune-modulating compounds like beta-glucans. They up-regulate the immune cell-signaling events and potentiate the cells of the immune system like Natural Killer (NK) cells.
Chaga also enhances the activity of helper T cells which search for and destroy the mutated cells. The xylogalactoglucan polysaccharide in the mushroom induces programmed cell death(2) in infected and cancer-ridden cells.
Hot water extracts of Chaga improve the underperforming immune system. It has also been shown to down-regulate(3) an overacting immune response.
Research information shows that one of the Chaga mushrooms benefits is their ability to produce cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that regulate the immune system by acting as chemical messengers.
Effective communication between the cells of the immune system leads to its strengthening. These cytokines also stimulate the production of white blood cells which combats inflammation and infections thus supporting good immune health and functions.
2. Chaga Combats Inflammation
We now know that Chaga produces cytokines, which are vital molecules that help control inflammation. Hence, Chaga plays a key role in the inflammatory process. This anti-inflammatory property(4) of the mushroom is also vital in reducing the symptoms of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease.
3. Chaga Mushroom Protects From Stress
One of the lesser-known benefits of Chaga mushroom powder is that it can fight stress.
Chaga belongs to the adaptogen mushroom family. Adaptogen supports the body’s homeostasis and helps the body to respond to stress.
4. Chaga Improves Heart Health
When incorporated into a healthy diet, one benefit of Chaga tea is protecting the heart against ailments.
The bioactive compounds in Chaga like betulin, betulinic acid, inotodiol, lanosterol, and trametonolic acid lower blood cholesterol levels(5). The mushroom decreases total cholesterol, triglycerides, and malondialdehyde and increases the good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood.
An effective solution to people dealing with excessive body weight,Chaga tea helps with weight loss. The mushroom enhances cholesterol transportation into the liver, lowering the body and fat mass weight.
Chaga helps lower blood pressure. Its powerful anti-oxidant property plays a key role in blood pressure management. High blood pressure makes you prone to heart attack, heart disease, stroke, and other serious cardiovascular problems. A lowered blood pressure, therefore, benefits cardiovascular health.
5. Chaga Balances The Thyroid
Researchers studying the Chaga extract benefits have shown that this medicinal mushroom has a positive impact on the thyroid gland. Chaga helps in restoring the balance of the thyroid by activating the immune system, increasing NK cells, and reducing the thyroid antibodies.
6. Chaga Supports Gastrointestinal Health
For people dealing with gut health issues, one of the Chaga powder benefits makes the mushroom an ideal solution.
Chaga contains melano-glucan complexes which have anti-microbial(6) potential. These complexes along with melanin in the mushroom help boost the beneficial gut bacteria. The mushroom can therefore help in balancing out the gut flora preventing dysbiosis.
7. Chaga Improves Brain Function
Chaga mushroom has been shown to protect against chemically-induced cognitive decline in study subjects. This has confirmed that improving brain function is one of the many Chaga tea health benefits.
If you are wondering what is Chaga mushroom good for when it comes to brain health, you should know that in research studies, the fungus significantly improved memory and learning. The mushroom is also known to reduce(7) amyloid protein deposition in the brain, which causes Alzheimer’s.
8. Chaga Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Among the health benefits of Chaga mushroom is that it helps people with diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels.
The mushroom has been shown to lower sugar levels in the blood of mouse models(8). The mushroom polysaccharides have significant anti-hyperglycemic effects. They reduce fasting glucose levels and insulin resistance and improve glucose tolerance. Chaga also increases the hepatic glycogen levels, increasing the storage levels of glucose rather than circulating it in the blood.
9. Chaga Protects Our DNA!
One of the least known benefits Chaga is that the mushroom can protect the human DNA.
Chaga mushroom is rich in antioxidants. The antioxidant concentration of Chaga is the highest(9) among naturally occurring foods, as measured by the ORAC score. Oxygen Radical Absorbancy Capacity or ORAC score determines the antioxidant strength of food. With an ORAC score of 146700, the antioxidant support of Chaga is 1300 times more than that of blueberries and 80 times higher than pomegranates. This high ORAC value is due to melanin and polyphenols in Chaga.
A healthy body requires a balance of free radicals and oxidants. Free radicals are unstable molecules that destroy the cellular DNA accelerating aging. Disruption of free radical-antioxidant balance can lead to oxidative stress. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) scavenges the free radicals in the body. Chaga benefits the DNA by combating free radical damage(10) by its high SOD content.
10. Chaga Boosts Energy
For people struggling with performing to their maximum capacity, one of the Chaga mushroom powder benefits is increased energy.
The long-chain polysaccharide in Chaga mushroom can be converted into usable energy. The mushroom energy is natural, more enduring, and sustained.
11. Chaga Activates The Pineal Gland
A good night's sleep is one of the benefits Chaga mushroom. Like other Chaga mushroom benefits which start in different glands in the human body, the sleep benefit starts in the pineal gland.
The pineal gland is a pea-sized gland located deeply in our brain. This endocrine gland produces melatonin and regulates reproductive hormones. Melatonin promotes a good night’s sleep by regulating the circadian rhythm. This “go to sleep now” hormone is derived from melanin.
Chaga mushroom has the highest food source of melanin. Consumption of the mushroom activates the pineal gland by supporting the production of melatonin. Another benefit of melanin-rich food is that it prevents the age-associated buildup of calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride in the pineal gland.
12. Chaga For A Youthful Skin
We all hate aging. Luckily enough, one of the benefits Chaga tea is helping us maintain a youthful appearance.
The mushroom fights oxidative stress which makes it a superior beauty supplement. Harmful UV rays of the sun cause free radical injury to the skin. This leads to features of premature aging like wrinkles, drooping skin, grey hair, and freckles. Chaga benefits skin health by promoting youthful skin. The antioxidant enzymes of the mushroom keep skin hydrated, well-nourished and plump. In addition to helping you maintain a youthful skin,Chaga also benefits your hair, helping you avoid grey hair.
Chaga mushroom contains melanin, a naturally occurring anti-oxidant. Melanin supports healthy skin pigmentation. The beta-glucans of the fungus is a powerful humectant. Topical skincare products enriched with Chaga extracts are more hydrating than the now popular hyaluronic acid. Regular use of Chaga-infused skin products supports healthy skin.
13. Chaga Fights Off Cancer Cells
Research has shown that one of the benifits of Chaga is fighting cancer. One of the most vital health benefits of Chaga, the ability to fight cancer cells is brought about by compounds known as triterpenes.
The triterpenes in the mushroom elicit anti-cancer(11) effects by decreasing mutations in cells. Cellular mutations cause the evolution of normal cells into cancer cells. When patients useChaga mushroom for cancer, the mushroom induces cell death if the cells are already mutated.
A study conducted in 2010 to prove fighting cancer as one of the Chaga benifits observed that Chaga mushrooms slowed the growth of cancer cells in the breast, cervix, and lungs. Unlike traditional treatment modalities like radiation and chemotherapy, the use of Chaga mushroom for cancer does not harm(12) healthy non-cancerous cells.
Chaga extract can also elicit anti-tumor effects in prostate and breast carcinomas. This can be attributed to (13)ergosterol and ergosterol peroxide present in Chaga.
Who Enjoys Chaga Mushroom Benefits?
Chaga is beneficial in individuals with:
- High blood sugar levels, diabetes or pre-diabetic
- High LDL, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels
- Digestive imbalances or diseases like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS)
- Insulin resistance or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- An increased risk of skin cancer
- Under excessive stress
- Liver diseases
- Allergies or a dysfunctional immune system
Does Chaga Have Side Effects?
Chaga mushroom is generally a safe medicinal fungus and is well tolerated by many people. Although the majority of the studies are based on animal models and only a handful of human studies are available, scientists have determined that most people enjoy Chaga benefit without dealing with side effects.
If this is the first time you are planning to take advantage of the mushroom Chaga benefits, start using a Chaga supplement after a go-ahead from your doctor. Talking to a health professional before using the mushroom should help you ensure that you are getting Chaga mushroom benefit without risking side effects.
Some known Chaga side effects and Chaga warnings are:
- Tendency to bleed as Chaga may inhibit platelet aggregation
- May cause digestive problems like diarrhea
- It may lower blood sugar(14) levels significantly when used in combination with anti-diabetes medication. Chaga mushroom increases the effect of insulin and combining the two can put you at risk of hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar
- Can lead to kidney stone formation due to high oxalate content(15) in Chaga
- Chaga-infused alcohol tinctures should be consumed only after consulting with your healthcare provider. The alcohol in the tincture can enter the bloodstream, which may not be tolerated by some adults
It is best to avoid Chaga if:
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding
- You have a history of autoimmune disease
- If you are on blood-thinning medications or anti-diabetes drugs
- If you have a surgery scheduled ahead
- If you are on medications that regulate the blood pressure
- If you have a history of osteoporosis or kidney stones
Keep in mind that while taking advantage of Chaga mushroom health benefits is one of the best things you can do, you shouldn't take the mushroom if you already know your risk of suffering from side effects is high. Keep in mind that talking to a doctor can help you figure out an ideal dose that could help you enjoy Chaga mushrooms benefits without suffering from side effects.
How Does Chaga Make You Feel?
Drinking Chaga tea can help you feel relaxed and calm when you are stressed. The mushroom Chaga can also give you an energy burst when you feel tired.
Chaga mushrooms are one of the most popular and sought-after mushrooms in the world. Traditional texts describe Chaga as "the gift of God” for its many powerful benefits.
So, what are the benefits of Chaga in the body system?
The mushroom is known to boost the immune system, fight inflammation and cancerous cells, and protect our heart, skin, and DNA. The mushroom also boosts energy and supports our endocrine glands. In addition, this functional mushroom is important to combat stress in our modern life.
Chaga mushroom benefits are endless, and once you start you will fall in love with this medicinal fungus. Try it to experience the benefits of Chaga mushroom powder in your life!
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