While functional mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes and boast a wide variety of benefits, Chaga is one of the most beneficial. The Chaga mushroom boasts more than 13 benefits, all of which have been scientifically proven.
However, 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 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.
Read More: Learn how to identify Chaga mushrooms.
Chaga mushrooms are available all over the world. However, when it comes to the locations where the Chaga mushrooms are most common, you will find them in the northern hemisphere, particularly in Canada, North America, Alaska, Finland, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Chaga mushrooms are also common in Japan.
Contrary to popular belief, Chaga is not a pure mushroom. It is 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 primary biological constituents of the tree, lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose. This weakens the tree's structure, allowing the Chaga to protrude from it.
Nicknamed the diamond of the forest, the Chaga mushrooms certainly do not look like one. The lumpy ash-like mushroom resembles the clinker left behind from burning coal.
However, when we look at its numerous uses—from its skin and hair uses to blood pressure benefits—we realize why the mushroom is considered a diamond with its non-appealing appearance.
Read More: See how Chaga fights high blood pressure.
Chaga mushroom benefits have been touted for centuries. Currently, there is scientific evidence to confirm the health benefits of the Chaga mushroom.
Are you ready to see how an ideal Chaga mushroom dosage can benefit you? Read on to learn how this mushroom obtained from birch trees can improve your life.
What Are The Benefits Of Chaga Mushroom?
Many cultures have used Chaga mushrooms and their 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 the skin, liver, and stomach
- Helps combat tiredness
- Supports heart health
- Increases energy, stamina, and endurance
Chaga Mushroom Benefits: A Detailed Guide
Chaga mushrooms are known for their myriad health benefits! The benefits of Chaga mushrooms include:
1. Chaga Mushrooms Support Immune Function
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 mushrooms also help the white blood cells perform their bodily duties. These white blood cells help the body fight everything from harmful bacteria to other disease-causing organisms that may enter the human body. While fighting harmful bacteria, the mushroom helps the body eliminate mutated cells.
Chaga mushrooms enhance the activity of helper T cells which search for and destroy the mutated cells. The xylogalactoglucan polysaccharide in the mushroom induces programmed cell death(1)in infected and cancer-ridden cells.
Read More: See how Chaga fights cancer.
Hot water extracts of Chaga improve the underperforming immune system. It has also been shown to down-regulate(2) an overacting immune response.
Research 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
One of the best herbal supplements, Chaga is an excellent holistic solution for combating inflammation. We now know that Chaga produces beneficial cytokines, vital molecules that help control inflammation.
Hence, Chaga plays a crucial role in the inflammatory process. This anti-inflammatory property(3) of the mushroom is also vital in reducing the symptoms of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease.
In animal studies, the mushroom has shown its effectiveness in inhibiting inflammatory cytokines. This goes a step further to show how effectively the Chaga ingredients and compounds prevent inflammation.
Long-term inflammation (chronic inflammation) has been linked to various health conditions ranging from rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease to cancer. This means that by just taking Chaga for its inflammation protection benefits, you could avoid many health problems.
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.
The mushroom's ability to fight stress makes it a good solution for people with depression and anxiety. Chaga can help the body adapt to depression triggers, reducing the condition's symptoms.
Read More: Chaga is not the only functional mushroom that treats depression. Check out how Lion's mane treats depression.
4. Chaga Improves Heart Health
When incorporated into a healthy diet, one benefit of Chaga tea is protecting the heart against ailments.
Chaga's bioactive compounds— betulin, betulinic acid, inotodiol, lanosterol, and trametonolic acid—help lower blood cholesterol levels(4). The mushroom lowers bad cholesterol (LDL), triglycerides, and malondialdehyde and increases the blood's good cholesterol (HDL).
Read More: See how Chaga tea weight loss benefits lower LDL cholesterol.
The mushroom knows how to distinguish between good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). The medicinal properties of the Chaga mushroom allow it to reduce LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. These cholesterol-balancing effects of Chaga mushrooms minimize the risk of heart disease.
Chaga lowers blood pressure—its potent antioxidant property is crucial in hypertension 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 positively impacts the thyroid gland.
Chaga helps restore the thyroid's balance by activating the immune system, increasing NK cells, and reducing 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(5)potential. These complexes and melanin in the mushroom help boost the beneficial gut bacteria. Chaga mushrooms can, therefore, help in balancing out the gut flora and prevent dysbiosis.
7. Chaga Improves Brain Function
One of the best mushrooms for brain health, the 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.
In research studies, the fungus significantly improved memory and learning. The mushroom is also known to reduce(6)amyloid protein deposition in the brain.
The amyloid protein increases the risk of suffering from Alzheimer's. When this protein is reduced, the risk of Alzheimer's reduces too.
Read More: See how Lion's mane also prevents Alzheimer's.
8. Chaga Helps Lower Blood Sugar Levels
When it comes to diabetes, the main underlying issue is just the body's inability to maintain an ideal blood sugar level. Chaga mushroom, however, helps with the regulation of blood sugar levels.
This means that people with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, and even gestational diabetes may leverage the benefits of Chaga mushrooms to improve their overall health.
Read More: Learn how Chaga fights diabetes.
The mushroom lowered sugar levels in mouse models' blood in a research study(7). Its 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. In animal studies, Chaga mushrooms reduced the blood glucose in diabetic rats, resulting in healthier overall blood sugar levels.
This shows that the mushroom may have the ability to reduce insulin resistance in humans and help them avoid constantly high blood sugar levels, which could cause long-term diabetes complications.
If you are already using anti-diabetic medications, talking to your doctor before adding Chaga chunks to your diet may be a good idea. Chaga works independently to help you lower blood sugar.
Combining Chaga and diabetic meds compounds the blood sugar-lowering effect. This can result in hypoglycemia, a situation where your blood sugar levels drop below healthy levels.
Hypoglycemia can be fatal as it disorients you and makes you unable to operate normally. In cases where hypoglycemia is left untreated immediately, it can make you unconscious and may even put you in a coma.
9. Chaga Protects Our DNA!
One of the least known benefits of Chaga is that the mushroom can protect human DNA.
Chaga mushroom is rich in antioxidants. The antioxidant concentration of Chaga is the highest(8) 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 cellular DNA, accelerating aging.
Read More: Learn how Chaga boosts skin health, helping you avoid premature 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(9) using 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 mushrooms can convert into usable energy. The mushroom energy is natural, more enduring, and sustained.
Read More: Learn how to use Chaga powder for its energy-boosting effect.
11. Chaga Activates The Pineal Gland
A good night's sleep is one of the benefits Chaga mushroom. Chaga mushroom sleep benefits start 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 melatonin production.
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. Chaga comes packed with anti-aging benefits.
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 youthful skin, Chaga also benefits your hair, helping you avoid grey hair.
Chaga mushroom contains melanin, a naturally occurring antioxidant. Boasting high antioxidant levels, Chaga leverages melanin to support healthy skin pigmentation.
The beta-glucans of the fungus are potent humectants. 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.
It is worth noting that the mushroom's ability to control blood sugar levels and also help people with high cholesterol levels enjoy lower cholesterol contributes to anti-aging properties.
In most cases, people with uncontrolled blood sugar levels age faster. The same case happens to people with unhealthy low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
13. Chaga Fights Off Cancer Cells
Research has shown that one of the benefits of Chaga is that it fights cancer. In addition to helping slow cancer growth, the Chaga mushroom also initiates the death of mutated cells.
In fighting cancer, Chaga handles all types of cancers, from liver cancer to human colon cancer cells and lung cancer. When paired with other cancer treatment methods, the Chaga extract works exceptionally well to prevent cancer growth.
The triterpenes in Chaga mushrooms elicit anti-cancer(10) effects by decreasing mutations in cancer cells. Cellular mutations cause the evolution of normal cells into cancer cells.
The Chaga mushrooms potential health benefits for cancer patients have been scientifically proven. A study conducted in 2010 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(11) healthy non-cancerous cells.
The Chaga extract can also elicit anti-tumor effects in prostate and breast carcinomas. This can be attributed to (12)ergosterol and ergosterol-peroxide 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)
- Chaga also treats psoriasis, a common skin health problem
- Insulin resistance or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- An increased risk of skin cancer
- Under excessive stress
- Liver diseases
- Allergies or a dysfunctional immune system
Read More: Chaga also benefits people with pets. Chaga is used for dogs by people with furry friends.
What Makes Chaga So Good?
Is Chaga good for you? Absolutely!
The benefits of the Chaga mushroom are attributed to its bioactive metabolites. 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, an immune enhancer, and an anti-viral agent. Polysaccharides are the most active compounds of the Chaga mushroom.
The mushroom contains Vitamin D and B, amino acids, iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and fibers. It is a powerhouse of nutrients, making the mushroom an excellent choice for health and fitness.
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.A Chaga dosage of 1000 mg 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 for using high-quality mushroom extract powders.
Regardless of the form of the mushroom, research shows that consistency is the best way to reap Chaga mushroom health benefits.
Read More: If this is the first time you plan to consume this functional mushroom, you may want to know how Chaga mushroom tastes.
How To Choose Chaga Supplements?
Not all forms of mushroom supplements are of the same quality. 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 dense nutritional 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. Remember that the wild Chaga mushroom always offers the most Chaga mushroom powder benefits.
Does Chaga Have Side Effects?
Chaga mushroom is generally a safe medicinal fungus and is well tolerated by many. Most people enjoy Chaga benefits without dealing with side effects.
However, consuming the mushroom may not be a good thing if you are allergic to Chaga.
We recommend using a Chaga supplement after the go-ahead from your doctor. Talking to a health professional before using the mushroom should help you get Chaga mushroom benefits without risking side effects.
Some known Chaga side effects and Chaga warnings are:
- Tendency to bleed as Chaga may inhibit platelet aggregation. The Chaga mushrooms feature a protein that inhibits blood clotting. For this reason, if you are also on blood thinning medications, taking Chaga without the guidance of a health practitioner may not be a good idea.
- It may cause digestive problems like diarrhea.
- It may significantly lower blood sugar(13)levels when used 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.
- It can lead to kidney stone formation due to Chaga's high oxalate content(14).
- Chaga-infused alcohol tinctures should be consumed only after consulting with your healthcare provider. The alcohol in the tincture can enter the bloodstream, which some adults may not tolerate.
It is best to avoid Chaga if:
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- You have a history of autoimmune diseases.
- You are on blood-thinning medications. Blood thinners are medications that prevent blood clotting. These blood thinners are also known as anticoagulant drugs.
- You are on anti-diabetes drugs. This includes both pills and insulin.
- You have surgery scheduled ahead.
- You are on medications that regulate blood pressure.
- You have a history of osteoporosis or kidney stones.
Talking to a doctor can help you figure out an ideal dose to 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 stressed. The mushroom Chaga can also give you an energy burst when you feel tired.
Chaga mushrooms are among the most popular and sought-after mushrooms worldwide. Traditional texts describe Chaga as "the gift of God" for its many powerful benefits.
This guide discusses thirteen amazing benefits of Chaga mushrooms that will make you want to add this fungus to your diet immediately.
How have you tried Chaga mushrooms? How have they made a difference in your life? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading!
- Medicinal mushrooms as a source of antitumor and immunomodulating polysaccharides, (1)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00253-002-1076-7
- Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus, (2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/
- Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus ameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in mice, (3) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874112004771
- Phytochemical characteristics and hypoglycaemic activity of fraction from mushroom Inonotus obliquus, (4)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20355042/
- Melanins of Inonotus Obliquus: Bifidogenic and Antioxidant Properties, (5)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31238558/
- Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides protect against Alzheimer's disease by regulating Nrf2 signaling and exerting antioxidative and antiapoptotic effects, (6)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30878614/
- Anti-diabetic effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic mice and potential mechanism via PI3K-Akt signal pathway, (7)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28954386/
- Comparison of antioxidant activity and extraction techniques for commercially and laboratory prepared extracts from six mushroom species, (8)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666154321000326
- Medicinal Plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia; their history and applications, (9)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874114002827
- Progress on Understanding the Anticancer Mechanisms of Medicinal Mushroom: Inonotus Obliquus,(10) http://www.koreascience.or.kr/article/JAKO201321365237667.page
- Anticancer Effects of Fraction Isolated from Fruiting Bodies of Chaga Medicinal Mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.) Pilát (Aphyllophoromycetideae): In Vitro Studies, (11)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22135889/
- Anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities of extracts and compounds from the mushroom Inonotus obliquus, (12)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23561137/
- An insight into antidiabetic properties of six medicinal and edible mushrooms: Inhibition of α-amylase and α-glucosidase linked to type-2 diabetes, (13)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254629917314205
- Chaga mushroom-induced oxalate nephropathy, (14)https://www.dustri.com/article_response_page.html?artId=10154&doi=10.5414/CN107655&L=0