What is Chaga Mushroom?
Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) also known as the 'King of Medicinal Mushrooms' is a fungus that naturally grows on the side of tree trunks, most typically birch trees that are found in cold climates.
Chaga mushrooms look like a brown, rounded, cracked, and uneven growth on a tree trunk, up to 38 cm wide and 12-14 cm thick, similar to "burnt wood". Chaga has the outside appearance of charcoal, however it is a burnt orange colour inside. Although not celebrated for its appearance, Chaga mushrooms have many powerful benefits. Unlike other mushrooms, it does not have a “leg” and follows the movement and irregularities of the tree trunk in shape. The black birch mushroom easily survives in extreme climate conditions; it takes from 7 to 10 years to form and obtain medicinal properties. Chaga is known to have some of the highest levels of anti-oxidants, hence the reputation of being the “king” of medicinal mushrooms.
Where does it come from?
Chaga mushrooms like to grow in cold climates throughout the northern hemisphere. Most commonly, you can find Chaga growing on birch trees in Russia, Scandinavian countries, Canada and northern parts of the United States.
How long has it been around?
The use of Chaga mushroom for traditional medicine in Northern Europe and Russia dates back several centuries. This is confirmed by a recently amazing find: at an altitude of 3200 m between Austria and Italy, under a glacier, a mummified body of an ancient man was found. His bag carried three types of mushrooms, including Chaga.
Present day, Chaga mushroom has earned a reputation as one of the most beneficial foods on the planet, containing 31 times more antioxidants than blueberries! Offering over 200+ phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, Chaga has become a common superfood for immune health and more in the world of wellness.
First, a disclaimer. As always, none of these statements have been evaluated by external food and drug research companies, this article is not medical advice, and it is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. The research on Chaga’s benefit on the human body is limited. More human studies are needed, but the research that has been conducted so far seems promising. If you have a question about whether Chaga (or any other mushroom supplement) is right for you, please consult with a qualified healthcare provider.
Strengthens Immune Function
Chaga has become synonymous with the word immunity. This is often the first and highest benefit of this medicinal mushroom. Packed with antioxidants that act as a defense system, Chaga works both preventatively and restoratively to build optimal immune health. Polysaccharides and beta-glucans within Chaga modulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and help ward off infection and viruses.
Most famously, Chaga mushrooms contain high levels of antioxidants, which are compounds that protect against oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to cells and DNA, leading to inflammation and chronic diseases. The antioxidants found in Chaga mushrooms, such as triterpenes and phenols, can help neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. This may help protect against chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
As we get older, our bodies require more antioxidants to protect our DNA from damage caused by oxidative stress. Chaga mushroom is especially high in a compound called superoxide dismutase (SOD). This antioxidant-rich enzyme neutralizes free radicals, maintains tissue health, and has been shown to be a promising cancer preventative. Additionally, Chaga mushrooms contain betulinic acid which has been shown to have anti-tumor effects in animal studies.
Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system to injury or infection. However, chronic inflammation is linked to a range of diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Chaga mushrooms contain betulinic acid, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Additionally, the polysaccharides found in chaga mushrooms can help regulate the immune system, which may help reduce inflammation. By reducing inflammation, chaga mushrooms may help protect against chronic diseases.
Elevate Mood and Increase Energy
People who consume Chaga tea regularly report a surge in energy and mental clarity after drinking it. Polysaccharides found in Chaga mushrooms have been shown to have anxiolytic effects in animal studies. Additionally, Chaga mushrooms contain melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles. By improving sleep quality, chaga mushrooms may help reduce stress and improve mood. Finally, the anti-oxidants found in Chaga mushrooms may also help protect against cognitive decline and improve brain function.
Summary of Chaga Mushroom Benefits
- High levels of antioxidants
- Strengthens immunity
- Strengthens heart health
- Strengthens liver health
- Helps lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity
- Anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties
How to Use Chaga Mushroom
There are many ways you can add Chaga to your daily routine to improve immune health and give your body a helpful dose of nutrients. We recommend adding 1 teaspoon of our Canadian Chaga Mushroom Powder cut by Bloomable to your morning tea, smoothie or coffee for an energetic boost.
You can also add 1/2 -1 tablespoons of Chaga mushroom powder into your baking recipes, such as banana bread, muffins, or brownies.
There are few ways to brew your Chaga tea and it often takes a few tries to perfect a process that fits your preferences. Most often, people will use 1-2 teaspoons in a tea strainer, bag, or infuser and let it steep for 15-20 minutes. You can also make your Chaga tea by simmering 2 large teaspoons of dried Chaga in a pot of water for 1-2 hours until it is a dark coffee colour. This way, you get the most nutritional benefits out of the mushroom. Once you strain out the liquid, keep the tea in a large jar. When you are ready to drink it, pour about ¼ cup in a mug and add hot water. It should taste very earthy and shouldn’t be too strong.