What You Should Know about Chaga Mushrooms

Chaga Mushrooms Health Benefits

In the northern climates of Japan, northern Europe, Russia, and some northern US states, the Chaga mushroom (aka, the “king of mushrooms”) makes its home. That’s where it clings mainly to birch trees, although you may also find it hanging onto the ash, beech, and chestnut trees.

What makes the Chaga mushroom a king? It’s probably its health benefits because it’s not its looks. The mushrooms tend to be lumpy and have a burnt looking exterior with a soft yellow-orange center. They range in size from several inches to as large as a human head.

Read about the many health benefits of mushrooms

Health benefits of Chaga mushrooms

Chaga mushrooms have been used as a traditional remedy for centuries to treat diabetes, gastrointestinal conditions, and heart disease. In recent years, researchers have been exploring the validity of these claims as well as other uses for the king of mushrooms. Here are some of the results of their investigations.

Chaga mushrooms provide powerful antioxidants and nutrients

Chaga mushrooms are the richest known source of superoxide dismutase, a potent antioxidant enzyme that protects tissues. Scientists have also identified at least seven other antioxidants in the mushroom. Other compounds in Chaga include beta-glucan, melanin, vitamin D2, and rare trace minerals (e.g., cesium, germanium, rubidium). All of these elements help make Chaga mushrooms an effective anti-aging supplement and a supporter of immune system function.

Anti-inflammatory effects of Chaga mushrooms

Chaga mushrooms have been shown to reduce inflammation in animal studies. For example, researchers discovered that Chaga extract can suppress the activity of chemical mediators of inflammation in the colon.

Chaga improves endurance and energy

Are you fighting fatigue? Chaga mushrooms have demonstrated an ability to improve energy and endurance, at least in mice. In one study, mice given the mushroom extract showed an increase in glycogen (a polysaccharide of glucose that stores energy) and a drop in lactic acid in blood and serum urea nitrogen. These findings suggest the mushroom has anti-fatigue potential.

Read about mushrooms prove as effective as vitamin D supplements

Chaga mushroom can help fight viruses

Several viruses have felt the wrath of Chaga extracts. In a 2015 study, researchers found that it had an antiviral effect on human immunodeficiency virus type 1 while other research showed it may be effective against hepatitis C virus.

Chaga for boosting brain power

An animal study found that Chaga mushroom extract given to amnesic mice for seven days significantly improved memory and learning while also markedly reducing oxidative stress. The mushroom extract also triggered other processes in the brain that improve cognitive abilities.

Improves immune system function

Animal studies have shown that Chaga mushrooms increase the production of interleukin 6 and T lymphocytes, which are important cells that help to regulate the immune system. According to at least one study, extracts of the mushroom can stimulate lymphocytes in the spleen, an organ that performs various immune system functions.

Anti-diabetes potential

Researchers isolated two polysaccharides from Chaga mushroom and discovered they have anti-diabetes effects both in the lab and in animals. These compounds showed an ability to reduce insulin resistance and blood sugar levels. Much more research is needed to determine the value of these mushrooms in fighting diabetes.

More about Chaga mushrooms

Do you want to reduce your coffee intake? Then try Chaga coffee or tea! Chaga mushrooms were used as a coffee substitute during World War I and II, and it is still being used today. Sometimes Chaga coffee and tea are available in combination with other mushrooms, such as cordyceps. Chaga supplements are also on the market as tinctures, capsules, tablets, and powders. Take according to package directions.

Precautions

If you have kidney stones, mast cell disorders, or other conditions related to oxalate, talk to a health professional before taking Chaga mushrooms, since they are high in this molecule, which can bind to minerals and prevent the body from absorbing them. Therefore, too many oxalates can be detrimental. Chaga mushrooms also have an ability to lower blood sugar and to thin the blood, so it may not be recommended for anyone who is taking blood-thinning medications or diabetes medications.

Bottom line

Chaga mushrooms are an important member of the medicinal mushroom family. Before taking Chaga mushroom supplements for any of the health issues discussed here or elsewhere, consult with a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

North American Herb & Spice Chaga

[Editor's Note: Our sponsor, North American Herb & Spice has a variety of Chaga products which you can buy on their site or on Amazon.]

Read next:

The Many Health Benefits of Mushrooms

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Lisa Roth Collins is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and is the Marketing Manager at NaturallySavvy.com. She is passionate about health and wellness and tries her best to make healthier choices every day for herself and her family. Her journey to natural health was driven by her own struggles with digestive discomfort, depression, and anxiety. Lisa returned to school in 2014 to study nutrition at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition. She threw herself into her studies so she could learn as much as she could to help herself feel better and thrive. Upon completing the program and being certified as an RHN, Lisa began her work at Naturally Savvy where she has been able to help so many people learn to make healthier choices for themselves. Through her work, she has connected with so many incredible people in the industry whether other authors, influencers, or brands. Plus, she is affectionately known as "Techie Spice" because of her ability to wrap her head around technology. Every day she gets up with a renewed sense of energy and ready to make a difference. You can read all of Lisa's content here. In her spare time, Lisa loves to try new recipes, make delicious and nourishing meals, and she is an avid reader. For more information about Lisa, check out her profile on here.