What is chaga mushroom?
Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a type of fungus that grows in colder climates in the Northern hemisphere on birch trees. The exterior of chaga looks like burnt charcoal, however, the inside reveals a soft core with an orange colour.
Eastern-European folk medicine has seemingly known about and used chaga since the 1500s. Chaga possesses a strong antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory effect.
These mushrooms can not be eaten raw. Before they’re suitable for human consumption, their tough exteriors must be broken down with alcohol and hot water. Chaga mushroom teas and coffees have become popular in recent years and were used during World Wars I and II as an alternative to coffee.
5 benefits of chaga mushrooms
Boosts Your Immune System
Chaga mushrooms are powerful immune boosters. This is because they contain beta-glucans, naturally occurring polysaccharides that “increase host immune defence by activating complement system, enhancing macrophages and natural killer cell function.”
Chaga’s anti-inflammatory effect is thought to be linked to the presence of ergosterol, ergosterol peroxide, and trametenolic acid.
Prevents and Fights Cancer
Folk medicine has used chaga for years to treat non-operable breast cancer, oral cancer, cancer of the digestive tract, thyroid cancer, skin cancer, and Hodgkin disease.
The ability to suppress cancerous growths and mutation-causing factors is linked to the presence of melanin in chaga. Melanin participates in repairing DNA defects, is an electron acceptor in the respiratory chain, and a radiation protector.
Chaga also stimulates macrophage and, in tumours, promotes cell death. A large role in this is attributed to endo-polysaccharides in chaga.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Chaga also helps to regulate blood sugar levels, thanks to inotodiols and terpenoids.
Improves skin and hair health
“Chaga contains more antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD), zinc, and melanin than any other single natural source. You probably know that melanin is responsible for your skin pigmentation, but it’s also important for your overall skin health and is a factor in maintaining healthy eyes and hair.” (Healing Mushrooms)
Are there any side effects?
Chaga mushrooms don’t have any known side effects. However, you should consult with your doctor before taking chaga if:
- You are on blood thinners. Chaga contains a protein that can prevent blood clotting. Therefore, if you are on blood-thinning medications, have a bleeding disorder or are preparing for surgery, consult with your doctor before taking chaga.
- You are taking blood sugar-lowering medications. Because chaga lowers blood sugar, it can be dangerous for people taking insulin and other blood sugar-lowering medications.
- You have kidney disease. Chaga is high in oxalates and may cause kidney problems in some individuals.
What does chaga taste like?
Chaga mushrooms do not taste like button mushrooms or portobello mushrooms. They are usually consumed in a drink. You can drink chaga mushroom straight just like any other herb but, because they have a bitter and earthy taste, it might be a good idea to try blending changa with other herbs or to add something sweet to the mix when drinking it.
Keep in mind when buying chaga
Chaga is a parasite of the birch tree, so when the tree dies, so does the chaga mushroom. This means that chaga must always be harvested from living trees. It should also be harvested from trees that are found in forests far away from urban areas, sources of pollution and roads. This prevents Chaga accumulating environmental toxins that could be passed onto the end-user. So when buying chaga make sure to ask where it has been harvested from!
Once harvested, chaga is then dried and broken into chunks or ground into powder. While you can find chaga mushrooms in many forms, my favorite way to get the benefits of chaga mushrooms is with Magic Mushroom mix.