I first heard about these medicinal mushrooms whilst listening to one of Wellness Mama‘s podcasts, where in it, she mentioned a company called Four Sigmatic. They’ve created a mushroom-coffee blend that contains chaga, as well as a whole array of other medicinal mushrooms like lion’s mane. I hadn’t heard of these mushrooms before, so it spiked my curiosity and I went about looking up what the health benefits were…
What are Chaga Mushrooms?
Also known as the “king of medicinal mushrooms,” or “black gold,” chaga can be found in Siberia, Northern Canada, Alaska, Northern Europe, Northern US, and Russia. They grow predominantly on beech, chestnut, hornbeam and alder trees and have been used in Siberia, Russia, and parts of Asia for centuries for their medicinal properties.
In fact, chaga actually has one of the highest ORAC scores of any food! ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbent capacity,” and this often determines a food’s ability to protect the body from disease-causing free radicals.
According to Dr. Josh Axe,
Chaga mushrooms are one of the best sources of antioxidants, with an ORAC value of 146,700.
As we age, our bodies require more antioxidants to help protect our DNA from damage. Free radicals and oxidative stress are the main culprits and can cause health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. As chaga has the highest levels of antioxidants per gram of any plant, they make a wonderful addition and an easy source for these essential nutrients.
Chaga mushrooms have certain characteristics which make them easy to decipher from that of other mushrooms:
- On the outside they look lumpy (like a lump of lava) or like burnt charcoal
- On the inside they have a rusty colour.
These mushrooms can be found in many forms such as supplements, elixirs, coffee, teas and powders.
Health Benefits of Chaga
Chaga is rich in an array of nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, potassium, silicon, manganese, selenium, zinc, chromium, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin D, betulin, and phytosterols, and has been used throughout the ages for:
- Stomach ulcers
- Regulating hunger
- Reducing brain fog
- Increasing productivity
- Improving endurance
- Immunity boost
Here are some of chaga’s most studied benefits:
1. Anti-Cancer Properties
The phytosterols and polysaccharide beta-glucan present in chaga give it anti-cancer properties by; encouraging the immune system to fight cancer naturally, preventing the formation of tumours by protecting the body against potent genotoxic carcinogens (toxins that damages the genetic information within a cell causing mutations), preventing tumours from forming blood cells, improving macrophages (a type of white blood cell) which locates and kills foreign bodies.
What’s more, according to Dr. Josh Axe;
A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology looked at the effects of this mushroom on cancerous human liver cells. The research reveals that chaga extract may be able to prevent liver cancer cell growth, making it a potential treatment for cancer in the liver.
2. Support the Immune System & Reduces Inflammation
By promoting the formation of beneficial cytokines (proteins that regulate the immune system), and other immune cells like interleukin 6 (IL-6) and T lymphocytes, chaga helps to regulate the immune system and make sure that the body is fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses.
Furthermore, the polysaccharides are able to boost or suppress the immune system, whichever is needed by the body at the time. This is especially important for those suffering with overactive immune systems, where chronic inflammation has brought on conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disease.
3. A Potent Anti-Viral
One such study published in 2015 found that extracts of chaga had an anti-viral affect on the immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 in humans. The hepatitis C virus was also shown to be reduced in animal studies with the assistance of chaga.
More research is needed, but chaga could prove to be a good general antiviral treatment.
4. Increase Physical Endurance
Chaga may also improve strength and endurance. One study published in 2015, in the Journal of Chinese Medicine, found that when mice were given chaga, they were able to swim longer. They believe this is because the mushroom reduced lactic acid (a by-product created by the body when there is not enough oxygen available to complete the process) and enhanced glycogen (stored energy) levels.
Precautions & Side Effects
To date, there are no clinical trials that have assessed the safety of these mushrooms in humans. Thus, because of that, there is no standard dosage for humans.
While it has been safely used for centuries, there are some precautions to consider. According to Wellness Mama:
It may interact with medications and may reduce blood clotting (not good for surgery!)
It may lower blood sugar (good for some, not good for others)
Chaga may not be great for those with autoimmune disease because it boosts the immune system. However, as noted earlier, it is an immune modulator so would lower an immune response in this case.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction to it.
Have you tried chaga mushrooms before? What did you use it for? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,
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