Chaga has for thousands of years remained popular in Eurasia where it is called ‘Gift from God’ due to its medicinal properties. It is known by many names and is honored as a healing mushroom in every place it can be found:
- ‘King of the Plants’ by the Chinese
- ‘Diamond of the Forest’ by the Japanese
- ‘Mushroom of Immortality’ as it is denser than all tree growths.
Of all the different kinds of tree growths, chaga is widely considered as the densest in terms of nutrient contents. Siberians are among those who have been enjoying the health benefits of chaga. They call it “Mushroom of Immortality” and “Gift from God”. They use it for tea and it gives them long life. Some even live to be more than 100 years old despite the harsh conditions of the Siberian region. This can be attributed to regularly taking chaga. Tales of the Siberian people adding it to their daily coffee abound.
The Chinese and the Japanese also used chaga for centuries. The Chinese considered it as the “King of Plants”. The Japanese referred to it as the “Diamond of the forest”.
- 1 What does Chaga Mushroom look like?
- 2 Where can I find Chaga Mushrooms?
- 3 What are the active compounds of Chaga Mushrooms?
- 4 Properties of Chaga
- 5 Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
- 5.1 Antioxidants
- 5.2 Anti-Cancer
- 5.3 Positive effects on the cardiovascular system
- 5.4 Strength
- 5.5 Adaptogen
- 5.6 Antibacterial
- 5.7 Anti-malarial
- 5.8 Anti-Inflammatory
- 5.9 Anthelmintic Properties
- 5.10 Antiviral
- 5.11 Antifungal
- 5.12 Antimicrobial
- 5.13 Supports the functioning of the immune system
- 5.14 Cognitive Enhancement as a Nootropic
- 5.15 Digestion
- 5.16 Skin protection
- 6 Side effects of Chaga Mushroom
- 7 Can you eat chaga mushrooms raw?
What does Chaga Mushroom look like?
Chaga is also known as a clinker polyphore and isn’t difficult to identify when you know what to look for.
It does not look much like a mushroom. It looks more like a black canker on a tree. Its surface is very hard, deeply cracked and dense. At times, hints of yellow inside can be seen. The surface of chaga looks as if it has been burned.
The flesh inside the chaga mushroom has a yellow to yellow-brown color. It may have a few flecks of white mixed in. The texture is corky and a bit pebbly. The surface has a dark brown to black color. The surface can be brittle. A few pieces may easily fall or rub off.
Where can I find Chaga Mushrooms?
Chaga Mushrooms prefer to grow in harsh environmental conditions. It thrives in the northern climate, found north of the 45th parallel. The conditions are cold and harsh in this region. Summers are harsh and winters are extremely cold. But these harsh conditions are what allows chaga to develop its unique roster of bioactive compounds.
In North America, you’re most likely to find chaga in Maine and Canada.
Chaga Mushrooms are most often found starting to grow on scarred birch trunks. It can be found all year long and lives for many years. It prefers to live on yellow or white birch trees. There are reports of chaga growing on hardwoods such as hornbeam and beech. Those growing on birch have the best medicinal qualities.
For centuries, chaga has been used by Siberians. They use it as tea and a tonic.
What are the active compounds of Chaga Mushrooms?
Chaga Mushroom is rich in bioactive compounds that promote several alternative and holistic herbal health benefits. The active compounds include:
- Triterpenes, specifically Betulin and Betulinic acid
- Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
- Phytosterols such as ergosterol, lanosterol, inotodiol and fecosterol
Properties of Chaga
- Inonotus Obliquus is the scientific name of Chaga mushroom.
- Chaga mushroom is hard as wood, unlike the soft mushrooms you have probably eaten.
- Wild-source minerals and is rich in iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, zinc, and copper.
- Slows down the aging process.
- Contains numerous B vitamins, phenols, flavonoids, enzymes and minerals.
- The most powerful antioxidants in the world.
- Anti-cancer properties.
Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
The following are some of the alternative health benefits of Chaga mushroom.
Chaga Mushroom contains beta-carotene that is orange in color and the most powerful antioxidant. Unstable molecules called free radicals can cause cancer and antioxidants like Chaga prevents our body from these damaging free radicals. Antioxidants react with these unstable molecules and stabilize them. One of the most important antioxidants in chaga are polyphenols.
Probably the single-most important benefit from these wonderful mushrooms is their innate ability to help the body fight cancer.
Chaga Mushroom has anti-cancer properties because it contains botulinic acid that has cytotoxic properties and causes apoptosis of cancer cells. It also contains beta glucan that has powerful immunomodulating properties, and it helps the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells.
Further research into the properties of chaga has found that its influence on the immune system shows promise as a cancer treatment. Chaga has the ability to activate certain cells of the immune system that can fight against the initiation of cancer.
Chaga’s direct influence on the immune cells also helps in cancer treatments. It has been proven that chaga can reduce the negative side effects of cancer therapies like chemotherapy through compensation.
Phytosterols in chaga contribute to the anti-cancer benefits. The abundance of compounds like fecosterol, inotodiols, ergosterol, and lanosterol has shown positive effects on viral compounds known to cause cancerous tumors and growths.
I found this published study on chaga mushroom’s ability to fight lung cancer particularly intriguing and promising.
Positive effects on the cardiovascular system
A lot of the bioactive compounds of chaga have positive impact on cholesterol levels and blood pressure. For instance, polysaccharides promote better cardiovascular health. Betulin and betulinic acid help break down the bad LDL cholesterol in the blood. This will lead to reduced LDL levels. This will lower the risk for cardiovascular diseases like stroke and atherosclerosis. Beta-d-glucans also have this effect in the body.
Other effects include better blood sugar control and antioxidant properties. The bioactive compounds, such as SOD can help in fighting the negative effects of free radicals on the cells. Phytosterols and beta-d-glucans help in treating diabetes by normalizing blood sugar levels and improving insulin actions.
Raw Chaga Mushroom provides your body with strength. One cup of Chaga beverage provides strength to your body for the whole day.
Chaga mushroom acts as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a substance that helps human body to act against stress and improves mental as well as physical work capacity.
Chaga mushrooms destroy or suppress reproduction of bacteria and kills bacteria by inhibiting growth or replication.
Chagas mushroom has constituents that have anti-malarial properties.
Chaga mushroom has pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. In patients with inflammatory bowel disease, Chaga reduces the oxidative stress in lymphocytes.
Chaga Mushroom has many active constituents like botulinic acid, triterpenes and saponins which have anthelmintic properties.
Chaga Mushroom has antiviral properties via biological active constituents like saponins and triterpenes and betulinic acid. Not surprisingly, chaga is effective in fighting the herpes simpex virus HSV-1 genital herpes and getting rid of cold sores.
Chaga’s antifungal properties come from these constituents: beta glucans, betulinic acid, copper, enzymes, flavonoids, lanosterol, manganese, magnesium, pantothenic acid, phenols, polysaccharides, saponins, selenium, sterols, trametenolic acid, triterpenes, triterpenoids, and zinc.
Kind of ironic, isn’t it?
Chaga Mushroom has many components that give it incredible antimicrobial properties: betulinic acid, chitin, magnesium, sterols, polysaccharides, zinc, flavonoids, inotodiols, , manganese, amino acids , , melanin, phenols, phytonutrients, lanosterol, potassium, saponins, selenium, trametenolic acid, copper, tripeptides, triterpenoids, and enzymes.
Supports the functioning of the immune system
The abundance of beta-d-glucans in chaga mushrooms is responsible for its immune-enhancing effects. This compound helps in balancing and regulating the various functions of the immune system. It will boost immunity when needed and reduce when necessary. It can stimulate specific immune cells to respond quickly when the need arises, such as during active infections. It can also reduce immune responses to prevent any negative impact, such as reduction in inflammatory responses. This ability makes this mushroom a natural BRM or biological response modifier.
Cognitive Enhancement as a Nootropic
No wonder this amazing medicinal mushroom is quickly gaining attention among the nootropic community for its amazing ability to enhance cognition. More clinical trials and scientific studies are underway to better understand and gain evidence as to its mechanism of action in this regard.
Chaga mushroom a rich source of pantothenic acid. This vitamin (pantothenic acid) is needed by digestive organs as well as the adrenal glands so helps digestion.
Chaga mushrooms are full of special phenols, similar to pigment. These phenolic compounds are called chromogenic complex. The chromogenic complex only found in Chaga protects all body tissues. Chaga is used as an active ingredient in creams. It has a chromogenic complex that protects the skin. It helps people develop a tan by rubbing on the skin as it contains the melanin pigment. It is the same pigment helps to get the dark-colored skin.
Side effects of Chaga Mushroom
Whether taken as chaga tea, coffee or powdered extract supplement, it’s important to be aware of the side effects, risks and contraindications of taking medicinal Chaga mushrooms. It’s equally as important to consult a medical doctor before embarking on any alternative herbal health remedy or treatment.
- Lowers blood sugar levels so important research must be done by anyone suffering from diabetes.
- As a blood thinner Chaga can increases risk of severe bleeding especially if taken with warfarin or aspirin.
Can you eat chaga mushrooms raw?
Absolutely! I won’t guarantee you it will be very appetizing but one way to get instant health benefits from chaga mushrooms is to find it in the woods, chop it off the tree and eat it. You’ll have to be a very hearty soul to accomplish it though because of the hardness of the fungus. Somethign else that might dampen your spirits for eating raw chaga is the fact that to get the most benefit, you need to consume an extract tea or supplement that contains the chitin. You’d have to down quite a bit of hard, raw chaga before getting much use from it.