Meet the Mushroom: Chaga
5 minute read
Known as “King of Herbs” and “Gift from God”, Chaga mushrooms are a favourite in functional medicine and are commonly praised for their ability to support the immune system and reduce the impact of ageing on the body. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this incredible medicinal mushroom.
What is Chaga Mushroom?
Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus Obliquus) grow on the trunks of mature birch trees in cold climates in the northern hemisphere such as Canada, Russia, Siberia, Korea and some areas of China and Europe.
Chaga produces a wooden conk, which at first glance could be mistaken for a lump of burnt charcoal, but its irregular appearance hides a soft and fleshy burnt orange centre - which is packed with amazing properties.
Origins of Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga has been used in ancient Chinese medicine for thousands of years with locals enjoying a daily Chaga tea made from the grated mushroom, to reap its amazing benefits. More recently, research has been able to prove just how powerful compounds within Chaga are to human health in the modern world.
What does Chaga Mushroom Taste Like?
Like Reishi, Chaga mushrooms have a slightly bitter taste, but they do contain a compound called ‘vanillin’ which is what gives vanilla its unique flavour.
Their deep earthiness is an acquired taste and they aren't available to enjoy fresh outside of the areas they are grown. So, these days Chaga is usually taken as a mushroom extract, powder or supplement.
5 Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
Studies have shown that taking Chaga Mushroom extract has many amazing benefits throughout the body. Let's take a look at the health optimising potential of Chaga supplementation in more detail.
1. Chaga mushrooms boost immunity
Chaga is best known for its immune-boosting properties. Studies have found that compounds derived from Chaga mushrooms can help to optimise immune function by stimulating the release of multiple immune cells.
Chaga also contains high levels of Beta-Glucans, including polysaccharides, which are believed to help boost the immune system and help to prevent several diseases.
By promoting the formation of beneficial cytokines — specialised proteins which regulate the immune system — chaga stimulates white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses. This can have a therapeutic effect for autoimmune disease and allergies, as well as helping to boost overall immune function and help fight off common bacteria and viruses, such as the cold and flu.
The immune-boosting impact of Chaga is largely attributed to its extremely potent antioxidant activity, which comes from the huge amount of powerful polyphenols Chaga contains.
2. Chaga mushrooms reduce inflammation
Inflammation is a natural part of the body’s protective response, but chronic inflammation works against the immune system and can contribute to the onset of many different diseases.
Chaga contains compounds called triterpenes, which prevent the production of harmful proteins that are often the root cause of inflammation. It is also a source of natural steroid compounds, which are actively anti-inflammatory.
Studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory action of Chaga extract can be an effective functional medicine to help alleviate inflammatory conditions such as IBS, Colitis and Rheumatoid arthritis. This helps to tackle the root cause of the problem rather than just masking the symptoms with medications.
3. Chaga mushrooms are anti-ageing
Ageing is a natural and inevitable process of course, but lots of aspects of our lifestyle have been shown to speed up or slow down the ageing process.
Oxidative stress is one factor which can accelerate ageing of the body. It often results from our exposure to toxins and chemicals such as environmental pollution, which increase harmful free radicals. Over time, these can go on to damage cells and DNA, speeding up the ageing process.
The potent antioxidant activity of Chaga has been shown to reduce oxidative damage by scavenging free radicals before they can cause harm - helping to minimise the impact of ageing on the body.
Research has also shown that Chaga extract helps to activate Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) – an important enzyme which is renowned for its function in protecting cells from oxidative damage.
This is equally beneficial for anti-ageing as natural production of SOD declines as we age. So, taking a Chaga extract can help to mitigate this effect and maintain your youth for as long as possible!
4. Chaga mushrooms can improve cholesterol levels
Due to Chaga's rich antioxidant status, Chaga mushrooms may also help lower cholesterol, which can reduce your risk of heart disease.
One study found that Chaga supplementation reduced “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides and overall cholesterol.
It also increased antioxidant levels. There’s even evidence that chaga mushrooms may increase “good” HDL cholesterol.
5. Chaga mushrooms can lower blood sugar levels
For those with insulin resistance or Type 2 Diabetes, using Chaga mushroom may help to reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance.
Several studies show the potential — with as much as a 31% decrease in blood sugar levels found in those supplementing their diet with Chaga mushroom.
In the modern world where chronically elevated blood sugars and metabolic syndrome are such a huge problem, this benefit is last on our list - but certainly not least!
Rheal Superfood Blends with Chaga Mushroom Extract 🌱
Chaga is an incredible functional and adaptogenic mushroom which can be included in your healthy lifestyle to help boost immune function, reduce inflammation and minimise the impact of ageing on the body.
You won’t find Chaga mushrooms on the shelf at your local greengrocers but you will find potent Chaga extract in our superfood mushroom products:
Elevate your coffee routine today to start experiencing the amazing benefits of Chaga, as well as Lion's Mane and Cordyceps functional mushrooms in every delicious sip.
Chaga Mushroom and Immune Function - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1160565/
Immune Response and the Common Cold & Viruses - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/
Antioxidant Activity of Chaga Mushrooms - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15588653/
Understanding Chronic Inflammation and Disease - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4361086/
Inhibiting Effect of Triterpenes on the Synthesis of Inflammatory Proteins - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1572599500800241
Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Triterpenes - https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2010/943516/
Chaga and LDL cholesterol -
Chaga and HDL cholesterol -