Chaga mushroom is gaining increasing popularity amongst doctors, researchers, alternative medicine advocates, and herb lovers.
This mushroom has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and it is mainly known for its beneficial effects on the immune system and antioxidant properties.
Why chaga unsightly is often called the King of Mushrooms, and what does today’s research say about its possible outcomes?
- What is Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus Obliquus)?
- How Do Chaga Mushrooms Work?
- What Are The Health Benefits of Chaga?
- How to Take Chaga Mushrooms
- What Are The Side Effects of Chaga?
What is Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus Obliquus)?
Inonotus Obliquus, commonly known as Chaga mushroom, is a fungus with a rather unconventional appearance.
At first glance, it appears to be entirely inedible and will most likely be mistaken for a chunk of charcoal, but the mushroom is set apart from other mushrooms by the presence of a softer, orange tissue at its core.
Chaga mushrooms are found in the cold climates of the northern hemisphere. They grow on the bark of birch trees, and for this reason, they’ve often been referred to as Birch mushrooms, birch conk, or cinder conk.
Chaga is a parasitic fungus that grows on dying birch and other trees (1). This particular cancerous property of chaga mushrooms enables them to combat various diseases in the human system and strengthen the immune system.
The growth of chaga mushrooms may signal the end of life for birch trees, but it has the exact opposite effects on humans as an adaptogen.
For centuries, Chaga mushroom tea has been used to boost immunity and keep people healthy. Because of that, Chaga supplements recently got more popular as they have shown possible health benefits in treating chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer.
However, more human studies are needed to definitely prove these effects of Chaga mushrooms.
How Do Chaga Mushrooms Work?
Naturally, you would expect that only the softer, orange portions are of any benefit, but ongoing research proves the opposite.
Chaga mushrooms contain highly medicinally active fractions in almost every part, and the entire mushroom is heavily loaded with valuable properties.
Several studies have referred to the mushroom as a storehouse of nutrients and antioxidants. The sclerotia of the fungus have been found to prevent the growth of certain cancer cells (2).
In addition, recent research proved that the entire mushroom inhibits the type 1 human immunodeficiency virus. Also, the mushroom pure compound fights free radicals responsible for oxidative stress, which leads to aging and many age-related health conditions.
Too many free radicals may also indicate cancer and various tumor-like growths. The presence of these highly reactive species causes your cells to multiply more than necessary.
As a result of being a cancer-like substance itself, Chaga may quickly recognize tumor cells and fight them.
Many of the additional health benefits of Chaga extract come from the birch tree it grows on. Consequently, one of the active ingredients in Chaga is betulinic acid that provides anti-inflammatory benefits, which comes directly from the sap.
What Are The Health Benefits of Chaga?
The benefits of Chaga mushrooms have been recognized ever since the age of traditional medicine. Typically, they have been used to manage many diseases and illnesses.
In addition, these are the potential health benefits of Chaga extract, of which the science provides some evidence on the effectiveness.
Boosts Immune System
Chaga mushrooms are used to lower oxidative stress, promote vitality, and benefit the immunocompromised.
In addition, the Chaga mushroom contains a surprisingly vast range of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper, necessary for normal body function and a healthy immune system.
A Chaga extract created using the water method proved its effectiveness against harmful cytokines in one experiment, where taking Chaga slowed down tumor growth through its immunomodulatory activity (3).
Chaga mushroom benefits conclusively led to increased interleukin levels in the blood pressure and a subsequent boost in Tumor Necrosis Factor.
These substances are the immune system’s chemical messengers that fight cancer growth. As a result, this solidly supports the claim that the Chaga mushroom powder may have synergistic effects with other chemotherapy drugs.
Helps to Fight Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural response mediated by beneficial cytokines. However, if a foreign compound is identified in the body, your lymphocytes trigger an inflammatory process that alerts and informs that something has infiltrated the human system.
While this sounds like beautiful choreography, inflammation can also go wrong. For example, when lymphocytes trigger an unprovoked inflammation process, we may say that your white blood cells have gone rogue in the absence of a disease-causing body.
This is often seen in autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, chronic peptic ulcer, and tuberculosis.
In these cases of an unbridled reaction, Chaga will delay the symptoms of these illnesses by reducing the cytokines that gather in the area of inflammation.
This method will drastically reduce inflammation and pain since harmful cytokines are directly responsible for chronic inflammation (4).
Chaga mushrooms promote acute inflammation, causing your white blood cells to attack intruders viciously, but it retards chronic inflammations. Therefore, the good thing about the approach with Chaga is that it can sense if it is chronic or acute, and according to the human research, the only kind of inflammation we need is short-acting.
Studies suggest that it may even control inflammation transitions and reverse visible signs such as redness and swelling.
Prevents and Fights Cancer
One of the most exciting properties seen in Chaga Mushroom extract is the antimutagenic effects. For example, we know that Chaga mushrooms can prevent the proliferation of human colon cancer cells in vitro.
This is particularly sublime news because colon cancer is listed as one of the cancers with the highest mortality rates. Also, Chaga may slow tumor growth of the already present malicious cell.
In a study containing lung, breast, and colon tissue, a Chaga extract exhibited a 70% reduction in the size of tumors. In addition, extract prevented the cancer cells from growing when injected into mice.
In another study, Inotodiol, a metabolite extracted from the sclerotia of Chaga mushroom, prevented the growth of stage two cancer. Again, the test was carried out on mice.
The antioxidant properties, along with the antimutagenic effects, make the Chaga mushroom an attractive addition to the treatment and management of certain human cancer cells (5).
Chaga may become the beacon in future cancer research. This is because its vast properties against cancer do not affect healthy cells.
Unlike other cancer treatments like chemotherapy, which simultaneously kills healthy and harmful cells, Chaga focuses squarely on the cells that display abnormal growth. Thus, if you have no cancer, you may still consume Chaga.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Studies suggest that Chaga shows certain health benefits in persistently increased blood sugar levels, diabetes. It plays a role in maintaining blood sugar levels in diabetes by releasing essential polysaccharides that promote the turnover of glucose.
This way, it can reduce the post-meal blood sugar levels spike seen in diabetic patients. As a result, it may be helpful to diabetes since this spike may worsen symptoms and manifestations, such as nerve damage.
In addition, research shows that it may prevent cell damage caused by diabetes (6).
The medicinal mushroom, Inonotus Obliquus, can induce hypoglycemia and reinstate healthy blood sugar levels. An experiment conducted with streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats yielded promising results.
However, more research and human studies should be carried out on the antidiabetic medicinal properties of the fungus.
The benefits of Chaga mushrooms also extend to blood lipid metabolism, and it may reduce cholesterol in two principal ways.
First, it helps to convert low-density lipoproteins into high-density. Therefore, high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) are more likely to line the walls of your heart and arteries, causing a cardiovascular disease called multiple sclerosis.
Secondly, it encourages a reduction in total blood cholesterol by stimulating the breakdown of fats to glycerol and fatty acids, which may be used as energy sources. This prevents other cardiovascular health issues like high blood pressure (7).
Taking Chaga supplements reduces the significant risk factor of heart disease, even among people with a high-fat diet. In addition, it shows promising results in the management of obesity.
One of the significant causes of oxidative stress and aging is the presence of free radicals roaming around your cells and increasing the spontaneity of your internal environment.
Antioxidants prevent cell death, aging, and wrinkling by protecting your DNA. However, when oxidative species meet your nucleic material, they speed up apoptosis and cause your cells to die prematurely by oxidizing the genetic material.
How to Take Chaga Mushrooms
There are many ways to incorporate Chaga mushroom into your daily routine, but various forms of this medicinal mushroom are taken differently.
The Chaga mushroom powder may be used as a supplement to reduce antioxidant levels or as an addition to other herbal supplements and prescribed medications for its many benefits to overall health.
Chaga tea is one of the most widely used forms to consume Chaga mushrooms. Also, this supplement form can be brewed into a bitter, dark liquid called Chaga coffee, although there is no caffeine found.
You may also benefit from its anticancer activity and other medicinal properties by adding Chaga powder to your food. For example, you can add fine powder to a sweet-tasting fruit, which masks the bitter taste.
Lastly, the Chaga supplements are also available as pills and capsules, making them easy to handle and quickly deliver nutrients and minerals.
The amount of Chaga supplement to take essentially depends on the form you prefer. For example, if you’re buying a capsule from a trusted vendor, the strength and dosage will be indicated. However, if your Chaga comes in powder form, it may be harder to dose.
One Chaga capsule a day is usually enough to boost immunity and provide the potential health benefits of the extract.
For Chaga powders, it is advisable to start with one teaspoon a day. Maintain this dosage for at least one week, and then you can try to increase the dose slowly.
However, don’t make drastic changes in the dosage, like going directly from one to four teaspoons a day. The effects of the supplement may take up to two weeks to show.
Not much is known about the optimal dosage of other forms of Chaga, but one cup of Chaga mushroom tea should be fine for achieving your health goals.
What Are The Side Effects of Chaga?
Even though the Chaga mushroom extract is generally well tolerated and safe to use, it may boost most users’ immunity. However, natural remedies are not always without side effects.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not use Chaga because the metabolism and renal clearance of the mushroom has not been clearly defined yet (9).
Medical practitioners advise avoiding Chaga for people who have just undergone transplantation of a new organ or are planning since it interferes with inflammation and may lead to a risk of rejections.
The Chaga tea may worsen acute inflammation manifested in allergies such as hay fever and allergic rhinitis. Also, asthmatic patients should avoid Chaga as it may cause inflammation of the bronchioles and breathing difficulties.
Combining Chaga supplements with certain medications may drop your blood glucose levels to the extreme. For example, studies have found that taking Chaga and insulin simultaneously may lower blood sugar levels beyond necessary.
Animal and human studies found that Chaga works as an anticoagulant, which may lead to slow blood clotting in people already taking medications such as blood thinners. As a result, it may cause excessive bleeding, classified among medical emergencies.
Chaga is a medicinal mushroom that promises many health benefits, such as a chronic inflammation fighter, an anticancer drug, and a general immune booster.
It may be a great addition to other treatments as the most exciting benefits of Chaga mushrooms include their positive outcomes on cardiovascular issues and anticancer effects.
Drinking a cup of Chaga tea or taking one capsule of the supplement form every day may protect you from immune deficiencies and infections. In addition, the fungus also acts as a stress reliever and anti-aging protector.
However, we need to conduct extensive studies further to break through the many health benefits it may provide.