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The mighty Chaga mushroom – From ancient remedy to modern health supplement

We take a closer look at Chaga, "The King of Medicinal Mushrooms".
Chaga mushroom growing on birch tree
Chaga mushroom growing on birch tree

The mighty Chaga mushroom – From ancient remedy to modern health supplement

We take a closer look at Chaga, "The King of Medicinal Mushrooms".

If you’ve ever wandered through forests in the colder regions of the Northern Hemisphere, you may have spotted strange clumps of what looks like burnt charcoal on the bark of trees. Chances are, these clumps are actually the mycelium of the Chaga mushroom!

The name, Chaga, is derived from the Russian term for the fungus, “чага”. In Russia, the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is called “The Mushroom of Immortality”. In Japan, it is referred to as “The Diamond of the Forest”. In other parts of the world, it’s called “The King of Medicinal Mushrooms”.

Chaga is a functional mushroom that has been used for centuries as a medicinal compound, often brewed as a tea or tincture, a fuel source for fires, and even as a dye. It is now rapidly gaining wider popularity as a health supplement. Much scientific research currently focuses on the purported health benefits of consuming Chaga.

What is the Chaga mushroom?

Chaga is a slow-growing parasitic fungus that predominantly grows on the bark of birch trees, especially in Siberia, Canada, Alaska and parts of northern Europe; however, it can also be found growing on beech, poplar, and alder. The Chaga mushroom draws nutrients from the inner layers of the bark of the tree host.

The Chaga mushroom differs in looks from the typical mushrooms you may be used to. Rather than the familiar cap and stem, the Chaga conk (the visible growth) looks more like a clump of burnt charcoal or blackened wood due to the large amounts of melanin it produces. However, the outer layer of the Chaga fungus is packed with compounds that contribute to its claimed health benefits.

Chaga is also unusual compared to most other mushrooms because its visible conk on the tree bark is mycelium; the fruiting body is rarely seen as it grows under the bark. Chaga takes its time, too: once it’s parasitised a tree, it can be over 80 years until the tree dies and the Chaga is ready to produce its fruit!

Chaga as a Health Supplement

Organic Chaga mushroom supplementWith the rise of interest in natural remedies and superfoods, Chaga has transitioned from an age-old therapy to a contemporary health supplement. It’s available in various forms today, from powdered extracts, like our organic Chaga mushroom capsules, to teas and coffee blends.

The allure of the Chaga mushroom as a health supplement primarily stems from its rich composition. It is packed with antioxidants, beta-glucans, polyphenols, triterpenes, and minerals. These compounds have been researched for potential health benefits, notably to bolster the body’s natural defences, control inflammation, promote good digestion, and enhance overall well-being. Chaga is a wellness powerhouse!

Key Health Benefits of Chaga

While various claims exist surrounding the potential advantages of Chaga, some of the most significant and researched health benefits include:

  1. Potent Antioxidant Properties: Antioxidants are essential compounds that combat oxidative stress in the body, linked to ageing and numerous diseases 1. Chaga is particularly rich in antioxidants, which can help protect cells from damage by neutralising free radicals2.
  2. Supporting Immune Health: Chaga contains beta-glucans, which are known to modulate the immune system and potentially enhance its ability to combat infections and diseases3. Beta-glucans are like a special kind of fuel additive for your immune system. When you consume beta-glucans, they interact with specific cells in your immune system, giving them a little “nudge.”
  3. Potential Anti-Cancer Properties: Some studies suggest that Chaga may slow the growth of specific cancer cells and reduce the risk of tumour formation. A key finding in a 2016 study of tumour-bearing mice found Chaga produced a significant reduction in tumours4. More comprehensive research is needed in this area, so Chaga should be considered complementary to traditional cancer treatments and not a replacement.
  4. Supporting Heart Health: Chaga may benefit heart health by reducing the bad LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol, thus potentially decreasing the risk of heart diseases5.
  5. Antiviral Properties: Some research suggests that Chaga can inhibit certain viruses, lending it potential as a natural antiviral supplement 6.

Start your Chaga journey today

You can find out more about our organic Chaga mushroom capsules. As with all our organic supplements, our Chaga contains all-natural ingredients from sustainable sources, is certified lab-tested, and is vegan-friendly. We even plant a tree for every bottle you buy!

Keep well,

Donal

References:

  1. The role of antioxidants in preventing the damage of free radicals 
  2. Antioxidant and immunomodulating activities of exo-and endopolysaccharide fractions from submerged mycelia cultures of culinary-medicinal mushrooms 
  3. β-Glucans and immunity 
  4. Anti-cancer effects of fraction isolated from fruiting bodies of Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus 
  5. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease 
  6. Antiviral activity of Inonotus obliquus fungus extract 

Disclaimer: We do our best to research and fact-check all the content presented in this article. However, it is provided only for information and guidance; it is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Therefore, you should always contact your GP or other healthcare professionals if you have concerns about any medical condition.

Author

Picture of Donal Bourke
Donal Bourke

Founder, Mindful Extracts

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