Chaga mushrooms are a fungus species that have been used for centuries in Asia and Siberia. Locals have used them to improve health and boost immunity. The Western world is now getting clued up on chaga, using these fungi for a variety of health reasons.
There are lots of ways to take mushrooms beyond cooking with them, including in the form of chaga mushroom capsules. They are a great way to avoid the taste and texture while still reaping the health benefits.
Read on to explore the benefits of chaga mushrooms in more detail and learn how to take them.
What Are Chaga Mushrooms?
Chaga mushrooms, or Inonotus obliquus, are a parasitic fungus. It is technically not a mushroom; the term ‘mushroom’ tends to refer to the fruiting bodies of the fungus, and chaga does not produce them often. If you think of a mushroom and picture the classic ‘cap’ and ‘stem,’ then you are imagining the fruiting bodies. The rest of the mushroom is known as the mycelium.
While the chaga organism produces mushrooms, it’s unlikely that you will see them. Instead, we use the unusually nutrient-dense mycelium.
Chaga is a rather unattractive mushroom, with a burned appearance that has earned it the alternative name clinker polypore. A clinker is a lump of burned coal. It may also be called a tinder conk since chaga is ideal as kindling when starting fires.
These mushrooms could have numerous benefits for your health.
Chaga Mushrooms for Immune Health
Chaga has been used for centuries by people for its health properties. Primarily, chaga mushrooms could boost the immune system. Immune health can be damaged by long-term (chronic) inflammation, especially with medical conditions like heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
According to some studies, chaga mushrooms can help with the formation of cytokines, a type of protein that benefits the immune system. Cytokines are crucial for fighting off viruses and harmful bacteria, which is why chaga mushrooms can be ideal for immune health.
Not all cytokines are beneficial. However, a 2005 study suggested that chaga mushrooms can even prevent the formation of harmful cytokines.
So far, most studies have been conducted in test-tube or animal models.
Chaga Mushrooms for Nutrition
Some claim that chaga mushrooms are a superfood. They are packed full of nutrients, including B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, potassium, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, and more. They also contain fiber and calcium. All of these are essential for health.
When you eat chaga mushrooms, you not only benefit from the obscure ingredients that boost immunity, but you also get a healthy dose of essential vitamins and minerals.
Chaga Mushrooms for Reducing Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
Cholesterol is a big problem, especially as you get older. In animal studies, chaga mushrooms have reduced cholesterol levels in rats. These fungi may reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol and increase the amount of “good” HDL cholesterol. This may be due to the abundant antioxidant properties of chaga.
Many people also suffer from high blood sugar due to diabetes. The same study linked above found that chaga supplements caused a 31% decrease in blood sugar levels in diabetic mice.
Since human research on both of these areas remains unavailable, it’s unclear whether chaga can reduce cholesterol and blood sugar in humans.
Chaga Mushrooms for Energy
Those who consume chaga mushrooms in the form of a tea vouch for the fact that chaga mushrooms provide energy. Although they are not a classic adaptogen, many users claim that they feel energized after drinking chaga tea. They suggest that the energy surge is powerful enough to increase productivity and focus but is not the same jittery energy one gets from caffeine.
If this is true, it means that users can receive an energy boost without the anxiety and headaches that accompany coffee. Plus, consumers benefit from all the other wonderful things about chaga mushrooms.
Final Thoughts on Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga mushrooms could be a nutritional powerhouse, offering tons of nutrients and minerals alongside other health benefits. In theory, chaga can provide a boost in energy and immunity, as well as lowering harmful cholesterol levels.
While most studies to date have been performed on animals, chaga mushrooms are considered safe for humans. Thus, they have become a popular supplement used by many health-conscious individuals. If you are looking to try chaga for yourself, opt for a simple supplement option such as tea or chaga capsules.