By now you should know my intense passion for health and wellness right? This includes using food to nourish your body, medicinal herbs, adaptogens and so much more to treat issues that western medicine will just scribble away on a prescription pad, hand it to you and tell you to take it with a glass of water. With that being said, I am really excited to talk about and hopefully introduce some of you to one of my superpower foods, well technically, super power fungus, a mushroom and specifically, the Chaga mushroom.
Recently you may have heard about the benefits of mushroom coffee and tea. There are a few types of medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga and cordyceps. Mushroom coffee and tea are becoming more and more popular and even may seem very new age-y to you but it’s not. Chaga mushroom was actually used as a coffee substitute during World Wars I and II. It also has been a traditional medicine in Northern European countries as well as Russia for hundreds of years. What for? It has been used traditionally to treat diabetes and gastrointestinal cancer, along with heart disease, in these areas of the world. The name “chaga” comes from the Russian word for mushroom. They have also been called “black gold.”
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a type of fungus ( I know, I know, sounds pretty vile, but hello, truffles are fungus and truffles are one of the most delicious things on this planet). It typically grows on the outside of birch trees in very cold climates in wild in places like Siberia, northern Canada, Alaska, and some northern areas of the United States.
Chaga mushrooms are literal superstars. It has one of the highest ORAC scores of any food. What the heck is ORAC? Well, it stands for “Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity.” The higher the ORAC score the better a food’s ability to protect the body from disease-causing free radicals. It also means that chaga mushrooms are one of the best sources of antioxidants and best known for their antioxidant content.
Chaga mushrooms are not the prettiest to look at. They are lumpy and bumpy. To many people adding mushrooms besides the garden variety we use on pizza’s sounds a bit, well, odd. However, mushrooms are not just for your pizza, chaga has been taken for years for heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, parasites, stomach pain, and certain types of cancer.
All that aside for a moment, want to know what I am most excited to talk about? I guess you can not really answer that. It was more of a rhetorical question. Okay, while I know the power of alternative modes of preventing and treating ailments, usually western medicine doesn’t love to go there. So when I found a page on Memorial Sloan Kettering, one of the premiere cancer treatment facilities in the WORLD on Chaga mushrooms and it’s benefits. I literally could not be happier. I think it is beyond rad/awesome/wonderful/about damn time, that western traditional facilities are embracing integrative and holistic medicine.
I will get on with it now. Lets first talk about the benefits of Chaga Mushrooms and then we can chat about how to actually incorporate it into your daily routine.
The four most important benefits:
- Prevent and Treat Cancer– According to the Memorial Sloan Cancer Center, “Laboratory and animal studies show that chaga can inhibit cancer progression. Studies in humans are needed.” In one study, mice with tumors that were supplemented with chaga extract experienced a 60 percent tumor size reduction. Meanwhile, mice with metastatic cancer (tumors spread to other parts of the body) had a 25 percent decrease in their number of nodules compared to the control group (Source). Another study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology looked at the effects of chaga mushroom on cancerous human liver cells. The research reveals that chaga extract may be able to prevent liver cancer cell growth, making it a potential treatment for cancer in the liver (Source).
- Stimulate the Immune System– In animal studies, chaga mushrooms have helped to boost the immune system by increasing the production of certain immune cells including interleukin 6 (IL-6) as well as T lymphocytes. These substances help to regulate the immune system and make sure that your body is fighting off any invading bacteria and viruses (Source).
- Potent Anti-Viral – Appears to have anti-viral abilities when it comes to quite a few viruses. Scientific research published in 2015 found that extracts of chaga had an anti-viral affect on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 (Source). Chaga has also been shown in animal studies to have anti-viral effects when it comes to the hepatitis C virus (Source).
- Inflammation Reducer – Has been shown to reduce inflammation. For example, an animal study has shown that chaga extract can reduce inflammation due to ulcerative colitis in animal subjects.
Chaga mushrooms are available as pills, powders tablet and pre-made teas and coffee packets. Making homemade Chaga tea is super easy, you just need either the raw mushroom or powder and either steep in hot water or mix the powder in.
I personally use the tea bags and premade coffees for ease. I bought mine from Cap Beauty and it is by the brand Four Sigmatic. It is $38 for 20 packets. Four Sigma combined this potent shroom with Siberian Ginseng, Mint and Rose Hip resulting in an excellent and balanced taste. I like it a lot. I recommend it. It gives me a very balanced energy. You can also find mushroom coffee or mushroom tea that includes mushrooms such as cordyceps. I do not find mushroom coffee or tea particularly mushroom-y.
Possible Side Effects and Caution
I do, very clearly, want to note that chaga mushroom side effects and safety are currently unclear. To date, there are no clinical trials that have studied the safety of chaga mushrooms in humans, because of lack of trials, there is not a standard dosage of chaga mushroom for humans. According to Memorial Sloan there was a case report of kidney damage/disease in a 72 year-old Japanese woman with liver cancer, caused by taking chaga daily for 6 months. It is always important to do your own research and decide for yourself what to try and not to try.
Who should AVOID Chaga mushrooms:
- Auto-immune diseases: It can make the immune system more active, which could lead to increased symptoms of auto-immune disease. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or Lupus it is best to steer clear.
- Diabetes: May decrease blood sugar levels in diabetics.
- Bleeding Disorders: Avoid if you have a bleeding disorder as it could increase risk of bleeding.
- Surgery: Stop using/taking at least two weeks before any type of surgery since chaga may increase bleeding risk and/or affect blood sugar control during and after surgery.
- Pregnant/ Breastfeeding: If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid because their use has not been studied in pregnant and breastfeeding women.
If you are currently taking any medication or being treated for any medical condition, check with your doctor before you add chaga mushroom to your diet. I am not a doctor so I am not telling you to take the but merely educating you on this and telling you what I personally do. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease! AS ALWAYS, before taking anything new, consult your trusted doctors.
What do you think? Have you tried Chaga? Would you?