Written by: Mick Simmons, MD – Dec 2018
These mushrooms have long been used for their health benefits. Their benefits can be attributed to important constituents in them like Beta-D-Glucans, polysaccharides, antioxidants, phytosterols, and betulinic acid.
If you don’t know, what Chaga mushroom is then, let’s cover it. Chaga mushrooms mostly grow on birch trees in cold regions like Siberia, Alaska, and Northern Europe. They look like burnt charcoal on the outside and blocks of rust on the inside – clearly not appetizing. But, don’t be fooled by their look!
Tea brewed from Chaga mushrooms, not only is an easy way to enjoy the health benefits the mushrooms have to offer but is also a tasty and refreshing drink. Read on, to find out how a cup of Chaga tea can boost your health.
1. Chaga can prevent, and sometimes curb cancer
Chaga mushrooms have had their place in folk medicine as a cure for several diseases including cancer. Today, different scientific studies have been conducted on the ability of Chaga mushrooms in fighting cancer.
It was seen in these studies that Chaga mushrooms could regulate the gene Bcl-2, which plays an important part in the progression of cancer. One study saw the inhibition of the growth of cancerous brain cells, another saw good results on human colon cancer cells, and yet another saw great results on human melanoma cells. Animal studies observed that intake of Chaga slowed down the progression of melanoma, lung carcinoma, and sarcoma in mice. , , , , 
These studies, however, were done on cancer cells and mice. Studies on humans still need to be performed in order to gain a conclusive evidence of the role of Chaga mushrooms on cancerous cells.
That being said, the above-mentioned studies and several other studies point towards the benefits of including Chaga mushrooms as a natural cancer-fighting and cancer-preventing ingredient in diet and perhaps, in the pharmaceutical industry.
So, your evening cup of Chaga tea may be gifting you with cancer prevention!
2. Chaga can balance your immune functions
Thanks to the high amounts of Beta-D-Glucans, Chaga mushrooms are excellent biological response modifiers. Thus, they keep the immune system in good shape – they can give the needed boost to a sluggish system and can slow down an over-active immune system.
Scientific studies on mice have found that this immune-modulating effect of Chaga mushrooms is mainly due to the secretion of Th1/Th2 cytokines in immune cells. A study saw that a water extract of Chaga mushrooms could recover the bone marrow system affected during chemotherapy in mice because of the modulation of cytokines in the cells. , 
Thus, Chaga mushrooms apparently have a great potential in strengthening the immune system and, in turn, reducing inflammation and fighting off bacteria and viruses. So, go ahead and fight inflammation with Chaga tea.
3. Chaga is good for a healthy heart
Yes, Chaga tea is good for your heart too. Chaga mushrooms, because of their anti-oxidant levels, can reduce oxidative stress and thus, keep blood pressure under control.
The high-antioxidant levels and betulinic acid in the mushrooms can break down bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. Chaga mushrooms have been seen to not only reduce the bad cholesterol but also enhance the good cholesterol (HDL).
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are well-known precursors of heart diseases. The above two benefits of Chaga, thus, directly result in the maintenance of good cardiovascular health.
4. Blood sugar lower and diabetes
Studies on mice have seen Chaga mushrooms to demonstrate significant effects on the reduction of blood sugar levels. 
Polysaccharides present in these mushrooms had a noteworthy effect in reducing fasting blood glucose levels, enhancing glucose tolerance, and improving insulin resistance in diabetic mice. 
These effects could mean that Chaga mushrooms can play an important role in the treatment of diabetes when included in food and drugs. We would, however, have to wait for more research to see its effects on humans.
A word of caution here. If you are taking insulin injections, further intake of Chaga may reduce blood sugars excessively. So, do consult your doctor before consuming Chaga.
5. Chaga can help you look younger
Wrinkles, age spots, sagging skin, greying hair – we all dread the inevitable. Isn’t that why the market today is flooded with best-selling anti-aging creams and serums!
You can add one more easy routine to your skin and hair beauty regime – drinking Chaga tea.
Agreed. More research needs to be done even in this area. But given the anti-oxidants in Chaga which combat oxidative stress – the reason behind the signs of aging, Chaga definitely has the potential to slow down or reverse the visible signs of aging.
Melanin, that gives the characteristic dark color to Chaga, is one such anti-oxidant in it that contributes to the health and beauty of skin and hair by protecting DNA from damage-causing free radicals.
Why not replace your regular cup of tea with Chaga tea and look younger!
6. Chaga can help cope better with stress and anxiety
Stress results in the secretion of cortisol, the hormone which is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. While we usually are able to adapt to the changes brought about by cortisol’s stimulation of the adrenal glands, frequent stress results in an impairment of this adaptability.
This can lead to adrenal fatigue and other long-term physiological problems.
Enter Chaga tea. Chaga mushrooms belong to a group of herbs called adaptogens. Just as their name suggests, adaptogens like holy basil, ginseng, and of-course, Chaga mushrooms, help you to better adapt to increased stress levels.
They help to normalize your physiological responses to stress and increase your tolerance to anxiety and stress. Chaga tea sounds like a boon in today’s stressful life!
7. Chaga can improve physical endurance
Chaga mushrooms are seen to significantly reduce physical fatigue. In a study on mice, the intake of Chaga mushrooms resulted in an increase in swimming time of mice. Chaga increased the glycogen content of their livers and muscles while not having any toxic effects on organs. 
So, Chaga tea may have the potential of fighting fatigue and increasing physical endurance.
8. Chaga is Anti-inflammatory
Chaga mushrooms are anti-inflammatory. These properties were seen in animal studies where Chaga intake suppressed inflammation and improved ulcerative colitis. 
The anti-inflammatory properties of Chaga are useful in treating various diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and reducing pain.
9. Chaga can fight viruses and bacteria
Chaga mushrooms possess anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
Their anti-viral properties can help fight diseases ranging from the common cold to more serious viral infections like HIV.
Research states that these mushrooms can be used for making drugs to treat the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1).  Studies have also shown its potential to treat hepatitis C virus in cell cultures. 
These mushrooms are also known to strengthen the immune system and enable it to fight bacteria like H pylori and thus, soothe ulcers and gastritis.
So, next time you are down with a bout of cold, try sipping on warm Chaga tea.
10. Chaga can improve cognitive function
Animal studies have shown an improvement of higher cognitive functions like learning and memory following an intake of Chaga. Chaga reduces oxidative stress and increases antioxidant levels in the brain, hence, the higher performance. 
Risks and Side Effects
The consumption of Chaga mushrooms is not contra-indicated for most people.
However, if you currently suffer from health conditions and take medication, talk to your doctor before trying these in your diet. That is to protect yourself from harmful effects due to the possible interaction of the mushrooms with medicines.
Also, there is not enough research about its use yet. So, proceed with care and discontinue use if you observe any side effects or allergies arising due to their consumption. And remember, Chaga mushrooms cannot replace your prescribed medicines.
Here are some situations where Chaga can be risky to consume:
- Diabetes – Chaga can make sugar levels too low, especially when taken along with insulin injections.
- Bleeding disorders – Chaga can thin the blood even further. So, it is best not to consume Chaga if you suffer from bleeding disorders or take blood thinners.
- Surgery – Again due to its ability to reduce blood clots, refrain from consuming Chaga at least a fortnight before undergoing surgery.
- Auto-immune diseases – Chaga can boost immune function, which, may worsen certain auto-immune conditions like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding – Due to a lack of research regarding the safety of Chaga, it is best to avoid them during these critical stages.
Find out more about Chaga Side Effects
Start Now – Easy Chaga Tea Recipe
The best and easiest way to reap the benefits of Chaga mushrooms is by enjoying a cup of Chaga tea.
Here’s an easy recipe:
- Chaga powder – 1 spoon (2 if you prefer it stronger)
- Water – 1 cup
- Sweetener of choice – honey, maple syrup or sugar
- Other flavor enhancers of choice – say, ginger
- Take the Chaga powder in a tea infuser or filter. Place it in a teacup.
- Pour boiling water into the cup.
- Cover the cup and let it steep for 5 – 10 minutes.
- Add a sweetener and other preferred ingredients.
Chaga mushrooms have an immense potential not only in maintaining your physical health but also in keeping you balanced under stress and anxiety.
The limited research on these mushrooms has promising results. Hopefully, future studies will tap into its potential in treating diseases like cancer and Chaga will be used extensively as it has been in folk medicine.
Until then, why not feel refreshed with a cup of Chaga tea! After all, it is easy to prepare and the best way to tap into their health benefits.
Find out other Chaga mushroom recipes.