Written by: Mick Simmons, MD
Humankind has known about Chaga mushroom for thousands of years. These days its been heavily researched to show its positive effect against cancer, psoriasis and many other benefits. As a superfood, there are Chaga upsides you need to know.
Let’s cover them on this page.
In This Chapter, You Will Find:
- What Chaga consists of
- What are the benefits of Chaga
- Side effects
- Benefits of Chaga
- Uses (tea, tinctures, and powders)
- Chaga case studies and testimonials
- And much more…
NOTE: We try to be as skeptical as possible and so should you. Chaga isn’t a miracle against all diseases as stated on some sites! However, we believe that consuming Chaga for preventive maintenance can give you good results. If you have a serious disease, always consult a real doctor and don’t forget that hope is crucial.
Chapter #1: What Does Chaga Contain?
Chaga is a fungus (Inonotus obliquus) that typically grows on birches. The outer layer is very hard, but under the chitinous cell walls are healthy components. Chaga is full of antioxidants and immune-boosting ingredients that make it so healthy and beneficial. Let’s look at them.
The outer layer (the sclerotium) of the Chaga mushroom contains massive amounts of a natural pigment called melanin, which has high polyphenols levels, which gives it its high antioxidant capacity. Considering this fact, Chaga has the highest ORAC score of any mushroom.
Chaga is full of long chain sugars, or polysaccharides consisting of simple sugars (monosaccharides) with glycosidic bonds. Water-soluble polysaccharides support healthy cell division and strengthen the immune response.
The benefits of Beta-D-Glucans are linked to modulating the immune system. They can also help to normalize blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Phytosterols (or plant sterols), are a family of molecules related to cholesterol that are found of cell membranes of plants. Specifically – on Chaga, they consist of 45% Lanosterol, 25% Inotodiols and 30% Ergosterol.
Tests show that both Lanosterol and Inotodiols extracted from Chaga kill cancer cells with Ianosterol impacting viruses as well.
5. Super Oxide Dismutase (SODs)
Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD) is an enzyme that acts as a strong antioxidant in Chaga. The potency of SOD can be measured by the S-ORAC score. These enzymes protect our body against the destructive effects of oxidation from free radicals. Free radicals are reactive chemicals that our body produces that damage cells and accellerate aging.
6. Triterpenes – Betulin and Betulinic Acid
Chaga fungus gets those two components from its birch host. Betulin and Betulinic acid are currently researched as very powerful agents in balancing cholesterol to healthy levels. The beneficial effects of these two triterpenes have also been studied in relation to cancer and viruses.
Chaga will have different properties, depending on where it’s harvested. Just like fruits harvested in sunlight vs artificial light. Chaga is healthier when its harvested from pristine forests, away from polluted areas. The farther the better!
Those were the components, but what are the benefits of those components? What are those Chaga mushroom components good for? Let’s have a look.
Chapter #2: What are the benefits of Chaga
Let’s see what are the 15 benefits of Chaga mushroom that those ingredients can offer. If there’s a study about a topic, there must be a source to dig into the details.
1. Prevents The Progression Of Cancer
It is probably the best-known benefit. like chemotherapy and radiation. In human cell culture studies, Chaga extract reduces the growth of colon and liver cancer. Also, in other studies of induced lung cancer on animals, it reduced tumor size by 60% compared with the control group.
Does Chaga cure cancer?
In addition to slowing cancer progression, Chaga may prevent cancer from starting, due to its antioxidant properties. Free radicals increase the risk of DNA damaging mutations, which can turn into cancer. Reducing oxidative risk, Chaga also reduces these mutations. As a result – Chaga can both reduce the risk of developing cancer, and limit the growth of existing cancers.
2. Protects The Immune System
Chaga extract rapidly increases the production of immune cells-called IL-6 and lymphocyte B. This is crucial when fighting against pathogens. Chaga helps to both boost and modulate the immune system. Many experts believe this to be Chaga’s biggest asset.
3. Chaga Provides For Better Skin Health
Another benefit is that the melanin in Chaga, which gives it its dark color, is good for skin too. Melanin is widely known as a powerful antioxidant that protects DNA from damage caused by free radicals. Remember, our genes are made from DNA. Experts suggest that Chaga will enhance the health and beauty of your skin.
Its good for both – hair and skin. And I must not forget to mention, a second benefit of Chaga is the ability to diminish the size of age spots.
4. Chaga Manages Stress And Anxiety
So, is Chaga an adaptogen?
Health practitioners have found that wild Chaga can control stress and anxiety. Chaga, in fact, is highly regarded as a beneficial herbal adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbal components that control the adrenal system on the body. To wrap it up, they manage how hormones react to stress and anxiety.
They help the body adapt to anxiety by fighting stress-induced fatigue. The result may not be instantaneous, but adaptogens are excellent natural stress relievers.
Untreated stress and anxiety can be harmful, and result in both a shorter, and a less happy life.
The cause of anxiety vary widely from person to person, and anxiety attacks can be triggered by different events.
Therefore one of the greatest effects of Chaga is it’s efficient and effective in balancing stress and anxiety. Stress can kill! So it would be a great idea to start drinking Chaga tea.
5. Chaga Improves Diabetes
Is Chaga good for diabetes?
One of the benefits of Chaga is the ability to lower blood sugar which is helpful for diabetics. With diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin, and this results in higher blood sugar levels. However, if you are a diabetic, you should consult with your doctor about Chaga, because combining the effects of Chaga with insulin injections could make your blood sugar fall too low.
That was fifth, let’s see other Chaga mushroom benefits
6. Chaga Balances The Immune System
The immune system is balanced by Th1 and Th2 helper cells and the cytokines they produce. The balance can be upset, and this results in allergies. Thus, weighing this balance toward Th1, and away from Th2 would help reduce allergic reactions.
A Chaga ethanol extract was administered to experimental mice in order to examine T helper cell balance. These test mice exhibited reduced the levels of IL-4 and increased IFN-y levels. Therefore, the extract promotes Th1 response and inhibits Th2 cell responses. Resource
7. Chaga Relieves Pain
Studies on the Chaga for pain relief showed positive results.
Related: Top 10 wellness trends
Is Chaga anti-inflammatory?
Intracellular acids from a methanol extract of Chaga lower NF-kappaB binding activity. This blocks pain by blocking the effects of COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) and iNOS (nitric oxide synthase) enzymes involved in inflammatory pathways.
Traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen work by inhibition of COX-2, and by inhibiting COX-2, the pain caused by inflammation is reduced.
Chaga could be similarly useful in reducing inflammation because it works through a similar mechanism.
8. Chaga Fights Bacteria
There are different ways that Chaga consumption can provide benefits by killing invasive bacteria and fungus cells in in the body. Another benefit of Chaga is that it inhibits quorum sensing, which is the way bacteria sense their own population levels in order to activate gene expression patterns in their favor. Source.
9. Chaga Relieves Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an autoimmune disease that is partly caused by oxidative stress from free radicals. The antioxidants in Chaga can help protect the gut from IBD. Chaga extract reduces oxidative stress in lymphocytes from healthy individuals and IBD patients. Also, it provides a treatment for IBD by reducing inflammation in colon cells. Sources 1, 2.
10. Chaga Boosts Physical Endurance
Another benefit of Chaga was that it boosted endurance in animal studies. Animals were shown to have higher energy stores in their muscles and liver.
The polysaccharides in Chaga significantly reduced blood lactate levels in mice. This might help to boost endurance, since lactate accumulation causes fatigue. Chaga extract also decreases blood urea levels, which can also contribute to fatigue. Source
11. Chaga Prevents Dangerous Blood Clots
Blood clots are the acute cause of heart attacks and strokes. When blood cells clump together and form dangerous clots, these clots can lodge in the blood vessels that supply the heart and brain, cutting off the blood supply. Another benefit of wild Chaga is that it significantly inhibits platelet aggregation in animal studies.
These results indicate a possibility for Chaga to prevent (and perhaps treat) thrombus formation. Resource.
12. Chaga Improves Cognitive Function
Animal studies have shown that Chaga mushroom can help with chemically induced cognitive dysfunction. It turns out that Chaga lowered brain oxidative stress in animals in the test group.
Also, Chaga restored the levels of acetylcholine during oxidative stress as efficiently as the drug Tacrine. Acetylcholine promotes memory and learning, plus as it increases it provides nootropic benefits. So, by consuming Chaga, your cognitive functions improve. Resource
13. Chaga Provides A Healthier Drink Alternative
We all know that humans consume too much sugar, especially in America. It’s unhealthy, in that it increases your risk of diabetes. And sugar is especially for your teeth. Sometimes it’s difficult to choose a healthy, low sugar drink over sodas, but it’s crucial to do it.
One of the upsides of Chaga tea is that you don’t need to sweeten it. Therefore you can make a healthy drink with no sugars. You can easily use the Chaga ice tea recipe for this. Using Chaga drinks as an alternative to sugary drinks is very good for your body in the long run.
14. Chaga Saves On Health Care Costs (And Tea)
Drug prices are skyrocketing all over the world, especially in America. Chaga on the other hand cure, or prevent a variety of health problems. Here’s a conspiracy theory for you; if there is a healthy medicine that you can gather and prepare yourself for free from the woods, then maybe “big pharma” would feel threatened by this, and rather have you pay lots of money for their expensive drugs.
15. Chaga Provides A Creative Gift Idea
We all know the question – “What can I give as a gift?” Well, we in Chaga101 don’t have this problem anymore – we just give Chaga products. And they work well!
Well, we covered 15 Chaga advantages, If you find more, let us know.
Chapter #3: Chaga Side Effects
Above we discussed the advantages of Chaga. You should also be aware of possible side effects and negative drug interaction.
Some of the main side effects of Chaga are:
1. Kidney damage from excess consumption
In one case study, elderly Japanese women used too much Chaga powder for six months and she got oxalate nephropathy. This happens when excess levels of oxalate cause kidney failure. One of Chaga’s known benefits is that it contains extremely high levels of oxalate. If taken normally, everything’s okay but excess consumption can lead to kidney damage. Source
2. Bruising and bleeding
Drug interactions are the main side effects associated with Chaga mushroom. For example, the extract may affect drugs that lessen blood coagulation (aspirin and warfarin for example). Since Chaga acts in the same way, combining multiple blood thinners could cause bleeding.
3. Diabetes (Hypoglycemia)
When your blood-sugar level drops too low its called hypoglycemia, which can give you feelings of shakiness, weakness, hunger/thirst, confusion, irritability or difficulty in speaking.
There are cases where Chaga mushroom supplements may interact negatively with insulin and other medications that are meant to moderate blood sugar levels.
4. Pregnancy and breast-feeding
There is not enough known about the use of Chaga during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Therefore it’s best to stay on the safe side and avoid use.
5. Auto-immune diseases
Chaga can affect auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) by boosting the immune-system. In most cases, boosting the immune system is great, but auto-immune diseases are those in which the immune system is too active. So if you have one of these conditions, please be on the safe side and avoid Chaga.
Chaga as a blood thinner can cause bleeding during and after surgery. It’s better to stop using Chaga at least 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery.
Those were the main Chaga mushroom side effects and warnings you should know about. Though the Chaga’s side effects aren’t widely researched, there are some similar studies with another fungus – The Reishi mushroom can cause nosebleeds, itchiness, upset stomach, dry mouth and throat, and bloody stools.
I’ve found a very interesting book about the side effects of mixing herbs. It is “The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide,” by George T. Grossberg and Barry Fox.
Chapter #4: Chaga Benefits According To Consumption Method
Chaga can be prepared raw, in chunks, powdered, by tincture, or by other ways. There are different advantages and disadvantages of each method.
We have been discussing all the benefits of Chaga. However, if we compare those advantages with the consumption type, there are some extra upsides to specific preparations. Let’s explore the main ways that Chaga is consumed and the advantages of each.
A tincture is an extraction method that uses alcohol. The effectiveness of a Chaga tincture is said to be greater than in Chaga tea. Because of the double-extraction, the tincture process extracts more of the nutrients from the Chaga. Don’t get me wrong, both forms of Chaga are healthy and beneficial.
NOTE: It is often thought that the extra health benefits from tinctures are due to the alcohol, but that’s not true. Alcohol just extracts ingredients efficiently and then provides a means of long-lasting storage.
One of the benefits of Chaga tincture is that it’s very concentrated. A tincture is 10-100 times more concentrated than tea.
Chaga tea has all of the benefits of Chaga, since tea is just the way to consume it. Drinking a warm liquid can be pleasant, and hydrating, but it doesn’t provide additional advantages. Chaga tea is the most used way to consume this mushroom and probably the oldest too.
The main advantage or benefit of Chaga tea is its preparation speed – you don’t have to wait long before you can use it. It’ll take just around 10 minutes, and the output is a very healthy drink. There are also several other ways to consume tea, which you can read here.
Benefits Of Chaga Powder
The benefits of Chaga powder are the same as stated above. But if we compare the yield across preparations, then there are some differences. Let’s compare powdered Chaga with raw Chaga.
The powder is better because it has a higher surface area than raw or chunked Chaga, so nutrients soak out from it more quickly. With Chaga chunks, the inside parts need much more time for the healthy ingredients to soak out.
One of the benefits of Chaga powder is also the fact that it is highly versatile. Most recipes or suggestions are meant for Chaga powder. You can use it in coffee, tea, cakes, or as a main component of making soaps etc.
That’s the reason Chaga powder is so widely used.
Chapter # 5: Testimonials Of Chaga
People have heard all about Chaga, and are looking into its benefits. But what’s that worth without real testimonials? Well, there are some real testimonials where the advantages of Chaga are proven.
Let’s take a look at one.
Treatment of Psoriasis with Chaga fungus preparations.
This study was done by Prof. E.A. Dosychev and V.N Bystrova in Russia – 1951.
50 patients were observed (14 women and 36 men) from different age groups:
- 2 patients, 6 – 10 years old.
- 5 patients, 10-20 years old.
- 17 patients, 20 – 30 years old.
- 18 patients, 30-40 years old.
- 7 patients, 40-50 years old.
- 1 patient over 50 years old.
In 37 of these patients, the development of psoriasis was preceded by diseases of gastrointestinal tract or liver. In 9 patients, these conditions developed after psoriasis had started. Four other patients had accompanying chronic pharyngonasal cavity conditions.
Almost every patient with gastrointestinal disorders complained about heartburn, belching, diarrhea, intolerance to fatty foods etc.
The psoriasis conditions had persisted, before the Chaga treatment for
- 1 year in 5 patients
- 1 to 3 years in 7 patients
- 5 to 7 years in 8 patients
- 8 to 10 years in 13 patients
- 10 to 15 years in 7 patients
- over 15 years in 10 patients.
Forty-three patients started the treatment with Chaga extract paste during an acute stage of psoriasis outbreak, and 7 during the steady-state.
Chaga extract was heated in a bain-marie (double-boiler) and 1 table spoon of extract was diluted in a glass of boiled water at room temperature. Forty-two of the patients used Chaga preparation for use, 8 were also using the one of the preparations for internal use.
- 24 patients have used Chaga preparations from 3 to 6 months
- 18 patients for 12 months
- 8 patients more over 2 years
It turned out that Chaga was an effective psoriasis treatment. There were different types of psoriasis as stated above, but to sum it up the results were as follows:
- 38 completely cured
- 8 improvements
- 4 with no effect
- 0 aggravation
For the 12 patients who were not completely cured, this was probably related to alcohol abuse during the therapy. Four of these patients had also accompanying pharyngonasal cavity conditions.
To wrap up the results of this study – the psoriasis-therapy with Chaga was especially successful in cases where psoriasis occurs in combination with chronic inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, liver and biliary system, which manifest themselves before of during the course of psoriasis. Most likely, the Chaga treatment of psoriasis may produce long-lasting remission without any other medication or therapies needed.
There are also non-research-based testimonials from ordinary people. However, we need to remain objectively skeptical about them, because they were not rigorously evaluated by science, and the results may be altered by the effects of other medicines.
We’ve tried to find those in natural herbal remedy boards on the internet, so they should be neutral. No vendors trying to sell it, no “tree-huggers” or loony alternative medicine lovers and so on. We just tried to get the most unbiased Chaga testimonials online and here they are:
- Teresa’s family has been using the Chaga drops without alcohol and found that the taste is neutral. She pointed out the benefits of Chaga in making her skin is look younger and her hair and nails grow quickly. She stated that it’s the best thing she’s used irrespective of the fact that she uses vitamins and herbs all the time
- One fellow got rid of hard gastritis within three months of drinking Chaga beverage instead of pills.
PS! These sort of testimonials should be taken with caution. It was stated that (s)he took medicine before – it’s widely known that some medicines start working after several months. Or, for example, his gastritis may have gone away for another reason.
- Mike, 72 years old wrote that he was diagnosed with which is a condition in which one or more of the fingers are abnormally bent, and fascia, which is an abnormal thickening and tightening of the normally elastic tissue beneath the skin of the palm and fingers. After consuming Chaga, the symptoms abated noticeably. He now can open a jar or bottle without dropping it because of the soft grip.
The Bottom Line
To wrap it up, this was the list of the benefits of Chaga. But we wanted to show you more because when you consider taking Chaga, you should see the big picture and not just a list without explanation.
Chaga is quite safe but like anything is this world, there are some cautions that you should not ignore. When you read medicinal texts, always keep your mind skeptical and don’t forget the importance of doctors and scientists. If you have your own testimonials, side-effects or questions, feel free to contact us here.