If you’ve never heard of the chaga mushroom, it’s about time you did. Chaga mushrooms are legendary for their powerful medicinal qualities, capable of lowering users’ cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar while increasing their immunity to various diseases. It’s no wonder that chaga mushrooms have been used across the world for thousands of years. And now, the amazing benefits of chaga mushrooms have made their way into the U.S.
Origin of the Chaga Mushroom
The chaga mushroom, scientific name: Inonotus obliquus; legendary name: “The Mushroom of Immortality,” is a wild fungus that grows on birch trees in cold climates of the northern hemisphere. You can find it in the United States, Canada, Eastern and Northern Europe, Siberia, and in the Koreas. It varies in size and shape, but chaga mushrooms can always be identified by their hard, charcoal-colored outsides and their soft, bronze insides.
Chaga mushroom usage dates back thousands of years. In China, chaga usage was documented as early as 100 B.C. in a book by monk Shen Nong. The chaga mushroom also played a prominent role in Siberian folklore. Siberians living in the mountains supposedly smoked the mushroom and rubbed it on their skin to increase their immunity to deadly diseases. In the 12th century, Russian Tsar Vladimir Monamah used chaga to heal his lip cancer. It is even possible that Otzi the Iceman, who lived 5,300 years ago, used chaga mushrooms!
Those living hundreds and thousands of years ago recognized the chaga mushroom’s healing properties to be magical. But don’t start thinking that chaga mushrooms are “magic mushrooms” – they are completely legal and do not cause psychedelic trips. No, in the past, advocates of the mushroom really thought it was magical. Of course, nowadays we understand the “magical” benefits of chaga mushrooms to be medicinal, but its ability to prevent various diseases remains impressive nonetheless.
Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
There are many health benefits to consuming chaga mushrooms – too many to cover in one article! Here are the most important benefits of chaga mushrooms for you to consider:
- They reduce blood pressure and cholesterol: The chaga mushroom contains betulinic acid, which lowers LDL cholesterol. Betulinic acid is a naturally occurring pentacyclic triterpenoid. It has antiretroviral, antimalarial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- They control blood-sugar levels: Many diabetics use the chaga mushroom as a way to keep their blood sugar levels under control.
- Reduce inflammation: Chaga mushrooms can reduce chronic inflammation present in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. This is because it helps regulate cytokine production.
- Treat psoriasis, a chronic skin condition caused by an overactive immune system. In 1973, a study was conducted in Russia to test the effects of chaga mushrooms on 50 patients. All participants were cured of their psoriasis completely.
- Treat cancer: Scientific studies show that continuous use of chaga can reduce the size of various tumors and effectively treat cancer.
- Boost the immune system: The chaga mushroom is a strong antioxidant, which means that it strengthens our immune system. When we have a healthy immune system, our bodies can fight against harmful free radicals that cause various forms of cancer and autoimmune diseases. These antioxidants also provide incredible benefits for our skin, hair, and nails.
- Full of vitamins and nutrients: The chaga mushroom contains several vitamins and nutrients that we all need. These include Vitamin D, amino acids, B-complex vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc, and many more.
How to Use Chaga Mushrooms
The benefits of chaga mushrooms can be enjoyed in many forms, but the most common form is tea. Chaga mushrooms can be brewed into a powerful antioxidant drink, which is both delicious and nutritious. To prepare chaga mushroom tea, simply boil 1 cup of chaga mushroom powder, or chaga mushroom chunks (whichever is available to you), in a large pot of water on the stove. If you’re a coffee drinker, you can also add chaga mushroom powder to your morning brew for extra health benefits. Or, you can blend them into a smoothie!
Drinks aren’t the only options for chaga mushroom consumption. Delicious desserts like vegan ice cream and muffins are a great option. You can even create a chaga mushroom spice to go on other foods. The possibilities are endless!
Lastly, you can consume chaga mushrooms in capsule form. This is the quickest and easiest way to consume chaga mushrooms, however, their benefits are reduced, as nutrients are lost during the manufacturing process. Chaga mushrooms, like most natural forest medicines, are most effective in their raw, unaltered form. Some other things to consider when using chaga mushroom capsules…
- Dual-extract tablets provide a stronger effect than unprocessed tablets.
- Only use chaga tablets that contain chaga sourced from the earth.
- Avoid using capsules produced in a laboratory. Laboratory-sourced chaga lacks superfood ingredients.
Where to Get Chaga Mushrooms
You obviously don’t need to pick them yourself. Chaga mushrooms can easily be purchased in both powder and capsules from trustworthy online retailers. A quick Google search will take you there! However, if you’re feeling adventurous, and you live in the Northern hemisphere, in an area with birch trees, you can bring home handfuls of fresh chaga mushrooms. Somehow, they taste better that way.
If you decide to pick your own, make sure you are taking them from a living tree. Chaga mushrooms live off of the trees they grow from, so if the tree dies, the mushroom dies too. Furthermore, try to harvest mushrooms during the Fall season, after at least 20 consecutive nights of temperatures at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Chaga mushrooms grow better under these conditions and are thus healthier to consume.
Assuming the conditions are appropriate, you can harvest chaga mushrooms by hand or with a knife. Just pluck or chop them from their tree, and always leave some of the mushrooms behind to regrow. That way you can harvest them again next Fall.
Are Chaga Mushrooms Right for You?
Simply put, YES. If you suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, chaga mushrooms could seriously improve your health.
The legendary health benefits of chaga mushrooms make this superfood worth (at least) a try. Of course, as with any powerful medicine, you should consult your doctor before using chaga mushrooms. Assuming, however, that you are safe to use chaga mushrooms (most people are), then hopefully this article has convinced you of their worth. If so, then what are you waiting for?
If not, check out some of our other articles on chaga mushrooms!