What is Chaga?
Chaga is a mushroom that typically grows on birch trees in colder climates. It is one of the most researched mushrooms in the world, and it’s been consumed for centuries in the East, where its health benefits are well established. Recently chaga has been gaining more popularity in the west as well, where its numerous benefits have been increasingly recognized by health experts.
I have only recently learned about all the wonderful health benefits of chaga and started consuming it, mostly in tea form. You can find it here in Nova Scotia, however the few times we tried to we haven’t been successful… However my in-laws who live in the countryside, luckily found a place recently where they can forage lots of chaga, and we’ve come to a fair agreement where I make them raw chocolates and they supply us with chaga. Sound fair, doesn’t it?
7 Health Benefits of Chaga
The health benefits of chaga are attributed mainly to its high antioxidant and immune-boosting properties. Here are some of chaga’s main health benefits:
Super-powerful antioxidant activity
Chaga has an abundance of Beta-D-Glucans, naturally occurring polysaccharides that increase immune defense, and generally help balance the response of the immune system – boosting it when necessary, and slowing it down when it’s overactive.
Because of this, many experts consider it to be one of the most potent natural foods for autoimmune diseases.
Chaga also contains massive amounts of the natural black pigment known as melanin, which has high antioxidant levels due to the amount of polyphenols it contains.
Normalize cholesterol levels and blood sugar.
Betulinic acid found in chaga is able to break down LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the bloodstream. The Beta-D-Glucans also help with normalizing cholesterol levels and blood sugar.
Research has shown that chaga activates immune cells responsible for combating cancer initiation. The betulinic acid, amongst other anti-cancer components in chaga, is known to induce apoptosis (cell death) and prevent tumors from developing. Due to its high concentration of antioxidants, chaga has also been found to combat the negative side-effects of standard cancer treatments, like chemotherapy.
Digestive health – ulcers and gastritis
Due to its immune boosting and anti-inflammatory properties, chaga has traditionally been used to support intestinal health and treat ulcers. According to research, it can be a useful treatment for ulcers and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
A variety of the components in chaga have been found to reduce dangerous inflammation. Inflammation in the body, caused by processed foods, inflammatory fats, sugar, stress, animal products, medications etc. can lead to serious health issues long-term, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, IBS, Chron’s, and others.
Supports detoxification and liver health
Chaga has been found to have a liver protective ability, and the betulin in chaga has a liver detoxifying effect, helping to clean out your system.
Helps to manage feelings of stress
Chaga is considered an adaptogen mushroom. Adaptogens help keep your body in balance, so it can adapt to various stressors without any of your systems going in overdrive. Like this you are better able to cope in stressful situations. Adaptogens like chaga help to support the adrenal glands, which produce the stress hormone cortisol, leading to fatigue. With so many stressors that most of us deal with on regular basis in the modern world, we could all use more adaptogens in our lives.
So there you are – lots of amazing benefits that this powerful medicinal mushroom can offer.
How do you use it?
You can buy chaga in powder form, and make tea from it. Then you can use it as base for soups, elixirs, soak your oatmeal in it… You can also add it to your smoothies, put it in raw chocolate (which it actually combines very well with in terms of flavour)… or anything else you can think of. In any form you decide to consume it, chaga is a medicinal mushroom that you can easily incorporate in your diet, and that offers a multitude of amazing benefits for your health.
Here is a great article where you can read about how you can make your own chaga tea.