Chagas are lumpy, and their exterior has an appearance similar to burnt charcoal. If you see one on a tree, in fact, you might at first assume you’re looking at a piece of charred tree trunk. These large, blackened mushrooms have been referred to as “black gold”, and rightly so, for all the various health benefits they can offer! When chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees, as they commonly do, they are quite a sight to see.
Not only do they look like burnt wood, they also can grow in a clump that ends up being as big as a human head! Like other medicinal mushrooms, the chaga mushroom requires the introduction of hot water or alcohol to break down its tough cellular walls to make its benefits available for human consumption.
Nowadays, mushroom coffee and tea are picking up popularity. This may seem like a new idea, but chaga mushroom actually was used as a coffee substitute during World Wars I and II. Researchers have investigated chaga mushroom for its use in combating cancer for a very long time.
Ironically, chaga mushroom is sometimes called a “tree cancer.” Why on earth is that? It’s because the presence of chaga mushrooms eventually kills its host tree. As interest in chaga for medicinal purposes only continues to gain steam, there has been more and more wild harvesting of this mushroom.
However, this is tricky since since the species’ existence is now being threatened by over-harvesting. Check out, for example, these 10 amazing benefits of the chaga mushroom :
1. Prevents and Treats Cancer.
Chaga mushroom benefits start with the potential ability to treat cancer. Scientific research dictates, at least, that chaga has the ability to inhibit cancer progression on laboratory animals. In fact, in one study, mice with tumors who were treated with chaga mushroom extract experienced a 60 percent reduction in tumor size.
Additionally, mice with metastatic cancer had a 25 percent decrease in the number of nodules, as compared to the control group. However, according to the Memorial Sloan Cancer Center, studies in humans are needed.
Chaga Mushroom Benefits Include Treating Human Liver Cancer: Further evidence was published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. They looked at the effects of chaga on human cancerous liver cells.
Their findings supported chaga extract’s ability to prevent growth of those cells. This is huge, as this indicates that chaga can be used as a potential liver cancer treatment.
2. Chaga Mushroom Benefits the Immune System.
Also on the list of chaga mushroom benefits is the capability to boost the immune system. When it comes to fighting off disease, having your immune system in good working order is important. Chaga mushrooms contain a well-studied compound called “beta glucans.
” Within our bodies, beta glucans stimulate the immune system by activating macrophages–those white blood cells that attack and remove foreign particles and pathogens–and natural killer cell function.
In further animal studies, chaga has been found to help boost production of certain immune system cells, including interleukin 6 as well as T lymphocytes. This is crucial, as these cells help regulate the immune system and ensure your body is fighting off invading bacteria and viruses.
Furthermore, research indicates that chaga extracts can stimulate spleen lymphocytes, which also has a direct positive impact on the function of your immune system.
3. Powerful Anti-Viral. Next on the list of chaga mushroom benefits: they’re anti-viral.
As if the ability to fight cancer and build up the immune system weren’t enough, chaga mushrooms can also help ward off viruses. Scientific research published in 2015 discovered that chaga extract has anti-viral effects on HIV type 1.
Additionally, the chaga mushroom, in animal studies, has shown anti-viral capabilities against hepatitis C. With animal cells, the extract was able to decrease the infective components of the virus by 100 fold in just 10 minutes.
While studies continue, in the meantime, it looks as though chaga may be an up-and-coming star in the world of anti-viral treatments.
4. Reduces Inflammation.
Need another reason to try the chaga mushroom? This is also on the list of chaga mushroom benefits: they have anti-inflammatory properties.
This can be helpful to your body in many ways. Concentrated in chaga mushrooms, betulin and its related compounds fight infection, thereby reducing inflammation. For example, one animal study found that chaga extract can reduce the inflammation that comes with ulcerative colitis.
In particular, researchers found that the anti-inflammatory effect in the colon was due to chaga’s ability to suppress the expression of chemical mediators of inflammation. If you’re wondering why this is significant, it’s because the chemical mediators released during inflammation make inflammation much more severe and promote a continuation of the inflammatory response.
5. Improves Physical Endurance.
If you’re an athlete or workout a lot, you may want to start taking a supplement of chaga mushrooms. This is because chaga mushroom benefits include improving your physical endurance.
In other animal studies, researchers found that the chaga can significantly improve physical endurance. In fact, a study from 2015 found that with doses of chaga mushroom polysaccharides, the mice were able to swim longer.
Furthermore, the glycogen content of both muscle and liver increased while lactic acid levels in the bloodstream decreased. Simply put, the chaga mushroom can offer less fatigue and better endurance.
6.Chaga Mushroom Can Improve Diabetic Health.
In diabetic mice, Chaga ethanol extract significantly decreased blood glucose levels. Animal studies show that Chaga extract reduces symptoms of diabetes including high blood glucose, free fatty acids, total cholesterol, and low-density bad lipoprotein cholesterol.
Chaga extract increased high-density good lipoprotein cholesterol and insulin levels in the livers of diabetic mice. This helps prevent high blood sugar levels and diabetic complications . Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma is a molecule that decreases insulin resistance by improving insulin signalling and energy metabolism.
In animal fat cell studies, Chaga water extract increased transcriptional activity and helped with fat cell differentiation. This decreased insulin resistance, making it a possible treatment for diabetes.
Another animal study showed that Chaga extract increased Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma activity in fat tissues and reduced unhealthy weight gain. The Chaga extract can also slow carbohydrate absorption by inhibiting the molecule alpha-glucosidase.
This can reduce spikes in blood sugar that would otherwise lead to complications in diabetes. Oxidative stress contributes to insulin resistance and accelerates diabetes complications. Chaga’s antioxidant properties can can reduce this oxidative damage.
The anti-diabetic effects of Chaga increases if used in combination with vanadium. In diabetic mice, Chaga extract combined with vanadium decreased blood glucose levels more than Chaga extract by itself.
7.Chaga Mushroom Protects Against Dangerous Blood Clots.
Platelet aggregation occurs when blood cells clump together and form clots. Sometimes, platelet aggregation can cause blood clots in veins (as know as thrombus), which can eventually lead to heart attacks or strokes .
Chaga extract significantly inhibited platelet aggregation in animal studies. These results indicate a possibility for Chaga to treat or stop thrombus formation .
8. Chaga Mushroom Promotes Cognitive Function.
Chaga mushroom extract helps with chemical-induced cognitive dysfunction in animal studies . Chaga lowered brain oxidative stress in these animals . Chaga extract also restored the levels of acetylcholine during oxidative stress as efficiently as the reference drug tacrine .
Acetylcholine promotes learning and memory, and increasing its availability can provide nootropic benefits .
9. Chaga Mushroom Relieves Pain.
Chaga extract reduces the reaction to pain in animal studies .
In cell culture, acids from methanol Chaga extract lowers NF-kappaB binding activity. This reduces pain by blocking the effects of enzymes involved in inflammatory pathways, nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2.
Inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 is the mechanism by which traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, reduce sensations of swelling and pain. Because it may work through a similar mechanism, Chaga could be similarly useful in limiting these negative effects.
10.Chaga Mushroom Fights Bacteria.
Both hot water and ethanol extracts of Chaga are able to kill bacterial and fungal cells in cell culture . Chaga extract also stopped quorum sensing, which is a method that bacteria cells use to activate gene expression.
Anti-quorum sensing can help fight against bacterial infection . ———————————- While there are plenty of chaga mushroom benefits, there are also warnings to consider. Currently, the side effects and safety regarding chaga mushrooms are unclear.
The US Food and Drug Administration recognizes chaga as “food.” Chaga has also been granted GRAS status by the World Health Organization. But there have not been any clinical trials yet to evaluate the safety of chaga mushrooms in humans.
As such, there is no standard dosing for human ingestion. In fact, there was a report of kidney damage in a 72 year-old Japanese woman with liver cancer, caused by taking chaga daily for 6 months. Furthermore, chaga is high in oxalates, which may prevent the absorption of certain nutrients.
It can be toxic in high doses. In particular, if you are pregnant of breastfeeding, use chaga with caution and under the guidance of your preferred health care provider. Because there are no studies indicating its safety regarding pregnant and breastfeeding women, care should be taken.
If you are taking a medication for any medical condition, be sure to check with your physician before adding chaga to your diet. For example, there are concerns about chaga and the following conditions: Autoimmune diseases: This includes, for example, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus.
Chaga can make the immune system more active, which could cause an increase of symptoms of an autoimmune disease. Diabetes: Chaga may decrease blood sugar levels in diabetics, so those on blood-lowering medications should monitor their blood sugar levels closely.
Bleeding Disorders: Chaga may increase the risk of bleeding. Surgery: You should stop using chaga at least two weeks before any type of surgery, as chaga may increase bleeding risk. Furthermore, it may affect blood sugar control during and after surgery.
You can learn more about Chaga mushrooms from the video below
If you see any adverse reactions or negative side effects while taking chaga, discontinue use and consult your doctor.