The Chaga mushroom is a much sought-after nutritional powerhouse, used in everything from teas to tinctures. This more than makes up for this fungi’s rather unusual facade. But are there any Chaga mushroom side effects you should be aware of?
Let’s take a closer look at this “monarch” of mycelium fungus – its incredible health benefits, potential side effects, and even some ways you can use it.
The Wild Chaga Mushroom
Mushrooms are one of those foods that divide people right down the middle – you either love them or you don’t. But there’s no denying that all edible mushrooms pack a hefty nutritional punch. Mushrooms are high in antioxidants, iron, vitamin D, fiber, and a whole load of other vitamins and minerals.1
The Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a non-toxic parasitic fungus (i.e. a mushroom) that grows on birch trees. Chagas tend to prefer harsher, colder climates, so they’re commonly found in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia.2
But you won’t find the Chaga poking out of the grass like some dainty little toadstool. The Chaga is a mighty sight for the eyes (if not also a little alarming).
It grows like a huge, black tree scab on the side of trees. From the outside, it looks a lot like charcoal – all cracked and burnt – but on the inside, it’s a startling shade of golden orange.
A Storied History
The Chaga fungus has a long history in folk medicine. In Russia, Poland, and many of the Baltic nations, Chaga mushrooms have long been viewed as medicinal mushrooms for everything from stomach issues to blood sugar and skin problems.3 Chaga is also considered an adaptogen for stress, meaning it helps your body adapt when it’s stressed.
However, the Chaga also comes with a large dose of irony. While it’s one of the most nutritious mushrooms for humans, its parasitic ways will simultaneously kill the tree on which it lives.4
Some Key Chaga Mushroom Benefits
So, what are the incredible health benefits of Chaga mushrooms that people swear by? Here are a few of the best.
1. Chaga is Loaded with Essential Nutrients
All mushrooms are nutrient-dense, but the Chaga takes things to a whole new level. This type of fungus is rich in:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin D
- Amino acids
- Antioxidants 5
2. Chaga May Help With Digestion
Chaga mushrooms are full of dietary fiber, as with all mushrooms. But compared to the average white button mushroom, Chaga has around 60 times the fiber.6,7
Why do you need fiber for a healthy body? Well, fiber (both soluble and insoluble) is essential for your digestive system to function effectively. High-fiber foods also tend to have a lower glycemic value, which means they keep you feeling fuller for longer. Here’s how fiber works within the digestive system:
Soluble fiber forms a gel to slow down digestion. This helps more nutrients to be absorbed through your digestive tract. It’s spongy nature also allows it to better manage cholesterol levels.
Insoluble fiber creates a heavier, softer waste product. Because of its weight, this product can more easily move through your digestive tract. Think of insoluble fiber as a broom sweeping your digestive tract clean.8
3. Chaga is a Powerful Antioxidant
Antioxidants are essential for warding off cellular damage caused by free radicals in the environment. This cellular damage happens to everyone.9
The USDA uses a measurement known as ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) to measure the antioxidant potency of foods. One of the most famed antioxidants in health and wellness is the acai berry, which has a rating of 102,700 on the ORAC scale.
But how about the Chaga mushroom’s rating? Well, the Chaga has a whopping ORAC value of 146,700.10,11
4. Chaga May Help Support A Healthy Immune System
Chaga is also a rich source of compounds like beta-glucans and polysaccharides which may help support immune system function.13,14
When cold and flu season arrives, it’s good to have some natural options to potentially help ward off bacteria and viruses lurking around you.
Of course, using Chaga mushrooms is not a substitute for proper medical care when you’re sick, but adding Chaga mushrooms to your routine could help support your health during cold and flu season.
What are the Possible Side Effects of Chaga Mushroom?
Always ask your doctor before adding a new product to your routine. Some medical experts advise that those taking certain medications, or who have certain conditions, should avoid chaga.15
How To Make Chaga Mushroom Tea (from Scratch)
Now, this tea isn’t as quick as your usual cuppa, but a little patience may well be worth it. If you’re short on time, you can buy Chaga mushroom tea bags or Chaga “coffee grounds.”
- Add around 10 g of Chaga chunks to a pot of water and bring to a boil.
- Cover with a lid to ensure none of those juicy nutrients escape as steam.
- Simmer the Chaga for at least an hour until the water has taken on a nice red-brown color.
- Strain the tea into a cup.
- Add a little raw honey or monk fruit sweetener to boost sweetness if need be.
Note: You can reuse chunks of Chaga several times over. After each use, store them in a glass jar (no lid) in the refrigerator.
What Does Chaga Tea Taste Like?
Great question. Chaga mushrooms don’t exactly look appetizing at first glance, but the taste might surprise you. These mushrooms tend to have an earthy flavor with a hint of bitterness. You might also detect a slight vanilla taste due to the naturally occurring vanillin that Chaga contains.
Of course, some people like their tea extra sweet. Remember, if that’s you, you can always add a bit of monk fruit, stevia, or raw honey to your tea. The taste of Chaga also compliments other herbs and spices. So you could even add a bit of ginger or turmeric to your tea as well.
Friendly Fungus for Health and Well-Being
You know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The same goes for the Chaga mushroom. It may not be the most appetizing thing you’ll ever see, but its real beauty lies in its health benefits.
Much like the reishi and other medicinal mushrooms, researchers are discovering that fungal growths may be just as nutritious and good for the immune system as any other fruit or vegetable. Perhaps even more so.
If you’re interested in trying out the Chaga mushroom, talk to your doctor first to discuss any of your current medications or health conditions. If you get the all-clear, enjoy this fantastic fungus.
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