Chaga Mushroom (latin name: inonotus obliquus) is a type of parasitic fungus that feeds on birch trees in the hardwood forests of the Northern Hemisphere, and thrives in colder climates where birch is the primary tree species. This strange looking protrusion is rock hard, mostly black in color and looks like burned charcoal from the outside due to an extremely high concentration of melanin. When Chaga first emerges from a host tree it is an orange color. It develops its dark color over time as it becomes exposed to sunlight. Because of the melanin, extracts which include the outer part of the mushroom are powerful antioxidants which help to protect the cells of the body from harmful free radicals. The Chaga Mushroom slowly pulls nutrients from the birch tree it grows on and should only be harvested from living trees. It is a slow grower and takes 3-5 years to fully form. You can’t eat Chaga like the mushrooms you find at the grocery store due to its rock hard and dense consistency. So most commonly, it is dried and broken into chunks or ground into powder. With most mushrooms, you see the fruiting body but the mycelium is hidden. But with Chaga, it is the opposite. The large mass you see on the outside of the tree is actually a collection of mycelium called a sclerotium.
Crowned as the King of Medicinal Mushrooms, this mass of mycelium has an incredible array of health benefits. It contains many nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, amino acids and fiber. These vitamins and minerals contain anti-aging properties and can help reduce symptoms of cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and reduce inflammation. The mushroom also improves immune system health by calming it down and attenuating its response when it is overreacting. On the other hand, if the immune system is not performing to its full potential, Chaga is able to kick it into gear, helping to fight off disease and infection. The immune boosting effects are due to the presence of Beta-D-Glucans, a water soluble compound found within the cell walls of the mushroom.
Benefits of Chaga:
• stimulates and regulates the immune system
• reduces inflammation
• protects cellular DNA from damaged caused by free-radicals
• helps with ulcers and gastritis
• normalizes cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels
• reduces risk of heart disease
• delays signs of aging
• boosts energy levels
• promotes healthy digestion
• packed with antioxidants
• contains Vitamin D
• protects against certain types of cancer
Successful studies for more information about the healing benefits of Chaga: