Chaga has been getting a lot of attention lately as a health food supplement and potential caffeine-free alternative to the typical morning cup of coffee or tea most adults drink. Strange, considering it starts out as a lump of bacteria (called “mycelium”) that grows on the side of birch trees.
Can it be that this non-psychedelic magic mushroom is the answer to preventing and helping to treat a long list of modern ailments, while offering a way to down a healthy dose of antioxidants and caffeine with your morning breakfast? It seems that it might be so. Chaga is indeed a superfood, and it’s gaining popularity by the day as more and more health conscious people find out about it.
Keep reading to learn more about the health benefits of chaga, potential side effects, and how to select the very best quality chaga to add to your supplement drawer.
Nature’s Most Potent Antioxidant?
Chaga mushrooms are abundant in an antioxidant called Super-Oxide Dismutase, often called SOD. There are many benefits to getting enough SOD into our bodies. It’s considered the body’s primary antioxidant, contrary to all we’ve heard about various antioxidant vitamins like A, C, D, and E. SOD has been proven in laboratory testing to be the number one antioxidant that can have a massive impact on one’s risk for atherosclerosis and other life-threatening diseases.
Chaga ranks higher than Acai in antioxidant value. In fact, sixty-five times higher, along with besting many other types of berries and berry extracts, as well as most green veggies at the top of the ORAC scale.
ORAC is used to rank the antioxidant abilities of various foods. Chaga is the only option if you’re looking to get the most of the often-deficient SOD. It’s very difficult and expensive to extract it from foods that contain much less of it, mostly due to sensitivity to heat and other elements used in nutrient extraction.
The Many Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga is a BRM or “Biological Response Modifier”. It is considered among the top foods for boosting the body’s immune system. The superfood accomplishes this effect in the form of a large abundance of beta-glucans – which help lend balance to the body’s immune response – boosting it as needed, and slowing when it becomes overactive such as with autoimmune disease and certain cancers. Perfect for preventing common colds and flues, too.
Note: Consult your doctor before using chaga if you have an immune system problem of any kind as it may interact with medications that specifically slow the immune response.
Super-Oxide Dismutase helps the heart and circulatory system by curbing the damaging effects of inflammation of the arteries that indefinitely leads to oxidized cholesterol and triglycerides sticking together on the walls of the arteries, narrowing the walls and causing hypertension among other problems.
Chaga also offers healthy doses of betulin and betulinic acid, which literally destroy LDL (bad) cholesterol, along with killing cancer cells and a number of viruses. Chaga also has a number of polysaccharides which aid in heart health.
Antioxidants like SOD, along with the beta-glucans, and polysaccharides found in chaga are used by the liver and inside the intestinal tract to maintain balance and reduce bacterial and viral infection.
4.Potential Cancer Preventative
The betulinic acid and other antioxidants in chaga, along with another compound called inotodiol; a triterpenoid, are all thought to induce the apoptosis process which causes pre-cancerous cells to die, so new healthy cells are formed before full-blown cancer cells develop.
More studies are needed to confirm the full cancer preventing/fighting abilities of chaga and other foods containing inotodiol, but the research looks very promising at present.
5.Relief from Inflammation
Betulinic acid, inotodiol, and Super-Oxide Dismutase all work together to curb inflammation throughout the body before it becomes a problem. Uncontrolled inflammation leads to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, increased asthma symptoms, skin rashes, and many other conditions.
There have been a few significant studies reporting the benefits that chaga can offer toward liver health. The antioxidants present, in particular betulin, have shown a definite correlation between chaga consumption and liver health in rats.
Chaga also stimulates bile production which helps to break down stubborn fats, making the liver’s job of managing digestion, hormone production, and several other metabolic activities much easier. Betulinic acid has also been proven to boost glutathione production, which is one of the body’s most potent antioxidants produced largely in the liver.
7.Skin and Hair Health
The more antioxidants humans take in, the better their overall skin health will be. This is because skin health is affected by both what we take in via the diet and airways, as well as exposure to the sun and airborne chemicals making contact with the skin. A double edged sword, if you will.
In addition to the antioxidants mentioned already, chaga offers large doses of melanin, which is how chaga gets its dark color. Melanin is a powerful antioxidant that helps keep skin supple, and works to reduce oxidation stress on and below the surface.
Chaga is a proven adaptogen. Adaptogens helps the endocrine system adjust to internal and external stressors, lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and leaving users feeling more of a sense of calm and euphoria.
In addition to the biological effects it has on stress, chaga has a pleasant aroma and taste which also offer beneficial effects at reducing stress levels. There are more potent adaptogenic foods available, but when combined with other chaga benefits, this is just the icing on the cake.
Chaga Mushroom Recommended Dosage
There are no real studies available that have tested the upper dosage limits of raw chaga when it’s made into a tea. Though not yet confirmed in lab testing, 200 – 1500 mg is considered a safe range by most experts. In general, use 10 grams of raw ground chaga in each cup. Be careful when starting out and only drink one cup a day for the first week. Constantly assess how you feel and raise the dosage accordingly.
With regard to extracts and tinctures, the normal daily upper limit is considered around 45 drops of a 30% solution per 150 pounds of body weight to avoid side effects. These chaga supplements contain more of the active ingredients and are largely the reason behind most of the side effects listed below.
When in doubt, consult your product label or visit the manufacturer’s website and use their dosing protocols to avoid side effects.
Chaga Mushrooms Side Effects
1.Interactions with anticoagulants and anti-platelet medications.
Consult your doctor if you’re taking any drugs that thin the blood, as mixing them with chaga, particularly chaga extracts and tinctures, can significantly increase your bleeding and bruising risk.
2.Interaction with immune suppressing drugs
You’ve read about chaga’s immune-regulating benefits already on this page. This can be a problem for people suffering from autoimmune disorders of all kinds. If you suffer from any autoimmune condition, particularly if you need to take medication to control them, consult your doctor or simply avoid taking chaga to avoid lowering the efficacy of immune-suppressing drugs.
This warning is something that all insulin dependent diabetics need to heed. Chaga, along with other blood-sugar-lowering foods and supplements, can cause blood glucose levels to dip too much when mixed with insulin and other diabetic drugs. There have been a few reports of healthy people being afflicted by symptoms of low blood sugar after taking chaga including tiredness, shakiness, and dizziness. As a contradiction to this warning, many type II diabetes use chaga with success as a way to lower blood sugar naturally.
How to Choose the Best Chaga Supplements
There are a few smart things one needs to consider when venturing out to buy their first chaga product:
1. Organic: Look for organic, or at least quality wild-sourced chaga. Some manufacturers will grow chaga in unnatural media like rice, feeding the chaga spores what is considered (guessed) to be a good diet. The only way to get the full benefits of chaga is to eat that which is grown in nature – much like we know it’s best to eat livestock and poultry not raised on hormones and unnatural foods like corn.
2. ORAC Value: You’ll find the ORAC value for antioxidant capability on the labels of some products. If listed and the manufacturer has an excellent reputation, look for ORAC values of 420 or higher.
3. Caffeine Content: Some chaga powder supplements will contain caffeine, like Four Sigmatic’s popular chaga coffee with Lion’s Mane. You’ll rarely find more than 30mg of added caffeine per serving of this or similar products. However, if you’re sensitive the effects, you may want to look elsewhere.
1.Four Sigmatic Organic Mushroom Elixir (View on Amazon)
Four Sigmatic is the industry standard when it comes to the highest quality organic chaga. The company uses a dual-extraction method to more than double the antioxidant capacity ranking of the finished product on the ORAC value chart. This hypoallergenic formulation is designed for people who suffer from all allergies, and is mildly flavored with a touch of rose and peppermint to make every serving taste fantastic.
2.Maine Chaga Premium Tea Chunks (View on Amazon)
This unflavored chaga product comes to you directly from Maine, USA. No chaga in this bag of chunks is source from outside the country. My Berry Organics never imports their chaga from Canada, Russia, or China, to ensure the product is able to ensure these chaga tea chunks are always in compliance with USA’s Good Manufacturing Practices seal of recognition. This brand is an Amazon favorite and though they don’t list the ORAC values like Four Sigmatic, Maine is most known for its vast wilderness and dense population of healthy trees.
3.Sayan Siberian Wild Forest Chaga Mushroom Extract (View on Amazon)
Extracted from chaga harvested in the wild forests of chilly Siberia, chaga mushroom extract is the only way to maximize the full effects of the fungus such as cholesterol lowering, stress relieving, cancer preventing, and other health boosting benefits. Add the raw powder to anything including smoothies, teas, and your favorite sweet and savory dishes. This raw extract is enriched with 5% betulin, and naturally freeze-dried immediately after extraction to protect the rich antioxidants it contains. Sayan is free of allergens, and manufactured in an FDA endorsed facility.
4.Maine Chaga Extract (View on Amazon)
If you don’t know, or aren’t sure if you’ll like drinking tea from grinding raw chunks into powder form, extracts offer a road to better health by taking concentrated chaga in liquid form. Take up to a ½ teaspoon a day to enjoy all the benefits offered by the chaga fungus in the form of SOD, betulinic acid, betulin, and inotodiol. This wild harvested extract mixes easily, is easy to take, lasts a long time, and perfect for people with “discerning” palettes.
5.King Siberian Chaga Mushroom Extract Capsules (View on Amazon)
This product is a potent 30% chaga extract coming from the wilds of Siberia. The price conveniently goes down the more you buy, available in single 90 capsule bottles, or a two or three-pack of bottles, to save on what will soon be your favorite chaga supplement. King Siberian Chaga Mushroom Extract Capsules are 100% organic and a full spectrum supplement to ensure you’re getting large doses of all the major nutrients offered by this species of wild fungus.
Chaga has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. Hopefully, you now realize this wild mushroom has earned its reputation as one of the top superfoods on the planet.
Taken daily, chaga can help prevent and reverse a number of health problems such as heart and other inflammatory issues, poor immune function, digestive upset, poor liver function, and even cancer.
Considering chaga’s reasonable price and the health benefits it offers, there’s no question that the majority of people reading this will receive benefit from consuming it in ground powder form or through a quality extract supplement.