5 Health Benefits of
Over the past decade, there has been a steady pace of new natural product introductions focused on boosting a person’s immune system and increasing cognition, and one product ingredient that is gaining a lot of attention are the various types of fungi/mushrooms being added into health and wellness products.
Now, we are not talking about the kind of mushrooms referred to as “magic mushrooms” of 1960’s and 70’s “Hippie” lore. Magic mushrooms contain a substance called psilocybin that is hallucinogenic when consumed, meaning, it can make people who consume these mushrooms hallucinate.
In this blog, I am talking about functional mushrooms that hold enormous promise as alternative or adjunct therapies with the potential to address mild to serious conditions and symptoms. One of these mushrooms is called Chaga, and in case you are wondering whether consuming Chaga or other types of mushrooms is healthy for you and a potential medicine, there are hundreds maybe thousands of medical studies you can find on the National Institute of Health’s Library of Medicine website on Chaga alone, and here is just one study.
Chaga is called the king of mushrooms because it contains a compound inside called beta glucan, a polysaccharide, that is getting a lot of attention in medical research communities. Chaga grows on birch and other hardwood trees as a parasite, though, it is not technically a mushroom, but rather a mass chaga mycelium and birchwood. It appears as a hardened mass with a black outer layer and orange cork-like crust on the underside of the hardened outer crust, and it looks like burnt charcoal. It is predominantly found in Canada and North America but can also be found in parts of Northern China and Russia.
According to the experts, it is best to harvest in the winter. Because chaga takes a long time to form, people who harvest it usually leave a generous amount behind so it can continue to flourish and provide its fruit. Unlike turkey tail or reishi, chaga spores grow underneath the bark.
The numerous medical studies and research done on lion’s mane have uncovered a versatile mushroom whose compounds may help to support the healthy functioning of several bodily processes. While there are several more benefits to including chaga in your daily routine, below are 6 reasons to consider adding it to your health regiment line up.
May Boost Immune System Support:
Chaga has one of the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) values in the world, making it one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet. ORAC is a unit which measures the capability of an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing sickness, disease, and aging. Furthermore, the immune boosting properties of fungal beta glucan may help to modulate the immune response.
May Help Contain Cancer Fighting Agents:
Chaga contains Betulin and Betulinic acid (triterpenoids) which are antiretroviral, antimalaria, anti-inflammatory and anticancer compounds. Triterpenoids are known to help stimulate the production of white blood cells, which is the first line of defense when the immune system starts to fight a virus, bacteria etc… Also, the high antioxidant value of chaga may also slow the progression of certain cancers. One study showed that chaga extract facilitated autophagy in breast cancer cells. Autophagy is a process where a cell disposes of its “junk” parts and repurposes the useful parts to be used as new cell parts.
May Control Blood Sugar:
Research done on chaga mushrooms has shown that they possess certain compounds which may decrease blood sugar levels in animals and humans. In one study done on diabetes, beta glucans were shown to have a positive impact on decreasing blood sugar levels. Other research done on chaga mushrooms showed that the polysaccharides in the mushroom can lower blood sugar by blocking an enzyme called glucosidase, which impedes the body’s ability to break down and digest carbohydrates, which can result in a reduction of blood sugar levels.
May Reduce LDL Cholesterol:
The sterols and triterpenoids in chaga may help to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which has implications for heart disease. One study shows the correlation between taking chaga and a reduction in LDL cholesterol.
May Support Skin Health:
Chaga is rich in melanin, so it may be beneficial for skin health because melanin protects skin from Ultraviolet (UV) rays, and it has been shown to possess antioxidant abilities to protect skin cells against reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavengers.
How to Consume Chaga:
The most common way to use chaga is via tea since it is practically impossible to eat or chew. Be aware that if you use it in tea, only the water-soluble compounds will come over into the tea. Beta glucans are water soluble, but triterpenes require alcohol extraction, which means you would be looking at a tincture similar to CBD oil that you could put under your tongue or in a beverage like a smoothie. Combining tea and a tincture would be a one-two punch and would most likely increase the effectiveness of the concoction.