What is Chaga?
The chaga mushroom is traditionally found growing wild in old growth birch forests. Part of the potency of wild chaga comes from the birch wood on which it grows; chaga draws its life force from the birch bark and engages in a symbiotic relationship with the birch. The ability of this adaptogenic mushroom to predigest the nutrients contained in the birch tree, allows it to deliver a potent medicine that serves so many benefits for us humans. Chaga is so powerful it has been shown to heal the birch tree on which it grows; that is, if the tree is dying, and a wild chaga is inserted, oftentimes the tree will recover. We find this action incredible.
What does fresh chaga look like? Our Dì Dào (地道) (Di Tao) grown wild chaga, freshly harvested from Mason's (founder of SuperFeast) recent expedition to China.
Chaga is a tonic herb. If you need a quick reminder check out What is a Tonic Herb article. In short, tonic herbs cause no negative side effects from ingestion, promotes non-specific healing for the body and has an adaptive nature.
Chaga is also a powerful adaptogen. Adaptogens increase your body’s resilience and capacity to process and respond to stressors. Stress is a major trigger in so many illnesses and symptoms today and chaga has the ability to calm the mind and support the body’s stress response.
Top 5 Benefits of Chaga
One of the most widely utilised and loved medicinal mushrooms globally, chaga is an absolute powerhouse of goodness. Feel free to head to google scholar and type in chaga, you will come across a wealth of research. One of our key objectives here at SuperFeast HQ is to empower the community to be health sovereign. That is inclusive of being your own detective and educating yourself. So we encourage you to look into chaga / Inonotus obliquus and determine if this mushroom is for you. So what's chaga good for? Read on for our favourite top five chaga mushroom benefits:
1. Skin + Chaga
Skin is a key player in our ability to detox and often, in today's life styles, the skin can take on too much. Psoriasis is a great example of this; psoriasis is an immune-mediated inflammatory pathology of the skin. Deficiencies in the immune system of those suffering from this chronic disease lead to an increase in skin cell growth and turnover. Research has identified that there are many factors involved in the condition which are both genetic and environmental in nature. DNA mutations are a causative factor in psoriasis presenting. We often get asked, "will chaga help psoriasis?", so we wrote a specific blog on the topic, check it out here.
Psoriasis is a T-cell mediated pathology, this is an important factor to note when understanding the therapeutic role chaga can play in supporting the healing of this condition. The beta glucans present in chaga allow the body to recognise and label potentially problematic cells. This allows the immune system to elevate its response against undesirable rapidly growing cells. In the case of chaga and psoriasis, this innate relationship between the human immune system and the fungal polysaccharides gives an insight into how the mushroom may benefit the condition. Research has shown a 76% remission rate of psoriasis, when taking chaga.
2. Candida + Chaga
Yeast and fungal overgrowth (for example, Candida albicans) in the body are critical health issues being faced by many. In most cases these yeast and fungal conditions are expressed in the body as a result of poor gut health and immune function and an inability to detoxify pathogens. It is assumed by many that all edible mushrooms contribute further to this issue. However this is a common misconception when it comes to medicinal mushrooms. We have a whole podcast episode dedicated to this very topic, are medicinal mushrooms beneficial for excess candida? Or if you feel like reading, we have an in-depth article here on the same topic.
By reestablishing a strong, efficient and intelligent immune system, you can dramatically enhance your capacity to bring fungal infections under control. Medicinal mushrooms, particularly chaga, are some of the most efficient food sources that act as the building blocks of your immune system. Medicinal mushrooms assist by boosting bone marrow secretion rates, enhancing natural killer cell function, increase immunological adaptability and feed systemic immunity via their high polysaccharide content. Time and time again medicinal mushrooms like chaga have proven to be a powerful addition to the diet for those working to overcome fungal conditions such as candida overgrowth.
3. Performance + Chaga
Fatigue, especially the type that comes from intensive or exhaustive movement, can lead to a decrease in functional performance. The accumulation of free radicals in this instance increases the chance of tissue deterioration.
A recent animal study using a polysaccharide-rich chaga extract, found that when administered, mice were able to swim for longer periods without fatigue than those given a placebo. The study observed that chaga not only increased exercise resilience but also decreased fatigue markers such as lactic acid, which delayed the onset of physical fatigue in the animal model. Plus muscle and liver glycogen were also significantly higher in the mice given the chaga mushroom, suggesting chaga has the ability to slow down glycogen utilisation, of which plays a key role in exercise endurance.
4. Anti-Ageing + Chaga
We are pro healthy ageing here at SuperFeast and chaga mushroom is one of our favourite mushrooms for this.
It's pretty well known now that free radicals damage our cells and our tissues; this leads to ageing more quickly and unhealthily. Essentially, an overabundance of free radicals can overwhelm our normally well-balanced cells and lead to impairment at a cellular level. Research has shown chaga to be extremely high in antioxidants, especially SOD (superoxide dismutase). These molecules prevent the creation of free radicals, so you want as many antioxidants in your diet as possible.
5. Immunity + Chaga
All the medicinal mushrooms pack a huge immune boosting punch, chaga is no different. This super class of funghi contain a wealth of active chemical constituents known as polysaccharides, particularly beta glucans. These molecules assist the activation of various protective reactions that occur as a part of the body’s immunological and inflammatory cascades. Beta glucans increase the activity of interleukins, interferons, natural killer cells, tumor necrosis factor, macrophages, B and T lymphocytes, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and granulocytes, the infection-fighting cells that develop within the bone marrow. Trust us, that's impressive. Beta glucans enable the body to recognise and label potentially problematic cells, allowing the immune system to elevate its response against undesirable and rapidly growing cells.
SuperFeast Chaga is:
- Grown wild on the bark of Birch trees, check out this vision of Mason live, where your wild SuperFeast Chaga comes from
- Harvested on birch that is at 20+ years old
- The sclerotia is harvested at 8-10 years of maturity (see note below on 'sclerotia')
- Mindfully sourced from Changbai Mountain in China
- Dual-extracted for full-spectrum benefits
**A note on sclerotia** The portion of chaga used in SuperFeast powdered herbal extract isn’t classified as a fruiting body, like the rest of our herbs. The medicinal component of this herb is the sclerotia. The sclerotia is comprised of mycelium and wood, it presents as a hyperplastic conk on the birch tree. This is what is commonly known as ‘chaga’. As you can see, SuperFeast Chaga is potent, sourced mindfully and according to Daoist philosophy and has countless health benefits. Check out our online store here.
Chaga and the Traditions
Chaga was used extensively in oriental medicine, this herb can be found listed in the earliest text on Chinese medicine: the fabled Shennong Ben Cao Jing. Chaga has been used as superior herb throughout Chinese, Siberian, Korean, Northern European and Scandinavian herbalism for millennia, often to increase physical stamina and longevity. For example, despite the harsh nature of their climate the Siberian people lived life spans of up to 90-110 years. The Siberians observed that when taken regularly, chaga influenced the prevention of degenerative disease in their communities.
Chaga was traditionally prepared as a simple tea and used to regenerate organs and glands. The herb was applied in the treatment of many ailments such as stomach complaints, ulcers, gastritis, skin eruptions, liver pathologies, blood disorders and inoperable cancers, it was even used in colonics to address issues of the lower bowel. The Khnanty people of Western Siberia still use chaga tea as a treatment against tuberculosis today.
How To Use Chaga
Integrating SuperFeast Chaga mushroom into your life is simple. We've got some recipes below to get you started. But like all our tonic herbs, we encourage you to start small, a great place to start is always a 1/4 teaspoon. Do this daily and feel into how your unique body system interacts with the herb. If you are feeling good, we suggest to build up to a nice, heaped teaspoon per day. We find this is generally a good sweet spot for most individuals. We love providing our herbs in a powdered extract, it means you have full control over the dose, it allows you to experiment with the herb and really forge your own unique relationship with the herbs. As always, we suggest to trust your body; it will tell you if you want more or less.
We encourage you to experiment with all of your medicinal mushrooms as they can be incorporated into your diet in many ways, especially with chaga not being heat or cold sensitive. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
A Final Note
To summarise the benefits of this incredible mushroom, chaga is:
- A powerful adaptogen
- Assists with stress management
- Helps reduce inflammation
- Offers deep immune support
- Supports healthy blood sugar regulation
- A liver and kidneys tonic
- A potent antioxidant, containing high levels of longevity enzyme; superoxide dismutase (SOD)
- The highest natural plant source of melanin
- A digestive tonic
- A potent antifungal and antibacterial agent
- Supports skin health, particularly psoriasis
Want to read more about our protocol to heal from excess candida? Check out our article: Can Medicinal Mushrooms Help Candida here .