Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a medicinal mushroom that serves as an anti-ageing, immune-boosting powerhouse. Packed-full of adaptogenic betulinic acid, beta glucans, antioxidants and skin-protecting melanin, it is one of our absolute faves here at SuperFeast HQ. Keep reading to explore everything you need to know about this very popular and highly revered medicinal mushroom and all the chaga mushroom health benefits.
Potent. That's what it is! Check out our SuperFeast Chaga here. In all seriousness, chaga is traditionally found growing wild in old growth birch forests. Part of the potency of 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.
Chaga is a tonic herb. If you need a quick reminder check out this What is a Tonic Herb article. But essentially it causes no harm from ingestion, promotes non-specific healing for the body and has an adaptive nature. Yes please!
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. Yes please again.
Chaga is packing a punch in this area with more than 200 potent chemical constituents:
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. Read on for our top five chaga mushroom benefits:
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 have a really cool article on skin and in particular, psoriasis, 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. Thebeta 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.
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 low 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? (Hint: a big yes).
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.
Fatigue, especially the type that comes from intensive or exhaustive movement, can lead to a in decrease functional performance (haha don't mean to state the obvious here). The accumulation of free radicals in this instance increases the chance 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.
Just to be clear, we are not against ageing, here at SuperFeast HQ. I mean, it's currently happening as you read this and I type this. But the distinction is, we are pro healthy ageing. And chaga mushroom is one of our fave friends to help us do just 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 super, super high in antioxidants, especially SOD (superoxide dismutase). These epic molecules prevent the creation of free radicals. You read that right. You want as many antioxidants in your diet as possible.
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:
Technically the portion of chaga used in SuperFeast powdered herbal extract isn’t classified as a fruiting body, like the rest of our herbs. If we want to start splitting mycelial hairs (yeah, course we do!), we’d call the medicinal component of this herb 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 Taoist philosophy AND has countless health benefits. Feeling like you need some in your life? Check out our online store here.
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.
We encourage you to experiment with all of your medicinal mushrooms, you can add them to anything! This includes chaga. Chaga is not heat or cold sensitive. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
Instant Chaga Tea - sooooo easy
If you don't already have chaga in your life, maybe it is time to try now! Want to read more about our protocol to heal from excess candida? Check out our article: Can Medicinal Mushrooms Help Candida here :)
We are so damn excited to be sharing the inaugural SuperFeast Academy offering - Tonic Herbalism 101 Course.