King of the Mushrooms, Nature’s Gold, Diamond of the forest… and these are just a few of the names the Chaga mushroom goes by. Sounds pretty special right? Well it doesn’t hold these nicknames for no reason. It is one powerful mushroom and some say it may even be the most important adaptogen ever. Big claim. But let’s have a closer look.
If you have ever seen what a Chaga mushroom looks like you are probably wondering why people think it’s so special, because it sure doesn’t look special. It grows as a crusty blackened formation that has burst out of the bark of a birch tree… However the Chaga mushroom has attracted considerable attention for thousands of years for preventing and treating a variety of diseases thanks to the amazing properties we now know it holds.
The Chaga mushroom market is now booming since the interest in functional mushrooms has sky rocketed in the Western world. There are a range of nutritional supplements you can purchase now, all because everybody wants to get a piece of the Chaga’s incredible health benefits.
Let’s first start with the immense antioxidant capacity the Chaga mushroom has. It is thought to have the highest concentration of Superoxide Dimutase (SOD) than any other functional mushroom. SODs are enzymes that act as potent antioxidants, which form the front line of defence against reactive oxygen species - these are unstable molecules that cause many types of cell damage and may interfere with DNA replication.
Some studies have shown that Chaga may help to regulate the production of cytokines, these are very important cells involved in the immune response and therefore may help your body to fight off infections more efficiently. The regulation of cytokines may also help to control inflammation within the body.
It is also thought that the Chaga mushroom has the ability to decrease the levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein or the “bad cholesterol”. This may mean that consuming Chaga could reduce your risk of heart disease.
And finally the Chaga mushroom has shown to decrease blood lactic acid and serum urea nitrogen levels after extended periods of exercise in mice. This means that the Chaga mushroom may have the potential to be an anti-fatigue pharmacological agent.
Besides all of these great health benefits, the Chaga mushroom is also extremely nutrient dense with an abundance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients such as; B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, potassium, selenium, zinc and iron.
So it sure sounds like this ugly crusty mushroom growth is pretty special after all… and anyway you should never judge a mushroom by its cover. They always have wondrous secrets hidden within.
Liang, L., Zhang, Z., Sun, W. and Wang, Y. (2009). Effect of the Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on Blood Lipid Metabolism and Oxidative Stress of Rats Fed High-Fat Diet In Vivo. [online]
Xiuhong, Z., Yue, Z., Shuyan, Y. and Zhonghua, Z. (2015). Effect of Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on physical fatigue in mice. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 35(4), pp.468–472
HuffPost. (2012). Chaga, The Clinker Fungus: This Mushroom Looks Scary But Can Benefit Health. [online] Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/chaga-mushroom_b_1974571