Medicinal mushrooms are an age old remedy that are inching back into the spotlight, and chaga is at the forefront of the supplement line up. There’s a good reason–chaga mushroom benefits are expansive, and many people are taking advantage of Chaga’s calming, immune-boosting properties to promote daily wellness without relying on prescriptions and synthetic substances.
If you’re curious about this powerhouse mushroom, stick around for the research below. First, we’ll start with the basics:
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Chaga may have various benefits for reducing inflammation, stabilizing blood sugar, improving heart health, and even preventing cancer.
Most evidence is based on animal or test tube studies and more human research is needed to understand chaga’s full potential.
A high quality Chaga supplement is safe for most people, but discuss it with your doctor first.
What is Chaga?
Chaga, scientifically known as Inonotus obliquus, has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its potential health benefits. It is often referred to as a medicinal mushroom or a superfood due to its rich nutrient profile, but its benefits expand beyond improving your diet.
Chaga mushrooms grow mainly in cold climates on birch trees, and they absorb various beneficial compounds from the tree as they grow. More specifically, a mature chaga specimen contains an array of antioxidants, polysaccharides, beta-glucans, and phenols, all of which play a role in chaga's potential health-promoting properties.
Chaga is commonly consumed in the form of tea or extract, though mushroom supplements in the form of capsules and powders are becoming more popular. Not all chaga supplements are made equal, but when a high quality form of chaga is used, the benefits may include immune system support, inflammation reduction, and antioxidant protection. Some sources also suggest that chaga may have anti-cancer properties, aid in digestion, promote healthy skin, and reduce aging.
Chaga Research and Benefits
As with any natural supplement, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating chaga into your routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medication. Before you’re ready to discuss medicinal mushrooms with your doctor, take a look at the following research that support chaga’s potential benefits:
Chaga is rich in polysaccharides, or complex carbohydrates, that provide the body with energy. Plus, like many nutritional mushrooms, chaga is full of vitamins and minerals and can function as a part of a healthy diet. More specifically, chaga contains the following:
- B-complex vitamins
- Vitamin D
- Amino acids
All high-quality whole mushroom Chaga supplements may provide these nutritional benefits, but many people also enjoy Chaga tea as part of a healthy diet. Chaga extract, however, usually contains a high concentration of beta-glucans and terpenoids, which is where many of chaga’s health benefits come from, like the ones that fill out the rest of this list.
Some evidence suggests that chaga may have a positive impact on the immune system via several mechanisms. A 2005 study found that Chaga may stimulate the production of beneficial cytokines, a protein that regulates immune function. This could stimulate the white blood cell response to improve the body’s ability to fight off harmful viruses and bacteria.
On the other hand, the same study found that Chaga may also prevent the production of harmful cytokines, which may help prevent inflammation triggered by bacteria and viruses.
A 2012 study confirmed these results when it found that Chaga extract could reduce gut inflammation by inhibiting non-beneficial cytokine production.
Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory
Chaga's high antioxidant content is often credited for its potential to kill cancer cells, though more research is needed to understand how this can be applied in a medical setting. Still, chaga’s powerful antioxidant profile is nothing to sniff at. By helping to fight free radical damage, chaga may have a positive impact on inflammation levels.
One study found that in addition to providing anti-inflammatory effects, Chaga also helped fight off harmful bacteria.
In addition to preventing free radical damage that causes signs of aging, some sources suggest that Chaga may support cellular regeneration, which can help repair tissues damaged by outside sources, like pathogens, sunlight, or free radicals.
Some evidence highlights potential anti-cancer effects, though current research all involves either animal trials or test tube samples. Still, some research shows surprising potential. For instance, one animal study found that Chaga supplementation reduced tumor size by 60%.
Another study found that Chaga tea could prevent and slow the proliferation of human colon cancer cells. In a test-tube study, chaga extract prevented cancer growth in human liver cells. Various other studies have observed Chaga’s potential to kill other types of cancer cells, like lung, skin, colon, and prostate cancer cells.
Human evidence is limited, of course, so we can’t yet say whether chaga can be useful alongside other cancer therapies. Many experts position it as a preventative though, claiming that daily chaga use may reduce your chance of \developing certain types of cancer.
Blood Sugar Support
According to animal trails, chaga’s may positively impact blood sugar. In fact, Chaga was found to potentially help manage blood sugar in mice with type two diabetes. One animal study attempted to quantify these effects, suggesting that regular Chaga supplementation reduced blood sugar by about 31% on average after three weeks.
Human trials are necessary to understand how Chaga may work to help lower blood sugar in humans. However, it’s thought to augment the way that certain carbohydrates are digested to prevent them from turning into sugars.
According to a limited study, Chaga may help reduce bad cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in mice. Another study observed similar results but also found that Chaga supplementation may help increase levels of good cholesterol in mice as well.
Again, limited evidence exists to help us understand how this may be applicable to humans. Other limited evidence suggests that Chaga could be beneficial for improving circulation and potentially preventing blood clotting (which means it may not be safe to use alongside blood thinning medications).
Chaga mushroom is traditionally thought to have a vast array of benefits, though its adaptogenic and immune stimulating benefits are its primary selling point. Most chaga research involves animal subjects, but its potential benefits for managing blood sugar, supporting heart health, and fighting cancer look promising. Still, medicinal mushroom research is constantly advancing, and human trials to uncover chaga mushroom's benefits are imminent.
For now, keep in mind that chaga mushroom supplements may offer an array of benefits when used responsibly, but you should always discuss new supplements with your doctor. Chaga may interact with certain medications, like blood thinners, so you need to be sure that there are no contraindications before you start taking chaga.
Chaga is akin to other medicinal mushrooms with some similar (and unique) benefits, and many people stack multiple medicinal mushrooms together to reap more full-spectrum benefits. If you’re intrigued by medicinal mushrooms, you may also want to read:
- Are Mushrooms Good For You?
- Are Mushrooms Anti-Inflammatory?
- Instant Mushroom Coffee: What Are the Benefits?
- Does Mushroom Coffee Have Caffeine?
If you want to take full advantage of the "functional" side of functional mushrooms, consider a mushroom super-blend like our Lucid Coffee, Chai, or Matcha powders. It takes full advantage of the benefits of these superfood mushrooms by pairing Cordyceps, Maitake, Tremella, and Lion's Mane, plus powerful nootropics, like BCAA's, L-Theanine, Alpha-GPC, and more.
- “Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/
- “Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus ameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22819687/
- “Chemical constituents from Inonotus obliquus and their antitumor activities” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27180084/
- “Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/
- “Continuous intake of the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) aqueous extract suppresses cancer progression and maintains body temperature in mice” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4946216/
- “Antitumor activity of water extract of a mushroom, Inonotus obliquus, against HT-29 human colon cancer cells” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19367670/
- “Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18434051/
- “Effect of the Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on Blood Lipid Metabolism and Oxidative Stress of Rats Fed High-Fat Diet In Vivo” https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/5305591
- “Anti-diabetic effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic mice and potential mechanism via PI3K-Akt signal pathway” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28954386/