What is Chaga Mushroom? Benefits, Harvesting, and Side Effects
Are you asking the question, “what is chaga mushroom?” Maybe you’ve heard about health benefits, have questions about harvesting, or are looking for the best methods for consumption. All of your questions will be answered and it is our hope that by the end of this article you love chaga as much as we do.
What is Chaga Mushroom?
Chaga is a fungus that grows on trees in the northern hemisphere. The type that we are interested in only grows on birch trees. Other tree species, such as aspen, are hosts for chaga mushrooms but it’s only the birch tree variety that offers medicinal qualities. Chaga is incredibly healthy and contains a large variety of vitamins in high concentrations. Chaga offers an immune system boost like no other. Look at all these vitamins found in high quantities:
- B-complex vitamins
- vitamin D
- amino acids
It’s one of the highest natural sources for magnesium measuring in 1,000 ppm1. It’s well known that most people are magnesium deficient, which is a shame because magnesium is one of the most important compounds required for healthy brain and body functions. Chaga is like taking the planet’s most diverse and dense multi-vitamin, and it’s 100% natural!
Health Benefits of Chaga Mushroom
The most amazing benefit of chaga mushroom is its ability to prevent and actually reduce some types of cancer. Aqueous extraction (tea) of chaga was introduced to liver cancer cells2 and was proven to actually kill the cancer while leaving healthy cells alone. There have also been studies on mice that show chaga tea reduces tumor size and prevents new tumor growth. It’s kind of amazing that modern science has proven chaga’s effectiveness.
Chaga is beneficial for preventing DNA degradation, which if you don’t know is associated with the production of cancer cells. Basically, your DNA is always replicating itself inside your cells, sometimes the reproduction process degrades and creates broken DNA strands, which sometimes form cancer cells. Introducing chaga tea to DNA reduced fragmentation by 40%3.
It also has anti-inflammatory properties and reduces blood pressure. In studies with mice, chaga consumption also increased core body temperature which results in an increase in metabolism. Just as an anecdote, I consume chaga tea every morning during Alaska’s winter and I’ve noticed its effects with my internal body temperature as well. Who doesn’t want to burn a few extra calories just by drinking tea?
Side-Effects Of Chaga Mushroom
Like any medicinal substance, chaga mushroom does have some side effects you need to understand before taking it. The most studied effect of chaga is its association with oxalates – the substances best known for producing kidney stones. The most famous study involves an elderly japanese man who was eating chaga mushroom powder twice a day for 6 years4. It is not recommended to eat chaga and that’s why making a tea with the mushroom is the best method of ingesting the medicinal qualities.
A study conducted by The Birch Boys5 concluded that a cup of chaga tea has about the same level of oxalates as half a cup of spinach. If you suffer from kidney stones or are on a low oxalate diet, chaga is not for you. However, foods like potatoes and spinach have higher levels of oxalates as compared to chaga tea.
Another side effect of consuming chaga is the reduction of blood clotting. If you suffer from a medical condition that already makes you susceptible to bleeding, be careful with chaga consumption.
Like anything else in life, moderately consuming chaga is the safest way to enjoy its benefits.
Where To Find Chaga Mushroom
You can find chaga on birch trees from southern Illinois to Alaska. As a harvester of chaga myself, I’m biased in the belief that Alaska produces the best chaga in the world. It’s darker than the varieties found in places like New York and Maine. I believe the color is a reflection of the harsher winters and the fungus’s higher levels of vitamins. If you are an adventurous soul, going for a hike in your local forest preserve might put you on the path to collecting your own chaga. Harvest chaga mid-winter, when the fungus has the highest nutrient density. Another side-effect is getting exercise and exploring the outdoors during the winter months.
Chaga Is A Miracle Fungus
The benefits of chaga continue to impress and surprise scientists who conduct studies. Traditional wisdom from the forests of Siberia and Alaska have known the benefits since time immemorial. Don’t you think it’s time you try chaga?