Mushroom coffees and teas have become increasingly popular within recent years. A common star of these concoctions is the powerful chaga mushroom, which has one of the highest ORAC scores of any food. The higher the ORAC value, the better a food’s ability is to protect the body from free radicals. That also means that chaga mushrooms are one of the best sources of antioxidants.
What Is The Chaga Mushroom?
The chaga mushroom is quite ugly in appearance, but don’t let looks sway you from this nutritional powerhouse. These mushrooms grow in wild places like Northern Canada, Siberia, and Alaska. They mainly grow on the outside of birch trees in very cold climates, but they also grow on chestnut, beech, and alder trees. Because of their distinct appearance, chaga mushrooms are very easy to identify. They are lumpy and the exterior looks like burnt charcoal with a softer, yellowish, squishy core.
For hundreds of years, Northern European countries have incorporated chaga mushrooms into traditional medicine. Historical accounts state that chaga mushrooms were used to treat diabetes and gastrointestinal cancer in those aforementioned areas of the world. Like other medicinal mushrooms, chaga mushrooms require the introduction of hot water or alcohol to break down the tough cellular walls. In doing so, the mushroom’s benefits become available for human consumption. Continue reading to learn about some amazing health benefits of chaga mushrooms.
May Prevent And Treat Cancer
There are many impressive testimonials about people using medicinal mushrooms, including chaga mushrooms, to help them beat cancer. Laboratory studies show that chaga mushrooms can inhibit cancer progression, but not enough human studies exist yet. In one study, researchers observed tumor-bearing mice that were given chaga mushroom extract. The results indicated a 60% reduction in tumor size, while mice with metastatic cancer experienced a 25% reduction in their number of nodules. One study looked at chaga mushroom’s effects on cancerous human liver cells. The study found that chaga extract may be able to prevent liver cancer cell growth.
May Lower Blood Sugar
A few different animal studies linked chaga mushroom to lower blood sugar levels, so it may be beneficial for those with diabetes. In one study observing diabetic mice, chaga supplementation led to a 31% decrease in blood sugar levels over the course of three weeks. Another study in obese, diabetic mice found that chaga extract aided blood sugar reduction and insulin resistance, compared to the diabetic mice that didn’t receive the supplement. Because human research is currently unavailable, it is not yet clear whether or not chaga can manage blood sugar levels in diabetic humans.
Exhibits Potent Antiviral Activity
Chaga mushroom appears to exhibit antiviral properties against several viruses. Research from 2015 found that chaga extract had an antiviral effect on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1. In several animal studies, chaga extract exhibited antiviral effects against the hepatitis C virus. By examining animal cells, researchers found that chaga was able to decrease the infective properties of hepatitis C by 100-fold in just 10 minutes. As of right now, it looks like this mushroom may be a worthy candidate to rival antiviral drugs, but more research is necessary.
May Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural immune response that can help protect the body from infection and disease. Long-term or chronic inflammation, however, has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and other serious conditions. Several animal test-tube studies suggest that chug extract can positively impact immunity by reducing long-term inflammation. One animal study found that chaga extract was able to reduce inflammation from ulcerative colitis in animal subjects. This anti-inflammatory effect in the colon was due to chaga extract’s ability to suppress the expression of chemical mediators of inflammation.
Stimulates The Immune System
Chaga mushroom extract works to promote the formation of beneficial cytokines, which are specialized proteins that regulate the immune system. In doing so, chaga ultimately stimulates the production of white blood cells, which you need to fight off viruses and bacteria. Other animal and test-tube studies note that chaga can prevent the production of harmful cytokines that can trigger inflammation. In some animal studies, researchers observed that chaga extract boosted immune function by increasing the production of interleukin 6 (IL-6) and T lymphocytes, two types of immune cells. Other research found that chaga extracts can stimulate spleen lymphocytes, which positively affect the immune system.