Nourish - What’s the Scoop on: Chaga Mushroom
When you think ‘mushrooms’ you tend to think about those on your pizza, the ones found on the forest floor, or let’s face it, the magical ones known for giving a person a psychedelic experience.
However, today we’re going to be covering one of several medicinal mushrooms which has been used throughout history for its healing benefits – chaga.
What is Chaga?
Chaga grows on birch trees in cold environments, like Siberia, North Korea, Canada and the USA, taking between 15 to 20 years to fully age. Chaga mushroom has been known as the “King of Plants” in China and “Diamond of the Forest” in Japan.
This powerful mushroom has been used for hundreds of years in traditional and folk medicine, and now that research is finally catching up, these fantastic medicinal shrooms with all their incredible health benefits are easy to access and used daily, thanks to modern brands like Four Sigmatic, Om Organic and Viridian.
8 Benefits of Chaga Mushroom
Supports and Boosts Immunity
Medicinal mushrooms like chaga are powerful adaptogens that work with the body, helping it to adapt to the stresses of life and needs of each day, modulating the immune system and stress response along the way. And why do they do this? For your optimal wellbeing of course 🙂
If the cold and flu season is coming up, or you’re catching a flight anytime soon, chaga is your go-to guy. Why? Because chaga has antiviral properties which help the body to fight off viruses (specifically against common viral infections such as the flu).
Another player on the field are the Beta glucans. These are known for their ability to modulate the immune system by boosting it when needed or slowing it down if too much activity is taking place – and guess what? Chaga contains an abundance of them help to support the immune system. This is also known as the adaptogenic response that we talked about earlier..
Helps to Manage Stress
Whilst we’re on the subject of adaptogens, let me add here that often during stressful situations, the body’s first response is to release a surge of stress hormones, which can throw your body out of whack and leave you feeling stressed and fatigued. If it’s an ongoing stress, you may even find you’re struggling to sleep properly, digest your food efficiently, or even be able to focus on anything.
With adaptogens on your side, they help to keep your system from going into over-drive and guide your body into a state of balance. Basically, they help your body be better able to cope with stressful situations.
So next time you’re feeling stressed, in a hurry, late for a flight or simply looking a bit of extra energy, try swapping out your regular coffee or sugar hit, and try adding chaga into your diet instead
Contains High Antioxidant Levels
Chaga is an incredible source of antioxidants – top of the scoring board to be exact. Chaga has the highest ORAC score (the measure of antioxidant potency) of any superfood.
Gram for gram, chaga contains the highest antioxidant level of any natural foods, surpassing acai berries, cacao, goji berries and turmeric (cucurmin), and even fellow medicinal mushrooms like reishi, cordyceps and shiitake? Think of it like a berry on steroids!
Antioxidants are compounds found in food that stop or delay damage to the cells caused by oxidants. These oxidants are free radicals found in the environment, and come from things like cigarette smoke, pollution, stress etc. or from normal metabolism in the body.
Chaga’s high antioxidant levels support cellular regeneration and protect against cellular damage, helping to boost longevity and healing.
Chaga mushrooms contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin D, various phytonutrients including flavonoids and phenols, zinc, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese and enzymes.
Chaga’s zinc, iron, copper and manganese content aids in stimulating the production of SOD (superoxide dismutase) – enzymes that play an important role in protecting your body from free radicals that cause damage to your cells.
Aids Skin Health
Chaga is choc-a-block full of melanin, the pigment that provides colour to the skin, and provides a shield against harmful UV rays. It’s actually where chaga gets its distinctive dark colour from, which also happens to be the main pigment present in our skin.
Because chaga can provide this pigment naturally, it is thought to be a very valuable source for helping to protect the skin against sun damage, diminish the size of age spots, give the skin a healthy glow and make for a powerful anti-aging supplement, promoting cell regeneration and revitalization for skin and hair.
Supports Cardiovascular Health
We have to thank Chagas high antioxidant levels again for their role in supporting cardiovascular health by helping to lower cholesterol, in particular by reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and lowering blood pressure.
Research suggests that oxidative stress may be a contributing factor for high blood pressure, and those suffering with it are more prone to cardiovascular health issues, such as heart attacks and strokes.
High Anti-Inflammatory Properties
A big shout out once again to chagas antioxidant levels, as chaga has been found to be incredibly useful in helping the body fight inflammation, scavenge free radicals and help prevent cellular damage, thanks to these guys. If you’re working on lowering any inflammation in the body, chaga is your new friend.
In short, inflammation is the body’s immune systems response to a stimulus, for example from a cut, a chemical, a pathogen e.g bacteria, virus or fungi or even an autoimmune condition. When the immune system fights against something it believes is harmful, inflammation happens.
You’ll often find that any disease or condition ending in ‘itis’ causes inflammation, for example, cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) or bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchi).
Some signs that may indicate inflammation:
- Loss of function
Inflammation in itself is not a bad thing when it’s short-term, but when it transitions to a chronic health problem, such as heart disease, a stroke, high blood pressure or rheumatoid arthritis, that’s where the problems arise.
Because of its immune boosting and anti-inflammatory abilities, chaga has traditionally been used to support intestinal health, treat ulcers, and help reduce inflammation caused by ulcerative colitis.
Chaga helps to stimulate digestive bile production, thus helping to break down foods, particularly fats and allow for better absorption. Chaga also helps to relieve indigestion and thanks to its dietary fibre content, also helps to keep the digestive system working smoothly. And as mentioned above, it may also help to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.
How Do You Use Chaga?
So now that we know how chaga mushroom can boost the immune system, fight inflammation, protect cells from free radicals and overall work its wonders on us, how do we embrace the shroom and get it in us?
Well, traditionally, chaga mushroom is used to make a healing tea or used as a coffee substitute, but you can easily add it into your daily routine in a powdered form and mix it into smoothies, shakes, coffee, tea or simply mixed with hot water. (Personally, I love adding Four Sigmatics Chaga elixir to earl grey green tea mmmm!). Or how about a Chaga Lemonade?
You can also take it in supplement form, or if you can get your hands on it, the foraged mushroom itself. Please note that if you do buy whole chaga pieces, you’ll need to follow a recipe to know the brewing times, as it can be several hours until it’s done.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication
*People with autoimmune diseases should consult a doctor before using Chaga because it may cause the immune system to become even more active