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Ancient cultures all over the world have been utilizing the healing properties of mushrooms for thousands of years and there is increasing interest in their therapeutic potential in modern science.
In this article, we’re going to explore some of the research available on chaga mushrooms, to understand why they’re so highly revered in alternative medicine.
- What are chaga mushrooms?
- Chaga mushrooms benefits
- Chaga mushroom side effects
- Frequently asked questions
What are chaga mushrooms?
Chaga mushrooms are also known as birch mushrooms due to the fact they grow on the bark of birch trees throughout the northern hemisphere. When they grow, their appearance resembles a dark clump of dirt or charcoal rather than a mushroom, but it can be distinguished by its soft orange tissue inside.
Traditionally, the mushroom is grated down into a fine powder and brewed to make mushroom tea. These days, chaga tea is still available, but you can also opt to take the powder in capsule form. Capsules are an effective way of consuming mushroom supplements like Chaga, Turkey Tail and Lion’s Mane.
Not a lot is known about the nutritional content of chaga mushrooms, except for the fact that they’re low in calories, high in fiber, and are packed full of antioxidants.
This is why they are best known for helping to boost the immune system and improve overall health. Chaga mushrooms are becoming increasingly popular in the western world for a variety of potential health benefits, however it can have adverse side effects for some people.
Chaga mushrooms benefits
A chemical analysis of the chaga mushroom revealed that it contained several compounds including polysaccharides, triterpenes, and polyphenols. It’s thought that many of the chaga mushroom’s health benefits are thanks to these compounds.
Immune system and inflammation
As you may already know, inflammation is triggered by your immune system to protect your body from further damage and disease. However, long-term inflammation can be harmful to the body and has been linked to certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.
There is a growing body of preclinical evidence that shows chaga may help to boost immunity by reducing long-term inflammation. There have also been studies that show chaga extract stimulates white blood cells, meaning it could be useful in fighting off infections, viruses and harmful bacteria.
Further to this, chaga has been shown to inhibit the production of cytokines that trigger inflammation and can lead to disease. One 2012 study on mice with colitis showed that chaga effectively reduced inflammation and prevented further gut damage.
Chaga mushrooms supplement is great when combined with Cordyceps mushrooms. Learn more about the cordyceps here.
Lower blood sugar levels
There are also several studies that show chaga can lower blood sugar levels in mice, meaning it may have the potential benefits for people with diabetes.
One study, published in 2008, showed that chaga supplements reduced blood sugar levels by 31% in diabetic mice within just three weeks. Another more recent study showed that chaga lowered blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in obese diabetic mice, compared to mice that didn’t receive the supplements.
Chaga extract may also be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart problems by lowering your cholesterol levels. One 2009 study proved that chaga reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in rats with high cholesterol. The rats also showed increased antioxidant levels.
There have also been other studies that yielded similar results, as well as resulting in an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Chaga mushroom side effects
There haven’t been any human studies carried out on the safety and side effects of chaga mushrooms, but it’s generally well tolerated.
Having said that, chaga may interact with some common medications, which is why it’s vital for you to check with your doctor before taking any new supplement.
For example, chaga mushroom extract contains a protein that can prevent your blood from clotting, so you should avoid it if you’ve been prescribed blood thinners or have a blood disorder. Further to this, chaga’s impact on blood sugar levels means that it could also pose a risk for people that take insulin.
Frequently asked questions
Where do chaga mushrooms grow?
If you’re interested in harvesting chaga mushrooms then you’d need to head north to Alaska, northern Canada, Northern Europe, Russia, Siberia, or Korea.
How to grow chaga mushrooms
The only way to grow your own chaga mushrooms is to inoculate a living birch tree with chaga mycelium. Inoculation works best on younger trees with a trunk diameter between 6 and 10 inches.
How long does it take chaga to grow?
Unlike some other mushrooms that pop up overnight, chaga mushrooms actually grow very slowly. Once the birch tree is infected with this parasitic fungus, it can take between three and five years for this medicinal mushroom to fully form.
Contact us at Green Unicorn Farms for more information about medicinal mushrooms.