Cremini, Shiitake, Oyster, Portobello, Porcini: You may have heard of these common mushrooms before. But have you heard of Chaga? It’s a mushroom that’s beginning to gain a lot of attention in the nutrition world for all the great benefits it has to offer.
The chaga mushroom, also called Inonotus obliquus, grows in colder regions upon the bark of birch trees. Chaga can grow large, up to 35 pounds, and in unique shape unlike those of other mushrooms, and is typically dark in appearance with a woody texture (Fass, 6). But the differences between chaga and more typical mushrooms don’t stop there. In fact, the potential for the chaga mushroom to positively influence your health and athletic performance is great.
Chances are that no matter what part of your health you wish to improve upon, chaga could help you. But don’t just take our word for it - keep reading to find out how the chaga mushroom can benefit your health and performance.
Feeling under the weather? If you were taking chaga, you might be able to fight it off more effectively. A 2005 study showed that immunosuppressed mice who were given chaga-infused water for 24 days straight were shown to have a boost in immune function (Kim, 158). This is beneficial for a range of issues from fighting the common cold to aiding in chemotherapy treatment. If you’re working on getting your healthiest, an enhanced immunity means less times you’ll be missing a sweaty gym session due to illness.
Inflammation can wreak havoc on the body, but chaga can help. Chaga has been shown to reduce inflammation and curb the inflammatory cascade. The interesting part is that chaga is able to do this while simultaneously boosting immunity, whereas other substances commonly used to reduce inflammation also suppress the immune system (Fass, 10). Staying fit can be hard on your musculoskeletal system, leading to inflammation and pain. Consider adding chaga to your supplement routine to reduce the impact of increased inflammation.
BETTER BRAIN FUNCTION
Having a healthy body requires something very important: a healthy mind. Chaga is high in b-vitamins, which are really important for brain function and neurotransmission. Unfortunately many of us suffer from b-vitamin deficiencies, even in developed countries. Supplementing with chaga and increasing your b-vitamin intake could result in sharper thinking, better mood, less fatigue, and overall improvement in brain health. With your enhanced brain function, you’ll have no problem keeping your head in the game during your next workout.
Chaga is high in superoxide dismutase (SOD), a powerful enzyme that also acts as an antioxidant (Fass, 7). In fact, chaga has the highest concentration of this enzyme out of any medicinal mushroom. Antioxidants have the important job of protecting every cell in the body from damage. SOD is a tissue protector, and in the high concentrations found in chaga can even be used topically on the skin (Fass, 7). It’s potent antioxidant capabilities are also promising in the world of antiaging, where oxidative damage is a substantial part of the aging process, and SOD decreases dramatically over one’s lifespan (Fass, 7). Chaga might not be the fountain of youth, but it can help you maintain healthy cells and reduce the impact of aging.
It has been suggested by scientists and researchers to begin using chaga during chemotherapy to boost immunity. However when it comes to cancer, there are other promising studies regarding how chaga could help. One study completed in 2011 supports previous evidence that chaga could be used to suppress the growth of cancer cells. Although the mechanisms aren’t yet fully understood, the researchers believe it has to do with how the chaga mushroom affects energy metabolism (Arata, 13).
As one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, the research regarding chaga’s impact on cancer is huge. Yet the more that researchers discover about how chaga can be used to treat cancer, the more they become interested in the possibility it could actually prevent it. Researchers are beginning to open up a serious conversation about the potential defensive benefits of chaga. If you’re a long-term thinker concerned about your health overall, chaga could be a great supplement in regards to not just treatment but prevention of disease.
If you are currently taking any medications, it is important to talk to your health professional before adding any new supplements to your routine. It is possible that chaga may have interactions with your current medications. Because studies are yet to be done regarding chaga supplementation for pregnant women, it is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women to supplement with chaga.
No serious side effects have been discovered regarding chaga supplementation. The lack of side effects found regarding chaga are encouraging. However, if you are ever in doubt, discuss your concerns with a health professional.
What makes chaga so great is it’s well-rounded benefits. Whether your health goal is a sharper mind in the gym, combating the aging process, fighting and preventing illness and disease, or reducing pain and soreness as a result of inflammation, chaga likely has a benefit to offer to you.
- Arata, Satoru et al. “Continuous intake of the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) aqueous extract suppresses cancer progression and maintains body temperature in mice”. Heliyon, vol. 2, no.5, 2016, pp. 1-16.
- Fass, Nancy. Interview with Cass Ingram, MD. “The Healing Powers of Wild Chaga.” Journal of Health and Healing, vol. 35, no. 4, 2011, pp. 6 - 11.
- Kennedy, David O. “B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy - A Review”. Nutrients, vol. 8, no. 2, 2016, pp. 1-29.