Chaga mushroom is one of my all time favourite supplements. It's hard for me to call it a supplement, since it is truly a food... but as a concentrated powder (which is the way I consume it most often) I decided to include it in the "supplement" section.
Summer has hit in Toronto, and knowing how much time I spend in the sun (+ the fact I'm about to spend quite a bit of time on airplanes travelling through Europe) I thought it was the perfect time to re-introduce Chaga into my diet. Chaga, as you will learn below, is the ultimate summer supplement. It helps repair DNA and protect against radiation (be it from the sunshine or airplanes), among so many other benefits for health and longevity.
Chaga mushroom (Inonotus Obliquus) is a polypore fungus often referred to as the "king of mushrooms," and aptly so, as its benefits are so profound. They grow on the birch trees, and are native to many areas of the world with very cold habitats, including Northern Europe, Northern areas of the US and Canada, as well as Russia, and Korea. Chaga is a slow-growing mushroom that resembles a tumour, and unsurprisingly one of its healing powers is indeed cancer, tumours, and radiation (nature is funny like that!).
Chaga is loaded with melanin - which repairs your DNA; making Chaga a powerful tool to incorporate in your routine especially during the summer months when your body is exposed to more sunshine. Chaga is also protects you from radiation damage, not only from the sun but also from things like radiation from airplanes, x-ray scanners, and radiation-based cancer treatments.
What is an adaptogen?
Adaptogens are substance that actually adapt to your body's needs to help it reach homeostasis (its natural state of health). They boost your body's resilience, and help you overcome stress. Unlike a stimulant or a depressant, adaptogens work with your body's quest to reach balance. Adaptogens are especially powerful aids in combatting stress (of all kinds), which is something we can all use- whether your stress is mental or physical (marriage troubles vs. recovering from an accident) and whether it is self-inflicted or not (exercise vs. tripping down the stairs). We're all stressed in one way on another, and Chaga has got your back.
Benefits of Wild Chaga Mushrooms
Immune modulation, battling sun damage, pain relief, cancer treatment, removing certain parasites, anti-viral, detoxifying (blood and liver), balancing blood sugar, heart protective, bronchitis, improving circulation, intestinal protection, lowering cholesterol, chemotherapy & radiation therapy protection.
- Chaga mushrooms are a powerful antioxidant and source of superoxide dismutase (SOD) which halts oxidation, especially free radicals like singlet oxygen responsible for damaging tissues
- Chaga mushrooms are a source of 200 + phytonutrients
- Chaga Contains significant amounts of riboflavin and niacin
- The Chaga Mushroom contains B and D vitamins, flavonoids, phenols, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc iron and enzymes
- One of nature's riches sources of the minerals rubidium, potassium, cesium and germanium; everything the body needs to remain alkaline
- A great source of pantothenic acid which aids the adrenal glands and digestive organs
- The Chaga Mushroom has been used for improving cognitive function and memory loss.
- Chaga is a vital source of plant based sterols which reduce bad LDL cholesterol, stabilizes blood pressure, increases metabolism and aids the endocrine system
- The Chaga Mushroom that comes from Birch trees are also rich in Betulinic Acid which as been used to to shrink some types of cancerous tumors.
(via Annanda Chaga).
It's important to note that the food and supplements we consume are only as beneficial as they are bioavailable. Chaga in it's "raw" form has very little bioavailability. Simply grinding it up raw and adding it to a smoothie would do very little to support your body. Chaga has fat and water soluble medicinal properties, and to truly benefit from the therapeutic qualities of the mushroom, it has to be prepared properly. If you have harvested Chaga in the wild, you have a few options. You can simmer it (I like to do so for 24 hours) in a slow cooker, to extract the water soluble nutrients (like the polyphenols and beta-glucans), or you can prepare a tincture (using high grade organic alcohol), leaving the mixture to sit for months and extract the water insoluble components (like the phytosterols, and betulinic acid). Although you will still get benefits from drinking slow-simmered Chaga tea, you really do miss out on many of the wonderful benefits of the mushroom, and so if you can't be bothered preparing a chaga extract- I suggest investing in a well-crafted extract.
Many companies today are doing the work for you, and the most potent type of chaga supplement will be "dual extracted," which basically means "ready to consume". It's super important you investigate the preparation/ extraction method of your chaga- because many people are selling it in its raw form at a premium price. Although I love and use many Sun Potion products: their chaga (which retails at one of the highest price points) is indeed raw, and so its medicinal value is almost non-existent.
Out of dual-extracted products, you will have the option of tincture (liquid) vs. powder- and the choice at this point is preference. If you are keen to use an alcohol based tincture, make sure to investigate the quality of the alcohol- because many brands use cheap alcohol that is often GMO. Companies like Surthrival use an organic alcohol and dual extraction process. My personal favourite way to consume it (and favourite brand) is Willow & Sage Apothecary's dual extract powder. Willow & Sage is an Australian based company that sustainably sources and properly prepares a wide range of medicinal mushrooms and herbs, I trust the company with my whole heart.
Ethical + Sustainable Harvesting
If you are lucky enough to live in a region with access to this medicinal power house, please take the time to educate yourself on harvesting it properly. These mushrooms take a long time to grow, and if harvested improperly you can actually cause the death of the entire tree it is attached to. Chaga grows rampant and in large quantities, its medicinal benefits are truly a gift to human beings, but harvesting sustainably and with intention will ensure you and the planet can continue to enjoy Chaga for lifetimes to come. Check out THIS article and/ or watch THIS video to learn more about harvesting Chaga sustainably.
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about one of my favourite mushrooms! Whats your favourite way to consume Chaga? Comment below!
Check out some of my recipes that include Chaga mushroom:
1. Cold-brew chaga (decaf) coffee HERE
2. Chaga Collagen Cacao Cups Filled with Reishi Infused Sprouted Almond Butter HERE
3. Adaptogenic Cacao Coyo Bowl HERE
4. Chocolate (Avocado) Frosting... For Breakfast! HERE
5. Cookie Dough Phat Balls HERE
6. White Chocolate Cups with Pumpkin Pie Filling HERE
7. Gingerbread Carob (Sweet Potato) Cookies HERE
8. Bone Broth Matcha Tonic HERE
9. Just snort the stuff. (kidding! ... kind of).
take a deeper dive
Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Change The World, by Paul Stamets
Chaga: King of the Medicinal Mushrooms, by David Wolfe
David Wolfe on benefits of Chaga
Dr. Axe on the Benefits of Chaga Mushroom HERE
Medical News Today on Benefits of Chaga HERE
Chaga's role in recuding cancer HERE
12 benefits of Chaga HERE
David Wolfe on benefits of Chaga HERE
Benefits of Chaga by Huffpost HERE
Chaga and Melanin HERE
Chaga, A Strong Adaptogen HERE
1. Chaga's role in reducing cancer HERE
2. Chaga's role in reducing cancer but not harming healthy cells HERE
3. Chaga as an immune booster HERE
4. Chaga on lowering cholesterol HERE
5. Chaga's role in lowering blood sugar HERE
6. Betulinic Acid for cancer treatment HERE.
7. Chaga and cancer HERE
8. Chaga and hepatitis HERE
9. Chaga and inflammation HERE
10. Chaga boosts endurance HERE