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Chaga Mushroom – The Ultimate Guide to Everything You Need to Know

Take a closer look at the Chaga mushroom with this article.

We’ve all experienced the wonderful earthy flavors of mushrooms. For many of us, mushrooms form part of our regular diets.

Text area which says "Chaga Mushroom – The Ultimate Guide to Everything You Need to Know ," followed by a photo of dried chaga mushroom in a wooden background

But while many mushroom varieties have given our meals a fancy twist, many more exist to provide more than just simple taste.

The Chaga mushroom is commonly misunderstood because of its strange appearance. Clinging to the trees it’s found, it resembles charcoal, often mistaken for fire damage.

Mushrooms have been a part of ancient cultures’ lives for thousands of years. The fungi were used to aid healing, fight disease, infections and temporary ailments. Scientists are actively studying the healing power within these fungal growths.

As scientists conduct more research, the incredibly powerful health-boosting properties of the Chaga may eventually lead to break-through medicines.

In time, these may become accessible to more people around the world.

What is Chaga Mushroom?

Chaga mushrooms don’t resemble what most people consider to be a normal mushroom. Nothing about its appearance hints at having any ties to other varieties.

Its color, black, is the opposite of the usual whiteness commonly associated with fungus. When first seen growing in the wild, people often mistake it for scorched charcoal, the remnants of a recent fire.

Wild Chaga mushroom is deep-black in appearance confuses people further when touched, its texture sometimes confused with mold.

It’s simple to confuse with similar-looking growths. Removing the mushroom from its host tree will reveal its orange-golden flesh and confirm its identity. Scientists view Chaga as more of contagion on a tree.

It infects its host, eventually bursting out onto the trunk where it grows for many years. This growth remains in place for up to 80 years. The Chaga consumes the tree from the inside, eventually turning the timber into rot.

“Clinker polypore” is one of the more interesting names for Chaga. A polypore is another scientific name for a mushroom, but the term clinker refers to the mushroom’s appearance.

Back when coal fires were much more common than today, slag would form in the fire as a by-product. This slag is what the mushroom looks like, hence the term “clinker”.

Other names for Chaga mushrooms include conk trunk rot, cinder conk and black mass.

Where do Chaga mushrooms come from and what are they used for?

Chaga mushrooms are parasitic to its host tree. Birch trees are among its favorite to infect, but other varieties include Beech, Alder, elm and ash trees. Chaga also grows on other varieties if available.

The fungus prefers the colder climates of the northern hemisphere. Russia, China and many other European countries use the mushroom for many medicinal purposes.

Back before the days of modern medicines and scientific exploration, people experimented with the healing properties of plants.

A simple method was to introduce a plant to boiling water and drink the mixture, noting down the results. Tea became a common way for extracting the goodness from mushrooms, Chaga included.

People use these herbal drinks for many ailments, often gaining their knowledge and discoveries from others who shared their own experiences.

Now cultivated from many purpose-built farms, the Chaga mushroom harvesting boom is rapidly increasing. Manufacturers ship many forms of Chaga around the globe, their products available from various sources.

Despite its strange appearance initially quite off-putting, this is no longer the case. People now accept Chaga in many variations, including its original form.

Can you eat Chaga mushrooms and what do they taste like?

Although some may have tried, eating Chaga mushrooms is not pleasant. The texture of the fungus resembles cork which makes it unsuitable to eat in its original form.

The many health benefits within Chaga also requires a process to extract them. Eating the mushroom or adding Chaga powder to your smoothie will not work either.

The flavor of Chaga mushrooms can be bitter and very earthy. But the fungus also contains vanillin, a familiar flavor for many. The vanilla bean contains vanillin, giving the seed its unique flavor.

The most common ways to consume Chaga, as explained in more detail below, is in tea, coffee or tincture. Capsules are also popular.

When brewed into a Chaga mushroom tea, the taste never tips towards any of the main flavor descriptions.

It may be bitter to some, while others compare the earthy flavors to cacao. It’s compared to the full-bodied flavor of full-roast coffee. It’s a great substitute to the caffeine option.

How can I use Chaga and where do I buy it from?

A close-up photo of chaga mushroom tea in a cup

Chaga can be-

  • turned into a tea
  • used as a tincture
  • taken as a capsule
  • used in powdered form

Fresh food stores don’t usually sell fresh Chaga. Many who prefer it fresh, forage for the mushroom personally. Health food stores offer Chaga in various forms, the preference being powdered form.

When consuming it in tea form, there are several options to consider. Strain dried Chaga lumps, still in their original form such as here, like normal tea.

Add the chunks to hot water and give the mixture sufficient time to brew. Once ready, strain the liquid to remove any Chaga remnants and enjoy.

Not all powdered forms of chaga dissolve in water. If buying the powder for tea, read the label to make sure you understand how to prepare it.  Processing some Chaga powders similar to instant coffee makes them simpler to use.

Adding a teaspoon to hot water will provide a pleasant hot beverage, high in many great nutrients. It’s also a great alternative to coffee without the effects of caffeine.

Other more purer forms of Chaga powder, will not dissolve in hot water. If used for tea, strain the powder before drinking it, just as you would with some types of herbal tea.

Supplements in capsule form have seen their popularity rise astronomically in recent years. Herbal capsules are flaunted for their ease and simplicity as a miracle convenience, having taken the world by storm.

Containing the powdered form of Chaga mushroom, capsules are available in several options. Used as either a standalone product, or mixed with other ingredients, the latter contains the benefits from several ingredients.

Chaga mushroom tincture is another alternative method commonly used. Prepared with either powdered or fresh forms of the fungus with varying base ingredients, tinctures are useful for many ailments.

The Incredible Health Benefits of Chaga mushrooms

Research on Chaga mushroom health benefits is still in its infancy. Scientists are fast discovering the many benefits from this curious plant.

Claimants of Chaga healing properties didn’t document their findings effectively. Scientists are studying the plant from a more modern perspective, documenting their new evidence as they go.

Many promising signs are starting to appear in laboratories across the world, as ongoing experiments support the historical beliefs.

So, what is Chaga mushroom good for, I hear you ask? Their uses throughout history has seen them used for nearly every ailment one can think of, although written support is hard to come by.

Experiments continue daily with researchers. They have found several key areas to support the claims made by so many.

One point to make, however, is that the following are in no way meant to be a replacement for your present medication.

Although the many purported benefits of Chaga mushrooms may sound incredible, never stop your current medication unless advised by your doctor or healthcare professional.

Benefit #1: Boost your immunity system

There’s no denying that the many vitamins and minerals found in Chaga mushrooms have vast potential health benefits, none more so than your immune system. Consider the following list for yourself.

  • Calcium
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Amino Acids
  • Rubidium
  • Vitamin D
  • B-Complex Vitamins
  • Potassium
  • Caesium
  • Fiber
  • Selenium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium

Such a complex list reads likes a multi-vitamin ingredient list. Increasing your body’s defense system with many beneficial nutrients, minerals and vitamins such as these may help to protect your body.

The threat of infection, disease, inflammation and viruses are permanently around us, our bodies fighting to keep us healthy on a daily basis.

The many health benefits from Chaga products may help prevent the onset of these and keep you healthier in the long run.

Benefit #2: Reduce cholesterol

Heart-disease is one of the biggest killers of people today, attributed to our continued reliance on fast-food diets and busy lives.

High cholesterol is one of the main contributing factors of heart disease and also something easily avoided.

Research on the anti-oxidants in Chaga mushrooms has reduced the levels of (LDL) low-density lipoprotein in rats.

These proteins are the so-called bad cholesterol attributed to increasing the chances of heart disease. Consuming the anti-oxidants in Chaga may aid in reducing the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.

Benefit #3: Fight and prevent some cancers

With more researchers studying the possible health benefits from mushrooms, such as Chaga, the evidence is starting to grow that there’s more to the plants than first thought.

Several studies have revealed that Chaga directly affected the growth rate of cancer cells, both in mice and in petri dishes. The cancers studied included breast, lung and cervical varieties, all affected by the Chaga compounds when tested.

The tests also showed that Chaga fungus affected the cancer cells in such a way, that they began to self-destruct.

The benefit of finding an alternative treatment to these many forms of cancer is that they appear to not have an effect on healthy cells. Chaga mushroom cancer treatments may prove to be one of the great discoveries of medicine.

Benefit #4: Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of strokes, heart attacks and many more cardiovascular conditions that can lead to premature death. Researchers claim that one of these causes is oxidative stress.

Because of the Chaga mushroom’s increased levels of anti-oxidants, we see them as possibly helping reduce high blood cholesterol.

Benefit #5: Fend off inflammation

Inflammation is extremely common in people. It is one of the body’s defense mechanisms for fighting infections or illnesses.

But not all infections are short-term, various conditions existing that cause inflammation for the long term in sufferers.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of these chronic conditions, causing sufferers great pain and disability as it progresses.

Other conditions are also linked to chronic inflammations, such as depression, although only partly to blame.

The benefits of chaga mushroom on these conditions  need more research to better understand them.

But to think the fungus could help in the treatment of auto-immune conditions by regulating cytokine production gives hope to millions.

Benefit #6: Lower blood sugar and help Diabetes sufferers

Research conducted on lab rats that consumed Chaga mushrooms have had positive results. After 8 weeks of research, obese genetically modified rats with diabetes had lower levels of blood sugar.

The possibilities are extremely positive that an alternative to the current treatments for Diabetes will be available at some point in the future.

Benefit #7: Help prevent drug side-effects

Many chaga research programs operate in laboratories around the world. The evidence accrued by scientists suggests there’s substantially more to this plant than meets the eye.

With more and more results proving to be positive, alternative treatments to some of humanity’s greatest diseases may one day be a real possibility.

Many of the drugs today, used to combat the ferocity of some diseases, are known to cause some serious side-effects in patients.

Imagine the possibilities and implications if chemotherapy and radiation no longer needed to be used to treat certain cancers?

Benefit #8: Slow the ageing process

How many of us try and fight the visible signs of ageing by applying countless products that claim to reverse the effects?

Just view the television for an hour and count the number of commercials that play during that time. But what if there was a natural alternative with enough research to back its claim?

Many consider oxidative stress to cause the signs of ageing. Gray hair, wrinkles and sagging skin are all viewed as signs of this process.

Often caused by sun radiation, pollution in the air and other chemicals that come into contact with our skin, thus releasing free radicals into our system.

The ageing process accelerates when our body creates too many, struggling to keep up and neutralize them.

Supplying your body with more antioxidants through Chaga mushrooms, may aid in fighting the ageing process, possibly even reversing the visible signs.

No research on this matter has conclusively proven the results, but the experiments to prove the possibilities continue today.

Are there any Chaga mushroom side-effects I need to know about?

There are often those among us that react differently to products the way the rest of us do.

While some are allergic to shellfish, dairy products, certain fruits and nuts, others react to things like caffeine, myself included.

Use chaga products sparingly in the beginning if you have never tried them before. It’s far better to experience a mild reaction from a part-serving than a full-blown emergency from a complete serving.

If you have any sensitivities to other mushroom products, take care when trying a new one.

Chaga causes adverse reactions in some people, the effects ranging from mild to extreme.

There have been extremely limited human trials conducted into the uses and effects of Chaga products, leading to little or no results found on the subject.

Use discretion when trying the products yourself. Only you know whether your own body is sensitive to plant-based products in the doses prescribed.

Consuming chaga mushroom together with other medications is one of the most common side-effects found.

The interactions of Chaga with other drugs isn’t documented, but interactions have been noted, some more severe than others.

Always consult your health care professional before mixing Chaga products with your medications.

Who should take care when using Chaga products?

Chaga mushrooms affect blood sugar levels in lab rats. Exercise caution if you are a diabetic or regularly use insulin.

The mushroom also contains a particular protein that prevents blood clotting. This can impede the use of other blood-clotting medications, which you need to consider, particularly if you are booked in for surgery.

Those suffering from auto-immune diseases or conditions should be aware of the side-effects of Chaga mushrooms. Research shows that Chaga may reduce inflammation which can cause your auto-immune system to become much more active.

As stated in other articles, pregnant women and those breastfeeding their babies should consider the potential side-effects consuming Chaga products may have. There’s virtually no research to support a positive or negative impact from using the fungus during either, but it’s probably be better to be safe than sorry.

What about fresh Chaga mushroom?

Chaga in birch trunk

Nearly all products available, contain Chaga in a dried form. This is because once picked in the wild, Chaga mushroom has a lifespan of only a day or two. Mold will overrun the freshly cultivated fungus very quickly. Using the fresh mushroom in tea isn’t recommended because of the process not extracting enough of the taste or benefits from the flesh. What you will have, is a cup of warm water with very little flavor or benefits.

But many do decide to harvest the fungus themselves, often drying them as soon as they can. A fresh mushroom is much easier to slice up than the dried packets of Chaga pieces, making storage and usage a little simpler once dried.

But how to identify Chaga mushroom in the wild is important. With many poisonous varieties of mushrooms growing in the wild, proper Chaga mushroom identification is key to your health and safety.

Appearing as a black growth on their host trees, the orange flesh can quickly identify them.

A common saying when scavenging for the fungus is to “look for the gold”, other similar looking fungus having differing-colored insides.

There are several poisonous mushroom varieties that could bear a resemblance to Chaga, so always identify the gold-interior before use.

The final thoughts on this amazing fungus

With such incredible medicinal potential, the Chaga mushroom is one of those amazing plants that continue to defy the imagination.

With enough historical knowledge about its therapeutic powers found in ancient texts, researchers are desperate to unlock the secrets held within its misunderstood form.

There is perhaps one final use for Chaga mushroom that used to make it popular. Back in the days before matches, lighters and fire-starters, Chaga mushroom was “tinder conk”.

A conk mushroom is one that has pores on its underside instead of the usual gills found on other varieties. The “tinder” part is due to its historical use as a firelighter.

People living in harsh climates of the northern hemisphere needed fire for warmth, cooking food and general survival.

To carry hot coal from one camp to another, people would use Chaga mushrooms to transport them, blowing them into new fires each day.

With the potential of storing heated embers within its flesh, to warming you through the middle of a winter’s day via a hot cup of tea, the Chaga mushroom has you covered.

It’s one of those rare herbal wonders that keeps the scientific community searching for the next incredible discovery.

As long as you remember to heed the warnings and use the fungus the way it’s intended, you too, may enjoy the many properties the plant keeps within.

There’s so much still for us to learn and discover within the vast plant kingdom.

But heeding the advice and experience from countless generations who’ve studied them for thousands of years, is one step closer to relishing the true benefits of these magnificent plants.

Would you like to take a closer look at another variety of mushrooms? Check out this ultimate guide here: Shiitake Mushroom: The Ultimate Guide To This Wonderful Mushroom