Food & Nutrition

What is the Chaga Mushroom and What are the Benefits (and it’s risks)?

There is a whole forest of mushrooms out there, and so many of them are extremely good for you. Mushroom and fungi extracts have been out in coffee, can be found in supplements and are now being suggested as part of your supplementation routine. Of all things, you’d never expect it. But there is lots of science to back up the claims. Chaga mushrooms (alongside Lions Mane, and Cordyceps¬†are often referred to as an essential mushroom to take as part of your daily routine.

 

What is Chaga Mushroom & Where to find it?

The Chaga mushroom is mainly used in Siberia and other parts of Asia to boost ‘overall health’ and as a healthy boost to your immune system. It is a type of fungus that grows on the bark of birch trees and enjoys colder climates – it is possible to find them in Northern Europe, Russia, and other cold territories. It grows in a mass which turns black on the outside of the bark, it has a ‘chalky consistency’ almost like a cork, and has a bright amber middle. To look at it in the woods you’d not want to eat it, that is for sure.

Although they aren’t the best-looking mushrooms in the world, they have been drunk in teas and as food for thousands of years. Now science has caught up we know they are packed with triterpenoids, melanins, polysaccharides, polyphenols and flavins.

You will also find that the raw mushroom contains a complex of vitamin B’s, Vitamin D, healthy amino acids and fibre. Alongside a ton of metals such as potassium, rubidium, caesium, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium and calcium.

So let’s dig more into what the science-backed benefits of Chaga mushrooms are and whether they carry any risks.

Reduces Inflammation & Boosts Immune System

The Chaga mushroom has always been used to give the drinker a boost in their wellbeing – especially when ill. At the first sight of the sniffles, a dose of Chaga would always be recommended. There is no science to back this up.

It has been found (in animal and test-tube studies) that a Chaga extract can reduce inflammation and improve the immune system. It was found that the mushroom stimulates white blood cells which are the body’s front line defence from bugs, viruses and bacterial infections. The mushroom does this by promoting the formation of Cytokines and enables the body to identify threats quickly and deal with them effectively.

Once the body is done with the cytokines, Chaga regulates their production. these specialised cells can cause inflammation so removing them when they are not needed will reduce overall inflammation in the body.

Helps to Regular Blood Sugar and Cholesterol

There are only animal studies to back these benefits of Chaga up, but they are pretty convincing. There are several studies which show that Chaga can lower blood sugar levels and regulate levels of cholesterol.

On study for diabetic mice found that a supplement for Chaga reduced the blood sugar of the participants by 31% over a three-week period.

In an eight-week study, rats who took the mushroom had a reduction of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and an increased level of antioxidants. similar studies showed an increase in HDL fats too.

Neither of these benefits of Chaga should be taken at face value simply because there int a lot of evidence to support it in humans- but to does seem as though Chaga is a very healthy food source.

 

What are the risks of Taking Chaga?

There is not a huge amount of information about the safety and appropriate dosages for the Chaga mushroom, so it can made it difficult to accurately assess the risks. It is safe to say that most people will be perfectly fine, and will not have any side effects.

Mainly, the side effects are caused by the mushroom interacting with medicines and causing the potentially harmful effect (quite common with things like St John Wart and CBD). Otherwise, Chaga may cause somebody with diabetes an issue (so keep an eye on your blood sugar) or worsen the symptoms of some autoimmune issues.

The final issue you may encounter is thanks to a protein in the mushroom that prevents blood clotting. It would make sense to avoid Chaga if you are using blood-thinning medications or if you have a condition which causes excessive bleeding.

 

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