Mushrooms are a delicious addition to many meals but they aren’t only touted for flavor. Chaga mushroom has been used for centuries in Russia, Northern Europe, and Asia to help improve wellness. The dark, woody-appearing fungus is mostly found on the back of birch bark in cold-climates. Typically ground in powder and consumed as a tea or in capsules, chaga has been growing in popularity in Western culture especially among health-conscious consumers.

Rich in antioxidants, chaga is considered a nutrient-dense superfood with many unique properties. What are some of the top chaga mushroom benefits? Read on to find out.

Chaga Boosts Immune System Function

With more people concerned about spreading viruses than ever before, chaga has become an important tool for many with regards to increasing immunity. Chaga has the ability to promote the creation of beneficial cytokines within white blood cells, which are essential for battling infection. As the first line of defense against illness, increasing their presence is a great way to stay healthy. Chaga is also chock full of antioxidants known to promote immune system function.

Chaga Could Help Fight Inflammation

In addition to assisting with the growth of “good” cytokines, chaga also helps stop production of harmful cytokines that cause inflammation. This is thanks to the compounds betulinic acid, inotodial, and estrogel peroxide all found within chaga. By regulating cytokines within the body, the mushroom is often recommended for people struggling with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disorders.

Chaga May Lower Cholesterol

Cardiovascular disease continues to be a serious and widespread condition, especially in the United States. Fortunately, research suggests that chaga may assist in battling both. One eight-week study saw chaga reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol as well as overall cholesterol and triglycerides in mice. Subsequent research suggested the mushroom could also increase “good” cholesterol levels. Scientists theorize the presence of antioxidants are behind the mushroom’s effects on these levels.

Chaga Also Helps Reduce Blood Sugar

Chaga has also shown promise in fighting diabetes. In a study involving obese mice, the mushroom had more success in lowering blood sugar and insulin resistance compared with mice who did not receive the compound. Another study showed a chaga leading to a 31% decrease in blood sugar over a three-week period in mice. While further testing needs to be completed to determine chaga’s efficacy in helping humans with diabetes, the preliminary results are promising.

Chaga May Prevent and Treat Cancer

There are many anti-cancer compounds found in the natural world. This mushroom has long been considered a powerful tool against tumor activity, so much so that it’s referred to as “kreftkjuke” in Norway, which literally translates to “cancer fungus.” There has been a decent amount of research into chaga’s abilities in this realm, at least in mice. One such study saw chaga supplements reduce tumor size by 60%.  Test tube studies have revealed similar results in human cells, preventing the growth of cancer in several types of human tissue.

Chaga Promotes Liver Function

Chaga has also shown promise as a treatment for certain liver conditions. A 2015 Korean study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms revealed an extract made from the fungus protects liver tissue from damage caused by oxidation particularly from alcohol or certain drugs. Additionally, the outer layer of chaga contains high amounts of sclerotium, an antioxidant praised for its liver-protectant abilities. 

Chaga Health Benefits — Something for Everyone

As more attention is paid to the multitude of wellness abilities of mushrooms, there will certainly be more research conducted into how they interact with the human body. While current studies remain somewhat limited, the results are indeed fascinating especially as society shifts toward an increased demand for natural alternatives to Western medicine. 

Chaga specifically has long been used for wellness purposes in Northern Europe and parts of Asia but has only recently grown in popularity in North America. Touted for its potential benefits throughout the body (from boosting immune system function to fighting cancer), this fungus is rich in free radical preventing antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals perfect for meeting a variety of health goals. While the mushroom has been trusted by homeopathic professionals for centuries, it’s always a good idea to discuss its use with a primary care physician prior to beginning a regimen. If given the clear, chaga could become an integral part of your daily health practice.