Chaga Mushroom Benefits, Usage, and Side Effects

Chaga Mushroom Benefits, Usage, and Side Effects
Chaga Mushroom Benefits, Usage, and Side Effects

Mushrooms are a delicious addition to many meals, and they also support your body in some pretty astounding ways.* There are thousands of different types of mushrooms, but in this article, we’ll focus on one of our favorites: Chaga mushrooms.

We’ll go over Chaga mushroom benefits as well as how to work Chaga into your daily routine to take advantage of all it has to offer.

Before we hone in on the benefits that Chaga mushrooms provide, let’s talk about where these fungi grow, what they look like, and what they have been used for over the years.

What Are Chaga Mushrooms?

Chaga mushrooms are scientifically known as Inonotus obliquus, but you might know them as Cinder Conk or Black Mass. These two nicknames do a good job of describing the mushroom’s appearance. This black mass grows on trees and looks like a clump of dark dirt or charcoal.

To understand exactly how Chaga grows, remember first that mushrooms are fungi, not plants, and they reproduce with spores. Typically mycelium, also known as the root system of the mushroom, is created when a spore germinates; then, the fruiting body grows, which is the above-ground part that we call a “mushroom” and typically eat for taste and health benefits.

However, Chaga grows when a fruiting body of a higher fungi species enters a wound of a mature tree, forming a large hardened mycelial mass (the conk) that will continue to grow, often for many years.

The unique thing about Chaga mushrooms is that their fruiting body is not normally seen in Nature, and their mycelial mass offers beneficial compounds.

This mushroom grows in cold, northern climates and feeds on trees, usually birch trees. 

chaga on tree in nature

As unusual as this mushroom is, people have been using it for hundreds of years. It was grated into a fine powder and brewed as an herbal tea by Russians and northern Europeans and has been traditionally used as a folk remedy to boost immunity and support overall health.*

In a study titled “Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus,” it’s noted that:

“Since ancient times, Chaga has been a medicinal fungus in Siberian folk medicine to treat a variety of pharmacological activities such as stomach ailments, liver-heart concerns, blood purification, and for the treatment of pain.”*2

The study's authors go on to say that Chaga is recognized for “its antimicrobial and antiviral activity.”*2

Now that we’ve talked a bit about what the Chaga mushroom is and its history, let’s dive into Chaga mushroom benefits and how you can put this wonderful fungus to work in your life.

Chaga Mushroom Benefits*

Chaga Supports Immune Health*

Mom cooking with daughter showing her Chaga mushroom benefits

One of our favorite Chaga mushroom benefits is that it supports your immune system.*

Many mushrooms, Chaga included, contain a certain polysaccharide called beta glucans. These polysaccharides have been studied to support immune health and overall wellness.*

In the study referenced above, it is noted that Chaga has potential as a “biological response modifier,” “immune enhancer,” and “immune modulator.”*2

Chaga Provides Antioxidant Support*

Chaga also provides antioxidant support.3 It promotes healthy cell growth and turnover and is considered to be a tonic mushroom to support overall wellness.*

Antioxidants support your body by stopping or slowing cell damage from free radicals. If free radicals are not neutralized, oxidative stress can occur.

A study entitled “Bioactivities and Health Benefits of Mushrooms Mainly from China” found that polysaccharides are the “main contributors to the antioxidant activity” of mushrooms and that Chaga “had antioxidant effects.”*1

In fact, the study's authors go on to note that among the five mushrooms they tested, ethanol extracts from the Chaga mushroom showed the highest antioxidant activity, making this particular mushroom “a novel antioxidant candidate.”*1

Chaga Supports Gastrointestinal Health*

woman making a heart with hands over belly

The non-digestible polysaccharides in Chaga mushrooms also function as a prebiotic, nourishing the good bacteria in your gut so they can flourish.* A healthy gut microbiota is essential not only for good gastrointestinal health but also for immune and overall health.

One study showed that the polysaccharides in Chaga mushrooms “induce changes in the gut microbiota and…brings the changes towards a healthy bacterial profile.”*4

How to Use Chaga Mushrooms

If you want to start taking advantage of all the benefits from Chaga mushrooms we’ve mentioned, it’s easy to work these fungi into your daily routine, either by taking a capsule that contains Chaga or blending a mushroom powder into your favorite drink.

Let’s take a look at both options to see which one suits you best.

Chaga Mushroom Capsules

Immune Mushroom Blend

As you learned above, Chaga mushrooms can support immune health, which is why we’ve included them in our brand-new Immune Mushroom Blend. This formula, from our just-launched line of six new mushroom supplements, mixes Chaga with four other potent immune-supportive mushrooms—Reishi, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, and Shiitake—to help your body build its natural defenses to support your well-being all year long.* 

The blend contains only 100% organic mushroom fruiting bodies and nothing else, no fillers, starch, grains, or mycelium. Each capsule contains 2,500 mg of dried mushrooms, so you get the support you need in just one per day. The mushrooms are hot water and dual extracted for optimal bioavailability, absorption, and digestibility.*

 Gaia Herbs Everyday Immune with Chaga mushroom benefits

Gaia Herbs Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs is a powder capsule that contains a blend of organic mushrooms including Chaga, Cordyceps, Maitake, and Reishi.

This supplement is designed to be taken daily to help sustain overall wellness and support your immune system.* A healthy immune system is, after all, the foundation for overall wellness.

To reap the benefits of these mushrooms (plus Astragalus, Schisandra, and Turmeric), adults can take one capsule two times daily. 

Other than the mushrooms and herbs we mentioned above, there’s nothing else in this capsule except the vegan capsule itself.

If you’re curious about this or any of our herbal supplements, we’ve got you covered. At Gaia Herbs, we’re committed to transparency and want you to know exactly what’s in your herbal supplement.

In fact, we don’t only want you to know what the ingredients are; we also want you to know where they came from. That’s why we created meetyourherbs.com, the world’s first herb traceability platform.

There you can discover the origin of your herbs; learn how they were grown, harvested, and extracted; and see validation of your product’s purity, integrity, and potency.

We verify at every stage of the Gaia Herbs soil-to-shelf journey—because you deserve to know exactly what’s in your herbal supplement.

Chaga Mushroom Powder

 Gaia Herbs Immune Shine™ with Chaga mushroom benefits

If you prefer an alternative to a pill format, consider Gaia Herbs Immune Shine™ Mushrooms & Herbs powder. This is one of our favorite ways to take Chaga because this powder is so versatile.

Immune Shine is a delicious-tasting powder blend combining all the benefits of mushrooms that support immune health (Maitake and Chaga), along with herbs traditionally used to maintain overall well-being (Elderberry, Ginger, and Astragalus).*

As mentioned, there are plenty of ways you can easily add this powder to your daily wellness regimen. It can be added to a smoothie, dairy or non-dairy milk, or any other beverage of choice.

That way, you get all of the health benefits of organic mushrooms plus herbs with no added fillers, flavors, or sweeteners.*

In addition to adding it to your liquid of choice, we’d like to share a couple of other great ways to enjoy this powder.

Tiffany Stuart, a guest contributor to the Gaia Herbs blog, shared that she loves adding Immune Shine to a cold or hot Hibiscus Tea. We love this creative way to work Chaga mushrooms into a daily routine. See Tiffany’s full article here.

Another favorite recipe, created by Gaia’s own Wellness Chef Alex Lapidus, is our Blueberry Boost Smoothie that’s made with cashew milk, frozen blueberries, frozen bananas, Black Elderberry Syrup, and, of course, Immune Shine.

This is a delicious and healthy way to start your morning all year long and is especially helpful during the challenging winter months.*

See the recipe (and other smoothie recipes!) in our post Synergistic Smoothies with Mushrooms & Herbs Powders.

Smoothie that has Chaga mushroom benefits

Chaga Mushroom Side Effects and Precautions

Keep in mind that before starting any new herbal supplement, Chaga mushrooms included, you should consult your doctor or naturopathic physician, especially if you are already taking any medications or have an existing medical condition.

Also, you should avoid taking Chaga mushroom if you have an autoimmune disorder, as some of the compounds may be stimulating to immune function.*

Gaia Herbs Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs and Immune Shine™, which both contain Chaga mushroom, should also not be used during pregnancy or lactation.

Take Advantage of Chaga Mushroom Benefits

Chaga mushrooms on a tree

While the Chaga mushroom is not necessarily pretty to look at, it offers several benefits when it comes to your health.* As we’ve seen, this mushroom is a powerful adaptogen that supports immune health, provides antioxidant support, and helps maintain gastrointestinal health.*

You can easily take advantage of all of these Chaga mushroom benefits by taking a capsule, such as Gaia Herbs Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs, or by adding a Chaga Mushrooms & Herbs powder, such as Gaia Herbs Immune Shine™, to your smoothies, hot teas, and cold drinks.

Let the power of mushrooms work for your body. Here’s to you and your health!

REFERENCES:

1 Bioactivities and Health Benefits of Mushrooms Mainly from China.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6274515

2 Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877

3 Identification of Inonotus obliquus and analysis of antioxidation and antitumor activities of polysaccharides.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18795365/

4 A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618583/