Mushrooms are a delicious addition to many dishes, and they also support your body in some pretty astounding ways.* There are thousands of different types of mushrooms, but in this article, we’d like to focus on one of our favorites: the Chaga mushroom.
We’ll discuss 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 how they have been used 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. Those two names 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 Chaga better, first remember that mushrooms are fungi, not plants, and they reproduce via spores. Mycelium, also known as the root system of the mushroom, is created when a spore germinates and then the fruiting body grows, which is the above-ground part that we call a “mushroom” and typically eat.
However, Chaga begins 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 the fruiting body is not normally seen in Nature and the benefits are found in the mycelial mass.
This mushroom grows in cold, northern climates and feeds on trees, usually birch trees.
Chaga mushrooms have been around for thousands of years, and people have been putting them to use for quite some time as well. Let’s discuss the history of their use before we get to Chaga mushroom benefits.
The History of Chaga Mushroom Use
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.*
Modern studies acknowledge this traditional usage. For example, researchers have noted that Sibern folk traditions used Chaga to help with occasional stomach upset, support heart and liver health, help alleviate occasional aches and pains, and support immune health.*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*
One of our favorite Chaga mushroom benefits is that it supports your immune system.*
Many mushrooms, Chaga included, contain a certain group of polysaccharides called beta glucans. These particular polysaccharides have been studied to support immune health and overall wellness. Chaga studies confirm the mushroom’s ability to help promote a healthy immune system.*
Chaga Provides Antioxidant Support*
Chaga also offers antioxidant support.* 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.
One study found that polysaccharides are the “main contributors to the antioxidant activity” of mushrooms. Its researchers highlighted Chaga’s antioxidant effects specifically.*1
In fact, they go on to note that among the five mushrooms that 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*
The non-digestible polysaccharides in Chaga mushrooms also function as a prebiotic, which nourishes 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…bring the changes towards a healthy bacterial profile.”*3
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 Chaga-containing mushroom powder into your favorite drink or recipes.
Let’s take a look at both options to see which one suits you best.
Chaga Mushroom Capsules
Gaia Herbs Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs formula in powder capsules contains a blend of organic mushrooms, including Chaga, Cordyceps, Maitake, and Reishi, as well as the herbs Astragalus, Schisandra, and Turmeric.
This supplement is designed to be taken daily to help support your immune system and sustain overall wellness.* A healthy immune system is, after all, the foundation for overall wellness.
To reap the benefits of these herbs and mushrooms, adults can take one capsule two times daily. You will see the best results with long-term use.*
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.
Here, you can discover the origin of your herbs; learn how they were grown, harvested, and extracted; and see validation of your product’s purity and potency. We verify at every stage of the Gaia Herbs seed-to-shelf journey—because you deserve to know what you’re putting in your body.
The other thing you should know is that the mushrooms and herbs we use in this product are sourced from where they grow best, from our network of organic and sustainable communities. We turn to these friends across the globe for the herbs and mushrooms that we cannot grow at our farm or in the quantity that we need for our herbal supplements.
However, many of the herbs used in our products are grown at our very own Certified Organic Gaia Herbs farm in Brevard, North Carolina, where we can cultivate them exactly the way we want.
Immune Mushroom Blend
Another powder capsule supplement, Gaia Herbs Immune Mushroom Blend delivers the power of mushrooms to support the body’s immune defenses and overall health.* This blend of five immune-supporting mushrooms can help you stay feeling your best year-round.*
And rest assured that all of the mushrooms used in this formula are 100% organically grown and sustainably sourced.
All you need is one capsule per day, which provides you with the equivalent of 2,500 mg of dried mushrooms.* Keep in mind that the benefits build over time, so stick with the routine for best results.*
In addition to Chaga mushroom benefits, you’ll also reap the benefits of the other immune-supporting mushrooms included in this supplement: Cordyceps, Reishi, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail. We’ll briefly discuss each of them so you know what you’re putting in your body.
Cordyceps mushrooms (Cordyceps militaris) are no doubt unusual ones, mostly because of how they grow. In the wild, they grow in the foothills of the Himalayas, but where they grow is not what makes them odd. How they grow is what’s interesting.
The Cordyceps mushroom infects and later devours ghost moths when they are in the caterpillar stage. It is out of this ex-caterpillar that the fruiting body of the mushroom grows. The mushroom looks a bit like grass, which gives it its Chinese name of “winter worm summer grass.”
That is how Cordyceps mushrooms grow in the wild, but when they are cultivated, they grow on a barley substrate, making them vegan.
As strange as its wild growing process is, the rare mushroom that results from it is highly valued in Traditional Chinese Medicine and provides some wonderful health benefits.*
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cordyceps mushrooms are used as an adaptogen and to provide immune, kidney, and lung support.* Today, Cordyceps are used to support the immune system as well as to support healthy stamina and physical energy levels.*
You can see why we love Cordyceps so much. If your interest is piqued, click here to read more about the benefits and usage of this mushroom.
The Reishi mushroom, scientifically known as Ganoderma lucidum, is a highly revered mushroom in China, where it goes by the name Ling Zhi and can be seen in Chinese art.
Although it grows in varying climates (mostly tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates with deciduous hardwood trees), it’s not a very plentiful mushroom.
Like the other mushrooms discussed here, Reishi supports healthy immune function.* And, within Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s a tonic for Qi, a force field surrounding the body believed to help maintain general wellness.*
Reishi is somewhat of a do-it-all herb, and its other benefits include brain and cognitive support, heart support, stress support, sleep support, and energy support.* Learn more about this mushroom here.
If you weren’t familiar with the last two mushrooms we mentioned, here’s a common one that you probably know: Shiitake (Lentinus edodes). It grows on dead or fallen trees or limbs and is native to Asia. However, it is now grown all over the world.
In fact, worldwide, it’s the second most popular cultivated mushroom and is a delicious mushroom to use in a variety of recipes.
But it’s not just for cooking. As you can guess, Shiitake mushrooms also provide health benefits.* Since they contain beta glucans, these mushrooms support immune health and overall wellness, but they can also support heart health.*
Read about Shiitake in more detail here.
The fourth and final mushroom we will mention here is the Turkey Tail mushroom, called Trametes versicolor within the scientific community.
Unlike Reishi, Turkey Tail mushrooms are plentiful. They can be found mostly in mixed hardwood deciduous forests, but other types of forests are also host to this mushroom.
Native to Asia and North America as well as Europe, it was used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Native American herbalism to support immune health.* Now, Turkey Tail mushrooms are still used for immune support in addition to liver health.*
While this mushroom is great for your health, it’s not particularly good for cooking. It can be tough, and we recommend turning to supplements to reap the benefits it has to offer. Read about how to use Turkey Tail mushrooms here.
Speaking of supplements, let’s get back to Chaga mushrooms. Here’s a powder supplement that allows you to easily add Chaga to your daily routine.
Chaga Mushroom Powder
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 extremely 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 the day. See Tiffany’s full article here.
Another favorite recipe 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.
Chaga Mushroom Side Effects and Precautions
Keep in mind that before taking any new herbal supplement, Chaga mushroom supplements 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.*
Take Advantage of Chaga Mushroom Benefits
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 supports immune health, provides antioxidant support, and helps maintain gastrointestinal health.*
You can easily take advantage of Chaga mushroom benefits by taking a capsule, such as Gaia Herbs Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs or Immune Mushroom Blend, 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!
1. Bioactivities and Health Benefits of Mushrooms Mainly from China,
2. Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus,
3. A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota,