Mushrooms are a delicious addition to many dishes and support your body in remarkable 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 and how to work it into your daily routine to take advantage of all it offers.*
Before we hone in on the benefits of Chaga mushrooms, let’s talk about where these fungi grow, what they look like, and their uses 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 an excellent job of describing the mushroom’s appearance. This black mass grows on trees and resembles clumps of dark dirt or charcoal
To understand Chaga better, 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.
This mushroom grows in the cold climates of Northern Europe, Northern Canada, Russia, and Siberia and feeds primarily on birch trees. The fruiting body of the Chaga mushrooms is rare to find in nature, and their benefits reside in the mycelial mass.
The History of Chaga Mushroom Use
Russians and northern Europeans grated them into a fine powder and brewed them as an herbal tea for centuries as a folk remedy to support immunity and overall health.*
Modern studies acknowledge this traditional usage. For example, researchers have noted that Siberian 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.*REF#1257
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.*
What Is the Nutritional Value of Chaga Mushrooms?
Chaga mushrooms are known for their high antioxidant levels and beneficial plant constituents, such as triterpenoids, melanins, polysaccharides, polyphenols, and flavans. However, their exact nutritional composition is unclear.
While Chaga is available as a supplement, using it to make teas and other infused drinks may not have the same nutritional properties as whole mushrooms. Despite this, Chaga mushrooms are still rich sources of antioxidants.
With low calories, high fiber, and no fat or sugar, two teaspoons of raw Chaga chunks contain approximately 30 calories, zero grams of fat, seven grams of carbohydrates, and seven grams of fiber, making them a potentially beneficial addition to a healthy diet.*REF#1263
6 Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms*
Chaga Supports Immune Health*
One of our favorite potential health benefits of Chaga mushroom is that it supports your immune system.*
Many mushrooms, Chaga included, contain a specific group of polysaccharides called beta-glucans. Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates composed of many sugar molecules, and beta-glucans support immune function and overall wellness. Chaga studies confirm the mushroom’s ability to help promote a healthy immune system.*
Gaia Herbs Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs can help provide daily immune support to keep you feeling your best year-round*
Chaga Provides Antioxidant Support*
Chaga also offers antioxidant support.* This promotes healthy cell growth and turnover and is considered to be a tonic mushroom to supporting overall wellness.*
Antioxidants support your body by stopping or slowing cell damage from free radicals. Neutralization of free radicals minimizes oxidative stress. Polysaccharides are the “main contributors to the antioxidant activity” of mushrooms.*REF#1256
One study found that polysaccharides are the “main contributors to the antioxidant activity” of mushrooms. Its researchers highlighted Chaga’s antioxidant effects specifically.*REF#1256
Ethanol extracts from the Chaga mushroom showed the highest antioxidant activity among the five mushrooms they tested, making this mushroom “a novel antioxidant candidate.*REF#1256 Antioxidants are also commonly used in skincare to promote younger appearances and even complexions.
Chaga Supports Gastrointestinal Health*
The non-digestible polysaccharides in Chaga mushrooms also function as a prebiotic, nourishing the good bacteria in your gut to flourish.* A healthy gut microbiota is essential for good gastrointestinal, 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.”*REF#1258
Chaga Can Support Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Chaga mushrooms are known for their potential to support healthy cholesterol levels.* This effect is due to compounds called triterpenes. These triterpenes, such as lanosterol and inotodiol, can inhibit an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, which plays a vital role in cholesterol synthesis in the liver.REF#1259
Through that process, Chaga mushrooms may help address the cholesterol synthesized in the liver.* In addition, Chaga mushrooms also support the production of bile acids, which can help to eliminate excess cholesterol from the body.REF#1259
Several animal studies have supported these effects of Chaga mushrooms. For example, one study found that mice fed a high-fat diet and supplemented with Chaga mushroom extract had healthier levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol than mice that did not receive the extract.REF#1259
However, more human studies are needed to confirm these benefits of Chaga mushrooms. It's also important to note that Chaga mushrooms are not a substitute for medication. Consult your healthcare provider before starting any herbal remedies.
Chaga May Support Long-Term Wellness
Chaga mushrooms may support long-term health because they are rich in antioxidants, molecules that can neutralize free radicals and protect cells from damage. This process may help support long-term health by protecting DNA against changes that can lead to long-term complications.REF#1260
Chaga mushrooms may also help support the immune system, which can help the body defend itself against long-term health concerns.REF#1261
Chronic physical stress may be a precursor to long-term health complications. Chaga mushrooms may help soothe this bodily irritation, therefore supporting long-term wellness.REF#1262
Chaga May Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Chaga extract may help support blood sugar levels and glucose tolerance, as well as promote a healthy amount of glycogen in the liver.REF#1264
The mushrooms may also help protect organs and support the levels of antioxidants in the liver. Research suggests that I. obliquus polysaccharides might be a promising herb to promote balanced blood sugar levels.*REF#1264
How to Use Chaga Mushrooms
If you want to start taking advantage of all the benefits of 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.
If you’re curious about this or our herbal supplements, we've got you covered. At Gaia Herbs, we’re committed to transparency and want you to know what’s in your herbal supplement.
We want you to know about the ingredients and their sources. 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.
We source the mushrooms and herbs we use in this product 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 we need for our herbal supplements.
And rest assured that all mushrooms used in this formula are organically grown and sustainably sourced.
Let’s look at some Chaga supplements to see which suits you best.
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.
Taking once daily can 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.*
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.*
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 the best results.*
Chaga Mushroom Powder
If you prefer an alternative to a pill format, consider Gaia Herbs Immune Shine™ Mushrooms & Herbs powder. It’s one of our favorite ways to take Chaga, because this powder is highly versatile. You get all the health benefits of organic mushrooms plus herbs with no added fillers, flavors, or sweeteners.
Immune Shine is a delicious-tasting powder blend combining all the benefits of mushrooms that support immune health (Maitake and Chaga), and herbs traditionally used to maintain overall well-being (Elderberry, Ginger, and Astragalus).*
Tiffany Stuart, a former 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 made with cashew milk, frozen blueberries, frozen bananas, Black Elderberry Syrup, and Immune Shine. It’s 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
Remember 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.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate these supplements, so obtaining medical advice before use is essential.
Those with heart disease or who are taking medication for blood pressure should exercise caution when using Chaga or other medicinal mushrooms, as they could potentially interfere with medication.*
Avoid taking Chaga mushroom if you have an autoimmune disorder, as some compounds may stimulate immune function.*
Other Beneficial Mushrooms
Along with Chaga, there are many other types of mushrooms that provide different health benefits, which is why we pair them with our supplements.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris) grow in the Himalayan foothills and infect ghost
moth caterpillars, from which their fruiting body grows. However, they can also be cultivated on a barley substrate, making them vegan.
Highly valued in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cordyceps are adaptogens that can support the immune system, kidneys, and lungs and promote healthy stamina and physical energy levels.* Support these functions and your stress response with Cordyceps Mushroom Energy Support.
Learn more about Cordyceps here.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is highly revered in China, where it goes by the name Ling Zhi. It supports healthy immune function,and within Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s a tonic for Qi, a force fieldsurrounding the body believed to help maintain general wellness.*
Learn more about this mushroom here.
Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) grows on dead or fallen trees or limbs and is native to Asia. Worldwide, it’s the second most popular cultivated mushroom and is a delicious addition to various recipes.
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.*
Add Shiitake to your diet with Everyday AdaptogenTM. This powdered blend includes other beneficial mushrooms and herbs to support your stamina and maintain peak performance.
Read about Shiitake in more detail here.
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) mushrooms are plentiful. They grow primarily in mixed hardwood deciduous forests.
Native to Asia, North America, and 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 excellent for yourhealth, it’s not particularly good for cooking due to its tough texture. We recommend taking supplements to reap their benefits. Read about how to use Turkey Tail mushrooms here.
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.*
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. Zhang JJ, Li Y, Zhou T, Xu DP, Zhang P, Li S, Li HB, "Bioactivities and Health Benefits of Mushrooms Mainly from China.", Molecules. 2016 Jul 20;21(7):938. doi: 10.3390/molecules21070938. PMID: 27447602; PMCID: PMC6274515.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6274515/ 1 1. Zhang JJ, Li Y, Zhou T, Xu DP, Zhang P, Li S, Li HB, "Bioactivities and Health Benefits of Mushrooms Mainly from China.", Molecules. 2016 Jul 20;21(7):938. doi: 10.3390/molecules21070938. PMID: 27447602; PMCID: PMC6274515.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6274515/
- 2. Kim YR, "Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus", Mycobiology. 2005 Sep;33(3):158-62. doi: 10.4489/MYCO.2005.33.3.158. Epub 2005 Sep 30. PMID: 24049493; PMCID: PMC3774877. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/ 2 2. Kim YR, "Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus", Mycobiology. 2005 Sep;33(3):158-62. doi: 10.4489/MYCO.2005.33.3.158. Epub 2005 Sep 30. PMID: 24049493; PMCID: PMC3774877. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/
- 3. Jayachandran M, Xiao J, Xu B, "A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota", Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Sep 8;18(9):1934. doi: 10.3390/ijms18091934. PMID: 28885559; PMCID: PMC5618583.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618583/ 3 3. Jayachandran M, Xiao J, Xu B, "A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota", Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Sep 8;18(9):1934. doi: 10.3390/ijms18091934. PMID: 28885559; PMCID: PMC5618583.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618583/
- 4. Lu Y, Jia Y, Xue Z, Li N, Liu J, Chen H, "Recent Developments in Inonotus obliquus (Chaga mushroom) Polysaccharides: Isolation, Structural Characteristics, Biological Activities and Application", Polymers (Basel). 2021 Apr 29;13(9):1441. doi: 10.3390/polym13091441. PMID: 33947037; PMCID: PMC8124789. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8124789/ 4 4. Lu Y, Jia Y, Xue Z, Li N, Liu J, Chen H, "Recent Developments in Inonotus obliquus (Chaga mushroom) Polysaccharides: Isolation, Structural Characteristics, Biological Activities and Application", Polymers (Basel). 2021 Apr 29;13(9):1441. doi: 10.3390/polym13091441. PMID: 33947037; PMCID: PMC8124789. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8124789/
- 5. Park YK, Lee HB, Jeon EJ, Jung HS, Kang MH., "Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay", Biofactors. 2004;21(1-4):109-12. doi: 10.1002/biof.552210120. PMID: 15630179.. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15630179/ 5 5. Park YK, Lee HB, Jeon EJ, Jung HS, Kang MH., "Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay", Biofactors. 2004;21(1-4):109-12. doi: 10.1002/biof.552210120. PMID: 15630179.. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15630179/
- 6. Youn MJ, Kim JK, Park SY, Kim Y, Kim SJ, Lee JS, Chai KY, Kim HJ, Cui MX, So HS, Kim KY, Park R., "Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) induces G0/G1 arrest and apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells", World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan 28;14(4):511-7. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.511. PMID: 18203281; PMCID: PMC2681140.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2681140/ 6 6. Youn MJ, Kim JK, Park SY, Kim Y, Kim SJ, Lee JS, Chai KY, Kim HJ, Cui MX, So HS, Kim KY, Park R., "Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) induces G0/G1 arrest and apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells", World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan 28;14(4):511-7. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.511. PMID: 18203281; PMCID: PMC2681140.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2681140/
- 7. Kim, Y.Ook.; Park, H.Woong.; Kim, J.Hoon.; Lee, J.Young.; Moon, S.Hoon.; Shin, C.Soo., "Anti-cancer effect and structural characterization of endo-polysaccharide from cultivated mycelia of Inonotus obliquus", Life Sciences 79(1): 72-80 2006. https://eurekamag.com/research/004/398/004398062.php 7 7. Kim, Y.Ook.; Park, H.Woong.; Kim, J.Hoon.; Lee, J.Young.; Moon, S.Hoon.; Shin, C.Soo., "Anti-cancer effect and structural characterization of endo-polysaccharide from cultivated mycelia of Inonotus obliquus", Life Sciences 79(1): 72-80 2006. https://eurekamag.com/research/004/398/004398062.php
- 8. MyFitnessPal, "Chaga Chunks Nutrition Facts", . https://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/chaga-chunks-312851904 8 8. MyFitnessPal, "Chaga Chunks Nutrition Facts", . https://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/chaga-chunks-312851904
- 9. Wang J, Wang C, Li S, Li W, Yuan G, Pan Y, Chen H, "Anti-diabetic effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic mice and potential mechanism via PI3K-Akt signal pathway", Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Nov;95:1669-1677. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2017.09.104. Epub 2017 Oct 6. PMID: 28954386. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28954386/ 9 9. Wang J, Wang C, Li S, Li W, Yuan G, Pan Y, Chen H, "Anti-diabetic effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic mice and potential mechanism via PI3K-Akt signal pathway", Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Nov;95:1669-1677. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2017.09.104. Epub 2017 Oct 6. PMID: 28954386. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28954386/