February 25, 2022 9 min read

Chaga isn’t just the trendy wellness beverage you’re seeing advertised at high-end cafes. It’s a natural remedy that’s been used by ancient cultures for decades to potentially boost immunity, improve digestion, and improve overall health. But what is Chaga? Where does it come from? And how do you use it?

If you’re asking these questions, you’re probably ready to learn about Chaga’s benefits and how you can use it in your daily wellness routine. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the research available to support Chaga’s potential benefits and given some tips on how to use it to your advantage. Let’s jump in:

Table of Contents

About Chaga
Chaga Benefits
Chaga Research
How to Use Chaga
Chaga Safety
Frequently Asked Questions
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Chaga is a functional mushroom that’s heavily touted for its potential benefits for boosting immune functions and improving digestion.
  • Some sources also suggest that Chaga could have an impact on blood sugar and cancer cells, but more research is needed.
  • Both human and animal trials have shown promising results for the use of Chaga for various therapeutic applications.
  • Chaga is not usually consumed on it’s own due to it’s woody texture and bitter flavor. Chaga powder can be encapsulated or used to make beverages.
  • You can take Chaga supplements on their own, but many people prefer to take a blend of functional mushrooms for increased benefits.

About Chaga

A woody Chaga mushroom growing on a birch tree in late fall

The Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) mushroom has undoubtedly gained a reputation for its health enhancing benefits, and you can find it in various preparations ranging from capsules to tea. It’s nothing new, either, since Chaga has been used in ancient medicine for thousands of years.

The Chaga mushroom grows in cool climates, such as Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada, and Alaska. You’ll find it growing on the bark of birch trees, and the raw mushroom appears as a bulky, woody growth that has a soft center. Chaga is not safe to consume in its raw form, and instead needs to be carefully cleaned, processed, and usually dried before consumption.

Traditionally, Chaga has been used to boost immunity and manage conditions like diabetes and heart disease, although modern research has only recently explored these uses. Still, you won’t find much argument against Chaga’s powerful potential as a functional mushroom. Here’s how to unlock its benefits:

Chaga Benefits

Modern research has explored a number of Chaga’s potential benefits, but before we dive into the evidence, let’s talk about the components of the Chaga mushroom and how they may benefit overall health.

Like all mushrooms, Chaga contains a bountiful supply of polysaccharides, or complex carbohydrates that provide the body with energy. Additionally, Chaga is known to be a powerful source of antioxidants that can help prevent free radical damage within the body. Other nutritional and biological factors may include:

  • B-complex vitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • Potassium
  • Rubidium
  • Cesium
  • Amino acids
  • Fiber
  • Copper
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Beta-glucans
  • Terpenoids

Let’s break a couple of those down:

Beta-Glucans

Beta-glucans are a type of polysaccharide that are much more bioactive than other carbohydrate. Because they are bioactive, they are often linked to the positive health effects of many mushrooms.

Terpenoids

Like other mushrooms, Maitake also contains many different terpenoids, a modified classification of terpenes. These are lipids that are believed to give various mushrooms their immunomodulatory benefits.

Chaga Research

Although Chaga’s use as a medicine dates back to some ancient Siberian cultures, modern research has just recently begun to delve into its true medicinal potential. There’s still more research to be done, but here are some potential Chaga benefits that have been researched:

Boosting Immunity

A 2005 study found that Chaga may stimulate the production of beneficial cytokines, a protein that regulates immune function. In turn, this could stimulate the white blood cell response to improve the body’s ability to fight off harmful viruses and bacteria.

On the other hand, the same study found that Chaga may also be able to prevent the production of harmful cytokines, which may help prevent inflammation triggered by bacteria and viruses.

A 2012 study confirmed these results when it found that Chaga extract could reduce gut inflammation by inhibiting non-beneficial cytokine production.

Cancer Prevention and Treatments

In vitro and animal studies have shown some promising results when using Chaga to prevent or inhibit the growth of cancer cells. One animal study found that Chaga supplementation reduced tumor size by 60%.

Another study found that Chaga tea could prevent and slow the proliferation of human colon cancer cells.

In a test-tube study, chaga extract prevented the growth of cancer in human liver cells. Other studies have observed similar results when using Chaga to combat the cells of liver, lung and breast, prostate, and colon cancer.

Antioxidant Boost

Although there are thought to be other beneficial reactions at play, Chaga’s promising cancer-inhibiting properties are most often linked to it’s high antioxidant content. Specifically, Chaga contains large amounts of triterpene, an antioxidant that’s tough to help kill cancer cells. In general, antioxidants help protect the body from free radical damage, which is overall beneficial for tissues, organs, immune functions, skin health, and more.

Lowering Blood Sugar

Multiple animal studies have investigated Chaga’s impact on blood sugar, and all have confirmed that Chaga supplementation may help to lower blood sugar. One study looked at the impact of Chaga on mice with Type 2 diabetes and bound the mice to have lower blood sugar levels and lower weight after four weeks of use.

Another study found that Chaga supplementation reduced blood sugar by 31 % on average after only three weeks of use. Studies from 2006, 2014, and 2017 all confirmed similar effects.

Although this evidence is promising, more human trials are necessary to understand whether Chaga can have a positive impact on Diabetes and blood sugar levels in humans.

Lowers Cholesterol

Chaga extract could also help to manage Cholesterol level to benefit heart health, although evidence is currently limited. One study found that Chaga extract reduced the levels of bad cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in rats while simultaneously boosting antioxidant levels. A 2008 study and a 2017 study observed similar results, but also found that Chaga may increase levels of good cholesterol as well.

How to Use Chaga

Chaga is an essential part of many people’s wellness routines, but you need to know how to use Chaga correctly before you can reap its many benefits. If you’re looking to add Chaga supplements to your daily routine, here’s what you need to consider first:

Source and Quality Importance

The quality of your wellness supplements is incredibly important, especially since supplements are not regulated the same way as prescription medications. Ensure that the Chaga supplement you buy comes from a trustworthy manufacturer, specifically that uses a third-party testing process to ensure quality. You may also look for a company that is experienced with wellness supplements and uses a cGMP compliant manufacturing facility.

When Should I Take Chaga Mushrooms?

You can take Chaga at different points during the day depending on how you intend to use it. Some people drink Chaga tea before bed and claim that it improved the quality of their sleep, although this has not been substantiated through research.

If you’re looking to reap the general wellness benefits of Chaga, though, it’s best to add it to your morning routine and ensure that you take a dose every day. It may take several days or up to two weeks to experience the full benefits of Chaga supplementation, so taking it irregularly is not as beneficial.

Read "When is the Best Time to Take Chaga?" to learn more. 

A cup of tea brewed from ground chaga mushroom, a popular dosing method for daily use.

How Much Chaga Should I Take Daily?

Unlike some functional mushrooms, Chaga is not usually dosed by the milligram. In most cases, you’ll find chaga in a whole powdered form, meaning the entire mushroom is dried and powdered into a formulation that can be used to make tea or other beverages. People may use up to a gram of chaga to brew a cup of tea and may drink 1-3 cups of the tea a day.

Read "Chaga Dosage" to learn more.

Chaga Mushroom Preparations

Chaga is a woody, bitter mushroom that is not eaten raw. Instead, it needs to be carefully cleaned to remove debris and dirt. Then, it’s usually dried and ground into a powder that can be mixed into beverages or encapsulated.

In some cases, you may find Chaga extract, which usually means that the Chaga material is refined to concentrate the beta-glucan content. Of course, this form of Chaga is not a whole-mushroom powder, and some people theorize that it is not as beneficial.

Chaga Safety

In the research available, Chaga is generally well-tolerated by both humans and animals. Still, no research exists to specifically assess the safety or dosage threshold for Chaga, so it’s important to use Chaga responsibly. That means starting with low doses to see how Chaga affects you.

Chaga can interact with some medications, so you should always talk to your doctor before using Chaga if you suffer from a diagnosed health condition or take regular medications. For instance, Chaga could have a negative impact on those who take insulin because it can also lower blood sugar.

Chaga may also thin the blood, so it shouldn’t be used by anyone with a bleeding disorder or who takes blood thinning medications without first consulting a doctor. You should also avoid Chaga before surgery for the same reason.

The primary concern for Chaga consumers should be the quality of the products they choose. Chaga, on its own, is likely safe for most people, but low-quality formulas could contain other ingredients that pose a higher risk. Sourcing Chaga from a high-quality manufacturer can help reduce that risk.

Read "Chaga Side Effects" to learn more. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is chaga good for?

Chaga is widely renowned for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-boosting potential. Research is still exploring all of the potential uses of Chaga supplementation, but many people claim that it’s useful for promoting digestive health and supporting general wellness through it’s immune-enhancing properties.

What does chaga taste like?

In raw form, Chaga is bitter and earthy and generally considered inedible. The powder is also slightly earthy and bitter, but with a milder flavor that works well as a robust beverage, like coffee or tea. Some people add cream, sweetener, or other flavors to their Chaga-infused beverages.

Can you drink chaga tea everyday?

Yes, and it’s recommended that you do in order to reap the most benefit from your Chaga supplementation. Generally, you should start with only one cup of chaga per day, though some people choose to increase that amount over time. It’s recommended to drink no more than 3 cups of Chaga tea daily because it may cause stomach irritation in very large doses.

How long does it take to feel the effects of chaga?

Some people experience benefits after using Chaga only once, but most people will begin to feel the full benefits of Chaga after 2-3 weeks of regular doses.

Resources

  1. “Immunomodulatory Effects of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms and Their Bioactive Immunoregulatory Products” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346759543_Immunomodulatory_Effects_of_Edible_and_Medicinal_Mushrooms_and_Their_Bioactive_Immunoregulatory_Products
  2. “Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/
  3. “Orally administered aqueous extract of Inonotus obliquus ameliorates acute inflammation in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis in mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22819687/
  4. “Continuous intake of the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) aqueous extract suppresses cancer progression and maintains body temperature in mice” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4946216/
  5. “Antitumor activity of water extract of a mushroom, Inonotus obliquus, against HT-29 human colon cancer cells”https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19367670/
  6. “Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) induces G0/G1 arrest and apoptosis in human hepatoma HepG2 cells” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18203281/
  7. “Anticancer activity of subfractions containing pure compounds of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract in human cancer cells and in Balbc/c mice bearing Sarcoma-180 cells” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20607061/
  8. “Anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities of extracts and compounds from the mushroom Inonotus obliquus” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814613000526
  9. “Ethanol extract of Innotus obliquus (Chaga mushroom) induces G1 cell cycle arrest in HT-29 human colon cancer cells” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25861415/
  10. “Chemical constituents from Inonotus obliquus and their antitumor activities” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27180084/
  11. “Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18434051/
  12. “Anti-diabetic effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides-chromium (III) complex in type 2 diabetic mice and its sub-acute toxicity evaluation in normal mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28087233/
  13. “Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18434051/
  14. “Hypoglycemic Effects of Fermented Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) in the Diabetic Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) Rat [2006]” https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=KR2007000481
  15. “Protective Effect of Polysaccharides from Inonotus obliquus on Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Symptoms and Their Potential Mechanisms in Rats” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4100277/
  16. “Anti-diabetic effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic mice and potential mechanism via PI3K-Akt signal pathway” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28954386/
  17. “Effect of the Inonotus Obliquus Polysaccharides on Blood Lipid Metabolism and Oxidative Stress of Rats Fed High-Fat Diet In Vivo” https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/5305591
  18. “Antihyperglycemic and antilipidperoxidative effects of dry matter of culture broth of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture on normal and alloxan-diabetes mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18434051/
  19. “Anti-diabetic effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetic mice and potential mechanism via PI3K-Akt signal pathway” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28954386/

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