When most people think of mushrooms, they think of those white buttons and portobello mushrooms commonly found in the grocery store. While we have nothing against those mushrooms, they simply don’t compare to the power of functional mushrooms.
Functional mushrooms are those that have functional benefits that extend beyond the nutritional benefits normal mushrooms have. No, they aren’t psychedelic mushrooms, don’t get you high, and don’t cause you to hallucinate. They do, however, contribute to a healthier body and a stronger mind.
There are more than a dozen different species of functional mushrooms and they all come with different benefits. Of all the functional species out there, the Chaga mushroom is one of the most popular. It’s used all around the world, though the Western world is just now catching on to the wonderful benefits it provides.
Don’t worry, we love Chaga mushrooms just as much as the next person. We also understand that most people try to avoid mushrooms as much as possible.
To ensure everyone has a chance to enjoy these wonderful mushrooms, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about the species — including ways you can add them to your diet without having to eat them directly.
What Are Chaga Mushrooms?
Chaga mushrooms continue to rise in popularity as more studies and research prove its worth inside the human body. It’s one of the staple’s in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and has been used for thousands of years to help improve the immune system and promote overall wellness.
The Chaga mushroom is also referred to as Inonotus obliquus and is a nutrient-dense mushroom that’s rich in fiber, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and calcium — in addition to its effects on the immune system.
If you were to come across a Chaga mushroom, you likely wouldn’t think it was a mushroom. In fact, you’ve probably come across one before without even knowing that. They aren’t the most beautiful-looking mushroom. It looks a lot like charcoal, being black on the outside and having orange tissue on the inside.
Other names for the Chaga mushroom include black mass, clinker polypore, birch canker polypore, cinder conk, the sterile conk, trunk rot of birch, A Gift from God, and The Mushroom of Immortality.
It’s largely found in colder climates in the Northern hemisphere, but most of the Chaga comes from Alaska, Korea, Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia, Canada, or the United States. It grows best on birch trees, but can also grow on maple or ash trees.
Chaga mushrooms are known to have an earthy, slightly-bitter taste that’s similar to medium roast coffee. In fact, Finnish natives brewed Chaga mushrooms as a coffee substitute when coffee beans were rationed during World War II. They loved it because it’s smooth and not as bitter as Reishi mushrooms.
When foraging Chaga mushrooms, you should always harvest from an alive tree since they need a host to survive. If found on a dead tree, don’t harvest it and move on. They do, however, grow for about 10-20 years on a healthy tree.
When using Chaga mushrooms in a supplement, you should only use the fruiting body of the mushroom and steer free of additives or carriers.
How Do Chaga Mushrooms Work?
There are several different active compounds found in Chaga mushrooms that give it the functional benefits they’re known for. Five of the most prominent compounds are beta-glucans, antioxidants, melanin, triterpenes, and polyphenols.
Let’s take a closer look at each one individually:
- Beta-Glucans – a soluble dietary fiber commonly found in whole grains, oats, bran, wheat, and barley. It helps boost heart health, regulates blood sugar levels, and stimulates the immune system.
- Antioxidants – compounds that inhibit oxidation in the body. They help prevent and slow the damage caused by free radicals, which helps reduce oxidative stress in the body.
- Melanin – a skin pigment that helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays and prevent certain types of cancer from forming in the body.
- Triterpenes – some studies suggest triterpenes to be antidiabetic by inhibiting enzymes that contribute to glucose metabolism, reducing insulin resistance, and regulate insulin levels (as well as plasma glucose levels).
- Polyphenols – a class of compounds that are also rich with antioxidants. They help improve cognition, digestion, blood sugar levels, and heart health.
It’s no wonder Chaga mushrooms are so beneficial to the body’s immune system — they’re jam-packed with nutrients the immune system needs to function at its best. That’s why it’s so important (although not essential) that you add this mushroom to your daily diet.
The Recommended Dosage For Chaga Mushrooms
While there have been a lot of studies and research performed on Chaga mushrooms, there isn’t a lot of guidance in terms of the recommended dosage. In addition to that, everyone’s body is different and will react to dosages differently.
When taking Chaga mushroom extract, it’s usually safe to consume anywhere from 100mg-3,000mg per day. The best results generally come between 1,000mg-1,500mg per day. With that being said, it’s usually best to start out with 250mg-500mg to see how your body reacts.
Are There Any Potential Side Effects With Chaga Mushrooms?
Anytime you’re consuming mushrooms, one of the biggest concerns is allergies and things are no different with the Chaga mushroom. If you’re allergic, you should definitely avoid this mushroom at all costs.
Those with Kidney disease should also be careful when consuming Chaga mushrooms. Not only that, but Chaga mushrooms don’t mix well with blood-thinning medication or diabetes medication (such as insulin).
Lastly, Chaga mushroom contains oxalates, which prevent nutrient absorption and are toxic in high doses. That’s why it’s best to follow the recommended guidelines for each supplement, especially since they can vary when more ingredients are added to the formula.
The Benefits Of Chaga
Now that we’ve discovered a lot of the background behind Chaga mushrooms, it’s time to learn what these mushrooms can do for you. While they’re packed with benefits, they all contribute to a healthier body and overall wellness that you didn’t have before.
Let’s take a look at the major benefits you receive with Chaga mushrooms, including how nutrient-dense they are, how they boost the immune system, prevent cancer, improves your heart, enhances your skin, hair, and nails, and improves cognition.
We can’t discuss Chaga mushrooms without mentioning the diverse range of nutrients they encompass. It’s part of the reason they come with so many benefits and provide that overall sense of wellness we need on a daily basis.
Among the many nutrients found in a Chaga mushroom are B-complex vitamins, potassium, Vitamin D, cesium, amino acids, fiber, rubidium, copper, selenium, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, and calcium.
2. Enhances Immune System
Chaga mushrooms support the body’s immune system in a number of ways. First of all, the antioxidants help reduce oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the body, which are vital to a healthy immune response.
In addition to that, it’ll also stimulate white blood cells through the formation of cytokines. The presence of polysaccharides also contributes to the body’s ability to fight infections and common illnesses, keeping you healthy and able-bodied.
3. Prevents & Fights Cancer
Another major benefit that continues to receive attention with Chaga mushrooms is their ability to fight and prevent cancer. This is largely due to the reduction in oxidative stress, which is known to cause cell damage and increase the risk of forming tumor cells.
In addition to that, the triterpenes found in Chaga mushrooms help cause tumor cells to self-destruct. This is a characteristic many cancer treatments have, except Chaga mushrooms don’t harm the healthy cells along with the tumor cells.
4. Boosts Heart Health
Studies show that Chaga mushrooms not only help reduce LDL, also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, but they help increase HDL, also known as ‘good’ cholesterol. Chaga mushrooms also regulate both blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Of course, this all contributes to a healthier body and improves your cardiovascular health. While they aren’t officially classified as an adaptogen, they do hold adaptogenic properties. This means Chaga mushrooms also help your body adapt to stressful situations.
5. Healthy Skin, Hair, & Nails
The melanin found in Chaga mushrooms is responsible for keeping your hair, skin, and nails healthy and strong long-term. It helps give your hair its color and also what protects your skin (and hair) from harmful UV rays coming from the sun.
It’s not just the melanin, though. The antioxidants found in Chaga mushrooms also contribute to healthier hair, skin, and nails. This is due to the anti-aging benefits of antioxidants, which help reduce wrinkles, sagging skin, and gray hair.
6. Improves Cognition
The final benefit we’ll discuss with Chaga mushrooms is the lesser-known benefit. While Lion’s Mane mushroom is the main functional mushroom for cognition, the Chaga mushroom is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.
Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine to ensure it doesn’t build up or over-stimulate postsynaptic nerves. By inhibiting this enzyme, Chaga mushrooms can help boost acetylcholine in the body and brain, which helps with learning, memory, and attention.
What Do Chaga Mushrooms Stack Well With?
Whether you’re consuming Chaga mushrooms on their own or utilizing its benefits through a supplement, it’s very rare to find this mushroom all by its lonesome. Since it’s such an effective immune-booster, it’s very common to find it with other immune-boosting foods or nutrients.
If you’re thinking about adding this mushroom to your daily diet, we have several suggestions to help you get the most out of your Chaga mushrooms. Let’s take a look at what stacks well with these amazing fungi, including other fungi, vitamins, minerals, and adaptogens.
Other Functional Mushrooms
The beautiful thing with functional mushrooms is that they all improve the immune system because they all contain beta-glucans, antioxidants, and polysaccharides — among other compounds.
With that being said, you can pair Chaga with any other mushroom for maximum benefits. Keep in mind they all come with secondary benefits as well, which only add to the excitement with your supplement.
Here are our favorite functional mushrooms to pair with Chaga:
- Lion’s Mane – largely known for increasing learning, attention, memory, and overall cognition.
- Cordyceps – increases energy, vitality, and endurance, as well as a healthy immune system.
- Turkey Tail – contains prebiotics and antioxidants to help improve the digestive system.
- Shiitake – rich with vitamins and minerals, including all nine essential amino acids. Also great for the skin, hair, and nails.
- Reishi – largely known for increasing the body’s ability to adapt to stress, normalize the body processes, and improve sleep.
In addition to those five, you can also pair it with Enokitake mushrooms, Maitake mushrooms, Oyster mushrooms, and Tremella mushrooms. They’re all amazing in their own unique ways, so experiment as you wish!
Vitamins & Minerals
While Chaga mushrooms are already nutrient-dense, there are a wide range of vitamins and minerals that you can add to your formula to make it even more beneficial to the immune system. Of course, none are going to be more important than Vitamin C.
In addition to that, you should also target Vitamin D, Vitamin B-complex, Vitamin E, Iron, Selenium, and Zinc. These are all powerful vitamins and minerals that support a healthy immune system — among a wide range of other benefits.
Adaptogens are a special class of nutrients, ingredients, plants, and herbs that improve the body’s ability to adapt to physical and mental stress. They help reduce fatigue, depression, and anxiety, all while improving your mental performance when you need it most.
Some of the most popular adaptogens you can combine to your formula with Chaga mushrooms are Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwagandha, Eluethero, and Astragalus. Cordyceps, one of the functional mushrooms we mentioned above, is also known to have adaptogenic properties.
Recommended Chaga Mushroom Supplements
By now, we have a solid idea of what Chaga mushrooms are, what they’re good for, how much to take, what side effects to be cautious of, and what you can pair with it. The only thing left for you to do is find a way to add it to your daily routine.
For many, this would be difficult because mushrooms aren’t always people’s favorite thing to eat. The good news is there are a wide range of supplements out there — more now than there used to be — that make good use of Chaga mushrooms.
Below, we’re going to take a look at three of our favorite Chaga mushroom supplements. They make it easy to consume by eliminating a majority of the taste, getting rid of the texture, and hiding the gross appearance of the Chaga mushroom.
Let’s take a look!
Chaga Elixir by Four Sigmatic
The first recommended supplement is hands-down the best Chaga supplement available on the market today. It’s made by Four Sigmatic, a company that loves functional mushrooms more than us — and that’s saying something!
Chaga Elixir has four ingredients in it. Chaga mushrooms (of course), Eluethero, Field Mint, and Rose Hips. You get a whopping 1,500mg of Chaga for maximum benefit, Eluethero gives you adaptogenic properties, Field Mint improves the taste, and Rose Hips add Vitamin C.
Talk about a well-rounded supplement! It comes in a powder formula that mixes well with just about anything — including coffee, smoothies, or regular water.GET THE BEST PRICE ON FOUR SIGMATIC CHAGA ELIXIR
Shroom Tech Immune by Onnit Labs
If you’re not into powder, don’t worry, Onnit Labs has you covered with a capsule formula proven to help boost the immune system. It has a powerful blend of functional mushrooms, as well as a blend of nutrients to increase the immune-boosting effect.
In the mushroom blend, you have Chaga, Astragalus, Agaricus Blazei, Cordyceps, Coriolus Versicolor, Reishi, Maitake, and Shiitake. The nutrient blend adds in turmeric, ginger, oregano, lemon peel, and black pepper extract. It keeps your immune system healthy and cells strong.
You need to take 2 capsules per serving, with each bottle coming with 30 capsules. Since each bottle costs $20, you’re looking at $40 for a month’s supply. It’s about the same price as Four Sigmatic, but with less of a focus on Chaga.GET THE BEST PRICE ON ONNIT LABS SHROOM TECH IMMUNE
Mushroom Coffee by Laird Superfood
Available in both a medium roast and dark roast, Laird Superfood has a formula similar to that of Four Sigmatic — who also has a coffee blend. With Laird, their formula contains 100% Organic Peruvian Arabica Ground Coffee.
In addition to that, there are three functional mushrooms included in the formula — Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Chaga. This gives you a balance between cognitive benefits, immune system benefits, and an energy boost. The perfect way to start the day.
Each bag has about 30 servings and costs just $15. It’s more expensive than your normal bag of coffee, but the added benefits make it well worth the extra investment. Of course, you can also check out Four Sigmatic’s version (which we recommend as well).GET THE BEST PRICE ON LAIRD SUPERFOOD MUSHROOM COFFEE
Final Thoughts: Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga mushrooms can provide a wide variety of health benefits. From boosting heart health to improving cognition to enhancing the immune system and more, Chaga mushrooms can definitely be worth adding to your daily routine.
We’ve taken a deep dive into the world of Chaga mushrooms. Now that you know all the benefits this mushroom can provide, all that is left to do is pick your choice of Chaga supplement!