Health Benefits of Chaga (plus other important info you need to know)
In the mushroom world, Chaga doesn't win any beauty contests, but it has many other virtues that we'll discover in this post.
What is Chaga and Where Does it Come From?
Chaga appears as a dense black protrusion on birch trees (and rarely on other hardwoods) in cold boreal forests in Russia, Canada, the northeastern United States, and northern Europe.
The hard black exterior, called the sclerotium, enables Chaga to survive the harsh climates it's found. Within this casing is an assembly of powerful bioactive compounds that generations of Siberians and Asians have relied on to keep their immune systems strong and fend off degenerative diseases.
Traditionally, Chaga has been cut up, dried, and added to various dishes with a liquid base such as stews and beverages, especially tea. Chaga Tea made from genuine chaga extract is probably the easiest way to gain the many benefits of Chaga.
Health Benefits of Chaga
Boosting the Immune System
Chaga has been found to stimulate the production of cytokines, which act as messengers for the immune system. This increased production leads to the body making more antibodies, which fight invading pathogens.
Chaga also directly fights bacterial infection by disrupting the way bacteria communicate and organize, called quorum sensing, thereby preventing them from multiplying enough to cause infection.
Just as importantly, Chaga contains polysaccharides that help regulate the immune system, making sure it doesn't overreact, as happens in many chronic diseases.
Nutritional Support in the Fight Against Cancer
A type of polysaccharide in Chaga, called beta-glucans, improve the performance of the body's natural "killer cells" that monitor other cells for the beginning mutations of cancer and destroy them. Beta-glucans also slow cancer cell proliferation.
Additionally, Chaga contains many antioxidants. These compounds protect cell DNA from the effects of unstable molecules called free radicals that everyone has in their bodies. Free radicals can cause cellular mutation which can eventually become cancerous.
Please note that much more research is needed to truly understand the full potential of Chaga as a possible treatment for cancer. To learn more, check out this post by Dr. Kevin Curran and/or visit the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Slowing the Effects of Time
Free radicals attack skin cells, too, depleting that collagen that makes skin healthy. Antioxidants like those found in Chaga can reduce this premature aging, keeping your skin more youthful and vibrant.
Supporting the Cardiovascular System
Chaga's antioxidants also promote heart health. Two of them, beta-glucan and betulinic acid, both help regulate cholesterol. Beta-glucans reduce the absorption of cholesterol from food, while betulinic acid is able to break down bad cholesterol, lowering LDL blood levels.
Betulinic acid is also one of several compounds found in Chaga that reduce the body's inflammation response, which is at the root of many chronic conditions ranging from psoriasis to rheumatoid arthritis. Left unchecked, inflammation can even lead to heart disease.
Chaga's other inflammation-fighters are ergosterol peroxide and inotodial.
Supporting Digestive Health
The anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties of Chaga assist in maintaining proper digestive tract function. It has been used for centuries to prevent and treat gastritis and other gastrointestinal ailments, and can also relieve the symptoms inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease.
Chaga's anti-bacterial compounds may additionally combat ulcers, the majority of which are now known to stem from microbial infection. At least one-third of people globally have this bacteria in them, which not only causes ulcers but can lead to gastric cancer. In light of this, Chaga's ability to keep bacteria from organizing into an infection is particularly relevant to digestive health.
Other Benefits of Chaga
You've just seen a summary of Chaga's many health benefits. What's remarkable is how easy it is to avail yourself of them. It's as easy as brewing a cup of tea--literally. And with Four Sigmatic Chaga extract packets, you can make Chaga tea in minutes to give yourself a boost in the morning. As they say on their site, "Chaga is the new coffee!"
A Siberian Secret
The next time you go camping, take some Chaga, and not just for tea. Chaga does an exceptionally good job of taking and holding an ember, the critical first step in building a fire. As anyone who has tried manually starting a fire can attest, embers often go out before you can apply them to kindling.
Here is a video showing a Siberian homesteader using Chaga in this manner.
If you live in an area Chaga grows, harvesting it yourself is a fun, rewarding activity. Plan your harvesting for late fall and winter. To keep it sustainable for years to come, be sure to leave about 20% attached to the tree. For more, see our page about harvesting Chaga.
A helpful summary and visual guide to the Chaga's benefits can be found in the infographic below. You can save this image for reference, embed it on your website, and share it on social media with your friends and family. They'll thank you for introducing them to this somewhat homely but wonderful mushroom.
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