Top 5 Health Benefits of Chaga Mushroom
Chaga mushroom or Inonotus obliquus is a nootropic fungus. The species is known as I.obliquus of the genus called Inonotus from the family of Hymenochaetaceae in the order Hymenochaetales and class of Agaricomycetes under the division of Basidiomycota of the fungi kingdom. Chaga mushroom grows parasitically on birch trees. It also grows on other trees across the northern hemisphere.
I.obliquus looks less like a mushroom and more like a clump of dirt. It is dark but has distinct orange tissues. The Chaga mushroom looks like burnt charcoal due to the melanin content and is an irregularly formed sterile conk. Advocates of alternative medicine, researchers and doctors have been studying Chaga mushrooms for quite some time now and there are a few promising health benefits.
Health Benefits of Chaga Mushroom
Chaga mushrooms are rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. They contain B-complex vitamins, potassium, cesium, rubidium, copper, selenium, iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese and calcium. The mushrooms also contain fibre, amino acids and vitamin D.
- Chaga mushrooms can slow ageing. The common signs of ageing are grey hair, saggy skin and wrinkles. These are mostly caused due to oxidative stress, pollution and exposure to sunlight. Free radicals in the human body also accelerate ageing and the signs become more obvious. Chaga mushrooms have antioxidants that can counter the free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, thereby averting early or premature signs of ageing. The mushrooms do not literally stop time or prevent ageing but they delay the onset of various inevitable signs. They can also reverse many of the visible signs of ageing.
- Chaga Mushroom Powder can reduce the level of bad cholesterol in the blood. Low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol can cause several health problems including heart disease. Chaga mushrooms can hence prevent heart problems and other cardiovascular diseases. This effect is also owing to the content of antioxidants in these mushrooms. Chaga can reduce blood pressure. This is specifically helpful for those who have chronic high blood pressure. Sustained high blood pressure makes people vulnerable to strokes, heart attacks and many cardiovascular diseases. Chaga can not only reduce blood pressure but also improve cardiovascular health in general.
- Chaga mushrooms can prevent the growth of certain types of cancer cells. They can also potentially fight certain types of cancer. Some studies have suggested that the antioxidants found in these mushrooms can protect cells from damage triggered by the free radicals. Oxidation too causes substantial damage to cells. The body is not always capable of producing sufficient antioxidants to prevent or reverse the damage caused. Chaga mushrooms can play an important role in neutralizing the free radicals and preventing damage to cells. There have been specific studies where Chaga has been found to slow down the growth of cancer cells in breast, lungs and cervix. Other studies have found that Chaga can trigger self-destruction of some tumor cells. The mushrooms do not affect healthy cells.
- Chaga mushrooms can strengthen the immune system. The first line of defense of the immune system is white blood cells. The production of white blood cells is regulated by a kind of protein called cytokine. Chaga can regulate the secretion of cytokines and hence stimulate the production of white blood cells. Enhanced immunity can help people fight various kinds of infections and also avert fatal lifestyle diseases, including chronic and incurable health problems. Chaga can prevent and cure inflammations. There are many health problems that start as an inflammation and then turn into a chronic disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is a common example. The effect of chaga mushrooms on the production of cytokines causes a chain reaction that prevents or reduces inflammations. Hence, many types of inflammations do not get transformed into chronic health conditions.
- Chaga mushrooms can reduce blood sugar. This makes it desirable and to an extent essential for diabetics. An animal study has found the mushrooms to have a substantial impact on blood sugar in rodents. Studies on humans are yet to be conducted but relevant research is underway and we may soon have clinical data to understand the impact of chaga on blood sugar in diabetics. It may not replace traditional treatments or regulatory methods of diabetes but can definitely be a facilitative or alterative approach. Chaga can also reduce and in some cases prevent the side effects of certain drugs. This too needs further research but potentially chaga can prevent side effects of treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy and strong medications for chronic diseases.
How to Consume Chaga Mushroom
It is best to consult a doctor before consuming chaga. The mushrooms are now available as herbal teas and supplements. People can have their own ways of using chaga mushrooms. There is no standard dose, recommended dietary intake or recommended daily intake as of now. The type of supplement, the method of consumption and the dose or quantity will depend on the specific treatment and the preset objective. Chaga should not be considered to be an alternative to medical care or a substitute for prescription drugs. It can be used as an alternative approach to manage symptoms and to supplement the effects of prescribed medicines or traditional medical treatment.
Side Effects of Chaga Mushroom
Chaga does have some side effects. There is no long term or serious side effect identified or reported as yet. The side effects are usually mild and transient. People may experience some digestive problems initially as the body may not be familiar at all with the mushroom. It is possible for chaga to interact with some prescription or over the counter drugs. Chaga reduces blood pressure and blood sugar. Hence, those who already have low blood pressure and low blood sugar must be careful while choosing the dosage. Chaga may cause allergies even though it is not an allergen in the general sense of the term. Some people may experience changes in breathing and heart rate. Combining herbal supplements with chaga may have some side effects. One must also be careful with the choice of brand as chaga is presently not monitored or regulated by the FDA.