Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus), also known as the “clinker polypore,” are a parasitic mushroom that grows mostly on birch trees in the northern hemisphere. The outside resembles that of burnt charcoal, or charred tree bark, and the inside is made up of soft, orange tissue.
Chaga has been used in Russia and other northern European countries for centuries as a way to boost the immune system and overall health. They’re rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are known to have positive effects on a number of health issues. They are traditionally prepared by grating the mushroom into a fine powder as a tea or coffee additive, and today they are available in supplement form.
While these mushrooms show promise when used as a supplement, scientific research into their efficacy for humans is still ongoing. If you’re considering adding medicinal mushrooms into your health regimen, consult with you doctor first to figure out which ones are best for your unique medical history.
Below, learn more about the research surrounding the potential health benefits of chaga mushrooms.
Anti Cancer Properties
Like many other varieties of medicinal mushrooms (e.g., turkey tail or reishi mushrooms), chaga mushrooms are believed to have anti-cancer properties. Their antioxidants prevent the cell damage that often leads to cancer and other health issues. Studies using mice indicate that chaga slows the growth of cancer cells and can be used as an anti-tumor agent.
Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
The same antioxidants that serve as cancer-fighting agents also help to lower blood pressure, which may lead to a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and other health issues. They also may reduce LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” according to a 2009 study.
Immunity Booster and Anti-Inflammatory
There is some research that indicates that chaga mushrooms help to regulate the production of cytokines, the proteins that help produce more white blood cells and boost immunity. Cytokines can also help to control inflammation, which is a typical bodily autoimmune response to illness. Chaga’s role in cytokine production serves as a way to keep inflammation in check while boosting the body’s ability to fight disease.