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Today I want to share everything about chaga mushroom–something I've been using for years topically (in my fave Body Butter!) and internally to support my resilience and gut health. I am a huge fan of the versatility and health benefits of chaga.
Below I'll outline everything you need to know about chaga including what it is, its amazing health benefits, and how to properly extract medicinal mushrooms for improved health benefits. Plus I’ll give you the scoop on my all-time favourite brand!
What is Chaga?
Chaga, also referred to as Inonotus obliquus, is a medicinal mushroom that grows primarily on birch trees in cold climates, such as Northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia, Northern Europe, Russia, and Korea. When you’re out in the forest surrounded by birch trees, chaga looks like a large dark brown to black woody mass that grows on the bark of living birch trees. However, when split open the inside is a rich reddish-orange colour that’s loaded with antioxidants.
Traditionally, chaga was steeped as a tea and used as a folk medicine to support immunity and overall wellness.
Chaga has an incredibly high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) rating, which is a measure that outlines the capacity of a food or herb to neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to our cells. These antioxidants, combined with other potent medicinal mushroom compounds are responsible for the incredible healing benefits of chaga mushrooms that we’ll get into in more detail below.
How do you Extract the Benefits from Chaga?
If you’ve ever held chunks of chaga in your hands you’ll know that they are hard! That means, like other medicinal mushrooms, it’s impossible to eat the mushrooms raw to receive the benefits. Chaga has to be processed in some way due to the chitin it contains that makes it difficult for our bodies to digest.
Because medicinal mushrooms contain chitin, that means they must be properly prepared in order to separate the beneficial compounds from the mushrooms.
One thing I suggest you look for when shopping for mushroom supplements is that they are dual extractions.
That means they extract the compounds from the mushrooms using both hot water and alcohol. Certain compounds in chaga are only going to be able to be extracted via hot water extraction while others are only going to be available via alcohol extraction.
It’s important to look for this dual extraction process to ensure you are getting the highest quality supplement. Some companies create their products by grinding up the mycelium and putting them into capsules or powders. However, these formulations are difficult for the body to digest, which means you could be paying a lot of money for a supplement that you can’t fully absorb.
Another aspect to watch for are brands that use the fruiting bodies of the mushroom instead of the mycelium. The fruiting body is the part of the mushroom that you would see growing on the tree or forest floor if you were out foraging. It is in this part of the mushroom that most of the compounds responsible for the healing benefits are found. While the mycelium is an integral part of the mushroom, functioning like a root system, it doesn’t contain nearly as many healing compounds or antioxidants as the fruiting body. When it comes to chaga, it’s a little different since unlike most medicinal mushrooms they don’t have a fruiting body per se, but a conk, which is the big woody chunk that grows on the birch trees.
You will often see brands use the mycelium to create their products because they are cheaper to produce and process. Unfortunately, these supplements are not going to be nearly as potent as those made with the fruiting body, which means you’ll have to take more of them to receive the same benefits. Spending a little more on a high quality supplement will save you money in the long term since you won’t need to take as many capsules or as much tincture or powder to reap the benefits.
My favourite company is based out of Canada, Eversio Wellness, and they create their products from the fruiting body of various mushrooms, such as reishi, via the dual extraction process. You can save 15% off their products by using code JOYOUS at checkout. You can listen to a super informative Joyous Health Podcast episode with their founder, Brandi Garden, here. She has an incredible knowledge of all things medicinal mushrooms. You’ll love it!
Top 6 Health Benefits of Chaga
Now that you’re a pro at choosing the best quality chaga supplements, let’s take a closer look at the amazing health benefits of this fantastic fungi!
1. Fights inflammation
Remember that ORAC score mentioned above? Well thanks to its high capacity to neutralize free radicals, chaga can help fight inflammation in the body. Since chronic inflammation can be linked to a variety of health issues, such as heart disease or diabetes, incorporating anti-inflammatory supplements and foods into your routine is a great way to help soothe that inflammatory response.
2. Supports the immune system
Something you’ll likely notice if you start to research medicinal mushrooms is that they all tend to have some kind of impact on the immune system ( read about reishi here! ). Chaga is no different, with research demonstrating a positive impact on white blood cell production, part of the immune system that is responsible for fighting off bacteria or viruses.
In fact, in test tube and animal studies, another component of chaga, tripterpene, can even help kill cancer cells. More human research is needed to validate these results, but the beneficial effects of chaga on the immune system makes it a great addition to your medicine cabinet during cold and flu season!
3. May help balance blood sugar
If I’ve said it once before, I’ve said it a thousand times: balanced blood sugar is a joyous foundation for lasting health! Dysregulated blood sugar can increase chronic inflammation and may eventually lead to Type 2 Diabetes or insulin resistance. Promising animal studies found that supplementing with chaga led to a 31% decrease in blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity. If you struggle with keeping your blood sugars stable, chaga may be a helpful supplement to incorporate into your routine. Always check with your healthcare provider if you’re on other blood sugar regulating medications before taking it.
For some other great hacks on keeping blood sugar balanced, listen to this episode of the Joyous Health Podcast with The Glucose Goddess!
4. Has adaptogenic qualities
I’ve shared before about the powerful effects of adaptogens , but the short version is these herbs, plants, and fungi help your body adapt to stress and increase overall resiliency. Chaga is often referred to as the King of Mushrooms (with reishi being the Queen!). Thanks to its many antioxidants and support for the immune system, it promotes longevity and improves the body’s resilience.
5. Supports collagen production in the skin
As we age, our capacity to produce collagen declines. Collagen in our skin helps it to look plump and soft and a decrease in collagen can lead to increased skin wrinkling. Chaga actually prevents collagen degradation and increases collagen synthesis by inhibiting MMP-1 and MMP-9 activities, types of metalloproteinases that increase collagen degradation. Taking a chaga supplement can actually support your skin health from the inside out!
6. Supports & protects your skin
Not only does chaga have incredibly internal benefits, but when used topically it can help support healthy, soft, and glowing skin. While you may be familiar with chaga tea or supplements, when used topically this antioxidant-rich medicinal mushroom keeps your skin hydrated, nourished, and helps repair aging cells. Specific plant enzymes, like melanin, also protect your skin from UV damage, while Betulonic acid helps with skin regeneration and elasticity.
That’s why we use Canadian-sourced chaga in Hello Joyous’s best selling Ultra-Moisturizing Body Butter because it’s loaded with powerful antioxidants that protect your skin. Combined with the luxurious blend of organic plant-based butters and oils including organic cocoa, mango seed and shea butters plus skin-soothing sunflower oil, this organic Body Butter banishes dryness and deeply nourishes without any greasy residue.
My Favourite Chaga Supplement
I love taking chaga throughout the winter months to support my immunity and boost overall resistance. Much like with my reishi supplements , I was taking a different brand, but now that I know all the benefits of Eversio's chaga, I'm so glad I made the switch because it’s made with higher quality mushrooms and increased potency. I’ve definitely noticed the difference since incorporating this healing mushroom from a high quality brand I trust into my routine.
Eversio is committed to crafting the highest quality and potency extracts, so you can rest assured you are getting the maximum value for your dollar and incredible benefits in every single scoop or capsule. If you want to try out Eversio’s chaga or any of their other potent extracts, you can save 15% off with code JOYOUS at checkout.
Have you ever used chaga in your routine? If so, do you enjoy it as a tea or extract? Let me know in the comments!