The chaga mushroom, or Inonotus obliquus, is a large, black fungus thought by many to have medicinal properties. Native to cooler northern regions of Asia, Europe, and North America, the Chaga mushroom grows mainly on birch trees.
Because chaga has a very high melanin content, its exterior will turn a deep black color when exposed to sunlight, while the inside stays a bright orange color. This mushroom is so dark that, when seen in the wild, it may look more like a clump of mud than a fungus.
Though it is rarely eaten whole due to its bitter flavor, dried and powdered Chaga has grown in popularity as an ingredient in coffees and teas. The mushroom has been marketed widely for its alleged cancer-fighting and antioxidant properties. The powder is often packaged and sold in pill form as a dietary supplement.
Chaga contains many nutrients that can boost your health, including plenty of antioxidants and:
- B-complex vitamins
- Vitamin D
- Amino acids
There’s no standard serving size or nutrition information readily available for chaga, as it isn’t regulated by the FDA.
The nutrients per serving of chaga will depend on the form you take it in and how much you take. If you want to take it as a supplement, read the label carefully and speak with your doctor about it before you start.
Potential Health Benefits of Chaga
Chaga is believed to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a potential alternative remedy for things like arthritis and high blood pressure. It may also help lower blood sugar and even slow the progression of cancer cells.
Ease inflammation. Researchers have found that Chaga may help regulate the body’s production of cytokines — cells that affect other cells in the body — and ease or prevent swelling associated with conditions like arthritis. Current research is promising, but further testing is needed to be sure of chaga’s effectiveness.
Prevent cancer. Multiple studies show that compounds in Chaga mushrooms may help block or slow the growth of cancer cells. Studies have been conducted on both lung cancer and colorectal cancer cells using compounds found in chaga. The research seems to indicate that chaga may help slow cancer growth and even kill existing cancer cells.
While these studies have produced promising results, more evidence is needed.
Potential Risks of Chaga
Little is still known about the long-term effects of taking Chaga as a dietary supplement. For most, it appears safe. But there are some reasons to be cautious.
O xalate, a chemical compound found in chaga, is considered an anti-nutrient because it interferes with how your body takes in nutrients. It binds with calcium very easily and can cause kidney stones, or even kidney failure.
Because Chaga can lower blood sugar, people with diabetes should be careful when using it. Paired with drugs like insulin, it could cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels.
There are lots of foods that can give you an antioxidant boost like chaga. These include:
- Bell peppers
- Acorn squash