For centuries people in Eastern Europe have been drinking chaga tea for its many health benefits. Chaga tea is made from the chaga mushroom, which typically grows on the trunks of birch trees in the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, you will typically find it in the Northeast.The Latin name for chaga mushroom is Inonotus obliquus, but other common names include:
- birch conk
- cinder conk
- clinker polypore
Walking through a forest, you may mistake the chaga mushroom for a clump of dirt or a burnt section of the tree. At first glance, this fungus has the appearance of burnt charcoal or simply dirt. But if you look closer, you will find a nutrient-rich, rusty, yellowish-brown interior.
Cancer Prevention and Fighting
Several studies have found that substances present in chaga may effectively prevent cancer and slow tumor growth. One study showed that a hot water extract of chaga mushroom inhibited the growth and promoted the death of colon cancer cells. Another study suggests that chaga mushrooms may be beneficial in the development of anticancer drugs. Although these studies show promising results, further human research is needed to determine the effectiveness of using chaga to fight or prevent cancer.
Immune System Function
Beta-D-glucans found in chaga mushrooms help balance your immune system. This means that they can stimulate your immune system when you need a boost and downregulate it when it is overactive.
Reduction of Inflammation
Cytokines in your body, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha, are responsible for inflammation. Betulinic acid, inotodial, and ergosterol peroxide are compounds in chaga that help reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of cytokines.
The outer portion of the chaga mushroom (sclerotium) contains high amounts of polyphenols, which act as antioxidants. They protect against free radicals that may lead to liver and other organ damage. This is encouraging, but more study is needed to confirm chaga mushrooms’ effectiveness in liver protection.
Chaga mushrooms may help prevent stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori. Substances found in chaga may prevent H. pylori bacteria from growing by interfering with bacterial cell communication.