Wildcrafting Wednesday: Benefits of the Chaga Mushroom
BENEFITS of CHAGA MUSHROOM
Chaga is a fungus (Inonotus obliquus) that typically grows on birches. The outer layer is very hard, but under the chitinous cell walls are healthy components. Chaga is full of antioxidants and immune-boosting ingredients that make it so healthy and beneficial.
Chaga is a medicinal fungus that grows on the birch trees in Siberia and Canada. It has been used in Folk Medicine for centuries to deal with various illnesses from digestive health to skin care.
However, it is best known for its immune boosting activities.
Chaga is available in supplementary forms including powders, teas, and tinctures. If you would like to learn more about what chaga can do for you and how to use it, read on.
WHAT IS CHAGA?
Chaga or to give it its scientific name, Inonotus obliquus is a type of fungus which grows on the birch trees of Siberia and other cold regions like Alaska and Northern Canada.
While it is often referred to as a mushroom, chaga does not resemble any mushroom that we are familiar with and botanists are undecided whether it should be classed as a mushroom at all.
Unlike true mushrooms, chaga has a tough exterior resembling burnt charcoal with a rust colored interior.
They can weigh over 30 pounds and grow in a variety of shapes up to 12 inches in diameter.
Chaga’s relationship with the birch tree is symbiotic; they help the tree remain healthy and grow and can even help a sick tree to recover when inserted into the damaged tree.
TRADITIONAL USES OF CHAGA
The chemicals and processes that help the birch tree are also of great value to human health and chaga has been used for centuries and possibly even thousands of years by various cultures familiar with its benefits.
Indigenous Siberians ground it down and added it to their stews and soups to boost endurance and stave off degenerative diseases.
It has been observed that Inuit Siberians had significantly greater life spans than Inuit from regions where they did not use chaga.
Siberians consuming Chaga also appear to have lower rates of cancer.
In Eastern Europe, chaga has traditionally been used as a treatment for skin conditions like eczema and respiratory disorders like bronchitis. Traditional Chinese and Korean practitioners have also made use of chaga since ancient times, and it remains popular in Asian medicine to this day.
Chaga is significant in ethnomycology, forest ecology, and increasingly in pharmacognosy. Its long-term human use and cultural eastern European and Russian acceptance should awaken serious researchers to its potential as a reservoir of new medicines, and as a powerful preventive ally for protecting DNA. Paul Stamets
The first mention of Chaga comes from 16th Century Russian texts.
Chaga was traditionally used to treat gastric ulcers and gastritis.
A tea was made from chaga to treat intestinal pain and stomach upsets.
Chaga was and remains especially popular for hunters and forestry workers because it alleviates hunger and boosts energy.
Infusions made from chaga have long been used to treat various skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
The Khanty people of Siberia are among the first known to have used chaga medicinally.
As well as brewing a tea from chaga, the Khanty also produced ‘soap water’ by burning the chaga in a fire and then adding it to hot water. This ‘soap water’ was used for its disinfectant ability.
CHAGA HEALTH BENEFITS
Regardless of if it is technically a mushroom or fungus, there are numerous Health Benefits of Chaga. Chaga contains very significant amounts of powerful antioxidants with far-reaching health applications.
Crucial other chemical ingredients include beta-glucans, other polysaccharides, phytosterols and triterpenes like botulin and betulinic acid which give chaga a diverse range of therapeutic benefits.
Ergosterol peroxide is a medically exciting component of Chaga. Ergosterol peroxide has shown anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and immunosuppressive capabilities in the lab.
Chaga is considered to be an adaptogen; a substance which helps normalize and balance body functions.
Research has demonstrated that chaga could both stimulate immune response while simultaneously reducing inflammation, unlike most medications which typically have one effect or the other.