Chaga, The other magic mushroom

Chaga – The Other Magic Mushroom

Don’t we all wish that there was a magic life changing superfood that makes everything in our bodies work a little bit better? Let us introduce Chaga Mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus), they definitely come pretty close to magic.

Chaga mushrooms have a wide variety of properties and are packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. They are actually one of the best sources of antioxidants in the world surpassing goji and acai.

Sure, chaga mushrooms basically look like tree bark, but they actually have a very delightful, light flavour profile! Better yet, we can find Chaga mushrooms right here on our home Canadian soil, they are found on yellow and white birch trees throughout northern climates.

Medicinal mushrooms have an established history of use in traditional oriental therapy and as a nutritionally functional food (2). First and foremost Inonotus Obliquus are anti-inflammatory, antiviral and have antibacterial properties (3). Inflammation in the body leads to numerous diseases, therefore anti-inflammatory substances hold great weight as a natural therapy. Chaga mushrooms’ antiviral and antibacterial properties help improve immune function and can be very helpful in the prevention or treatment of colds and the flu.

Birch Slices Showing The  Development of Chaga

Basically, our bodies are constantly under the potential threat of oxidative stress from harmful free radicals. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals; it happens throughout the day as our bodies metabolize the oxygen we breathe, as our cells use glucose to make energy, when we are fighting off bacteria and of course when we our bodies detoxify pollutants, pesticides and smoke. Oxidative stress occurs when the amount of free radicals exceeds the amount of antioxidants, this leads to an imbalance and consequently, damaged cells. Oxidative Stress has been proven to be one of the underlying causes of cancer. This being said, damage can be prevented with enough antioxidants as they protect healthy cells and halt the growth of cancerous cells (5) Chaga acts as a free radical scavenger in our bodies- so let’s get them into us.

Noteably, chaga mushrooms are high in superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is an important enzyme that functions as a powerful antioxidant in our bodies (1). Chaga mushrooms have an ORAC value of 146,700, which is extremely high (5). ORAC stands for “Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity”, it is a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods and supplements (5). Higher scores dictate the foods ability to protect against free radicals. In Addition, many studies have been done with mice that indicate extract of I. Obliquus (chaga mushrooms) has anti-cancer properties and can be used as a natural product for cancer suppression and general health care (2). Interestingly, a study found that chaga could slow the growth of lung, breast and cervical cancer cells in a petri dish as well as slow the growth of tumors in mice (4). Finally, for the many of us who need digestion support, chaga stimulates bile flow and can reduce inflammation in the digestive tract helping our gut function and digest more efficiently.

Honestly, there are millions of processes taking place in our bodies that can result in oxidation that we cannot control. It is our job to do our best in counteracting the oxidative process by consuming plants, fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants as one component of leading a healthy lifestyle. Physical and emotional stress are major players in oxidation as well so take care of yourself first and foremost!

Please note that this is not medical advice and to consult with your health care practitioner if you are breastfeeding or pregnant or have an autoimmune disease as chaga can make the immune system more active. This information is intended for educational purposes only. Information discussed is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease or illness.

  1. Flohe L. Superoxide dismutase for therapeutic use: clinical experience, dead ends and hopes. Mol Cell Biochem. 1988 Dec;84(2):123-31.
  2. Arata, S. Watanabe, J. Maeda, M. Yamamoto, M. Matsuhashi. Mochizuki, M. Kagami, N. Honda, K. Inagakic, M. Continuous intake of the Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) aqueous extract suppresses cancer progression and maintains body temperature in mice. Heliyon. 2016 May; 2 (5): e00111.
  3. Shashkina M.Y., Shashkin P.N., Sergeev A.V. Chemical and medicobiological properties of chaga (review) Pharm. Chem. J. 2006;40:560–568.
  4. Mi Ja Chung, Cha-Kwon Chung, Yoonhwa, Jeong Seung-Shi Ham. Anticancer activity of subfractions containing pure compounds of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract in human cancer cells and in Balbc/c mice bearing Sarcoma-180 cells. The Korean Nutrition Society and the Korean Society of Community Nutrition. 2010 June; 4 (3): 177-182.
  5. Faass, N. MSW, MPH and PPNF Staff. The Healing Powers of Wild Chaga, An Interview with Cass Ingram, MD. Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing. 2012; 35 (4).