A common star of mushroom coffee and mushroom tea, the chaga mushroom is loaded with impressive health benefits. It actually has one of the highest ORAC scores of any food! Why is this a good thing? ORAC stands for “Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity.” The higher the ORAC score the better a food’s ability to protect the body from disease-causing free radicals. It also means that chaga mushrooms are one of the best sources of antioxidants.
So why exactly does anyone want to add chaga mushroom to their diets? People have been known to take chaga mushroom (often shortened to just “chaga”) for heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, parasites, stomach pain, and certain types of cancer.
Let’s talk more about possible chaga mushroom benefits and why there’s so much buzz about disease-fighting mushrooms these days.
Chaga Mushroom Plant Origin and Nutrition Facts
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a type of fungus. It mainly grows on the outside of birch trees in very cold climates. Chaga mushrooms grow wild in places like Siberia, northern Canada, Alaska, and some northern areas of the continental United States. What do chaga mushrooms look like? They tend to be lumpy with an exterior that looks similar to burnt charcoal.
Chaga mushrooms really are most impressive for their antioxidant content. However, their nutrition content isn’t super impressive. But you can see below that chaga mushrooms are low in calories, very high in fiber and free of fat, sugar and carbohydrates.
Five grams of chaga mushroom contains about:
0 grams fat
0 grams carbohydrates
0 grams sugar
5 grams fiber (20 percent DV)
1 gram protein
5 Health Benefits of Chaga Mushroom
1. Prevent and Treat Cancer†
According to the Memorial Sloan Cancer Center, “Laboratory and animal studies show that chaga can inhibit cancer progression. Studies in humans are needed.” (5) In fact, in one study, tumor-bearing mice who supplemented with chaga extract experienced a 60 percent tumor size reduction. Meanwhile, mice with metastatic cancer (tumors spread to other parts of the body) had a 25 percent decrease in their number of nodules compared to the control group. (6)
Another study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology looked at the effects of chaga mushroom on cancerous human liver cells. The research reveals that chaga extract may be able to prevent liver cancer cell growth, making it a potential treatment for cancer in the liver. (7)
2. Stimulate the Immune System
In animal studies, chaga mushrooms have helped to boost the immune system by increasing the production of certain immune cells including interleukin 6 (IL-6) as well as T lymphocytes. These substances help to regulate the immune system and make sure that your body is fighting off any invading bacteria and viruses. Research has shown that chaga extracts can stimulate spleen lymphocytes, which can then have a direct positive effect on immune system function. (8)
3. Potent Anti-Viral
Chaga mushroom appears to have anti-viral abilities when it comes to quite a few viruses. Scientific research published in 2015 found that extracts of chaga had an anti-viral affect on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1. (9) Chaga has also been shown in animal studies to have anti-viral effects when it comes to the hepatitis C virus. Using animal cells, the researchers found that the chaga extract was able to decrease the infective properties of the hepatitis C virus by 100 fold in just 10 minutes. (10) Studies continue, but it looks like chaga is a worthy candidate for use in the development of new anti-viral drugs.
4. Inflammation Reducer
Chaga mushrooms have been shown to reduce inflammation. For example, an animal study has shown that chaga extract can reduce inflammation due to ulcerative colitis in animal subjects. Specifically, the researchers found that the anti-inflammatory effect of the chaga extract in the colon was due to chaga’s ability to suppress the expression of chemical mediators of inflammation. (11) Why is this significant? Because the chemical mediators released during inflammation make inflammation that much more intense and also promote a continuation of the inflammatory response.