Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus) is a mushroom that typically grows on birch trees in colder climates across the Northern Hemisphere. At first glance, the mushroom doesn’t look very appealing; actually, it doesn’t even looks like a mushroom at all! Appearances can be deceiving, however, but this special mushroom packs a punch when it comes to its health value.
What Are the Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms?
The health benefits of Chaga are numerous, many of which can be attributed to its immune-boosting ingredients and antioxidants.  Let’s go through each of the top 6 health benefits:
1. Supports Immune System
Chaga has an abundance of Beta-D-Glucans which help balance the response of the body’s immune system. This means that chaga helps boosts the immune system when necessary, but slows it down when it’s overactive. This makes chaga a natural Biological Response Modifier (BRM). Research has also shown that chaga activates immune cells responsible for combating cancer initiation. Research is still ongoing, as more studies are needed to determine chaga’s full role in cancer. Chaga has proven effective in supporting standard cancer approaches, such as chemotherapy, by compensating for the program’s negative side effects. I’m certainly not saying that chaga will ease cancer progression; however, evidence suggests there may be vital compounds in the mushroom that warrant further investigation into its role.
2. Soothing Properties
Chaga supports the integrity of blood vessels and provides soothing properties in times of irritation. This can be helpful for those suffering from pain, neuropathy, and even diabetes.
3. Ulcers and Gastritis
Due to its immune-boosting properties, chaga has long been used to support gastrointestinal health in Eastern culture. Most ulcers are caused by bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, so a well-functioning immune system can fight off this pathogen. Ulcers may be soothed by the use of chaga, depending on the severity and the patient.
4. Normalize Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
Studies have shown that the betulinic acid found in chaga is able to break down LDL cholesterol–bad cholesterol–in the bloodstream.
5. Antimicrobial Activity
In one study, the chemical characterization and biological activity of extracts of Chaga mushroom were examined and showed high antioxidant and antimicrobial activity.
6. DNA Damage Protection
In one study, cells were pretreated with a chaga mushroom extract, then treated with H202 to induce oxidative stress. The pretreated cells displayed less damage than cells that did not receive the chaga extract.
7. Antiviral Properties of Chaga Mushroom
A limited amount of studies have been done to learn about the antiviral activity of chaga mushroom. In two recent studies, chaga mushroom showed protective support against harsh skin blemishes.
So what are the ingredients behind chaga that provide all these health benefits? Let’s go through the 6 key ingredients that make chaga so healthy.
Chaga contains structural polysaccharides within its chitin walls, which provide energy, cardiovascular health, intestinal and liver health, and promote healthy blood sugar levels. It’s also said to improve one’s mood.
Beta-D-Glucans are known for their ability to modulate the immune system. Beta-D-Glucans also help with normalizing cholesterol levels and blood sugar.
Of the phytosterols present in chaga, 45% is Lanosterol, 25% is Inotodiols and the remaining 30% consists of Ergosterol, Fecosterol, and several others. In vivo and in vitro testing shows a direct effect of both Lanosterol and Inotodiols on cancer cells, with lanosterol imparting a positive effect on viral compounds.
4. Betulin and Betulinic Acid (Triterpenes)
Betulin and betulinic acid are powerful therapeutic agents that are currently being researched for their effects on supporting healthy cholesterol levels. In addition to their favorable benefits for maintaining a healthy cholesterol profile, betulin and betulinic acid are also being studied in relation to cancer and viruses.
Chaga sclerotium contains massive amounts of the natural black pigment known as melanin, which has high antioxidant levels due to the amount of polyphenols it contains. In fact, chaga has the highest ORAC score (the measure of antioxidant potency) of any superfood.
SODs are another important antioxidant present in chaga. SOD refers to a group of enzymes called Super Oxide Dismutase. These enzymes play an important role in protecting our body against the destructive effects of uncontrolled oxidation and free radicals. SOD potency is measured by the S-ORAC score.
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