These mushrooms are not the typical ‘magic mushroom’, however, they are super fun-guys! No seriously they are great for your body as they contain many beneficial properties. Mushrooms have been used by our ancestors for years upon years for medicinal purposes. They claimed they are one of the world’s greatest foods. Finally, science caught up and eventually proved what our ancestors already knew. Chaga mushroom (scientific name: Inonotus obliquus) is a fungus. It’s ideal environment to grow is in very cold climates and on birch trees. Such places include Northern Canada, North Europe and Alaska. As you can see from the image above, the chaga mushroom does not even look like a mushroom at all, in fact it just looks like a pile of dirt clinging to a tree. But after all its what’s on the inside that counts!
Chaga mushrooms can be used in hot drinks, even hot chocolate. You are probably thinking mushroom hot chocolate yuck! Not gonna lie, I thought the same…however people like Canadian youtuber Oliva Marie from the youtube channel keepupwithliv all love these hot beverages. So, I suppose it can’t be too bad, however I have yet to try them, and I will do when I get the chance to. but I am a firm believer of the nutritional benefits of mushrooms so put the kettle on and we’ll make a toast to that!
SO what are the beneficial effects of these enchanting mushrooms!? Well take a seat and let me enlighten you….
- They have a great nutrient profile – Their nutrient content ranges from vitamins (B & D), minerals (selenium, potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, copper and magnesium), rubidium, fibre, amino acids, protein and caesium.
- Antioxidant – chaga mushrooms contain a brilliant source of antioxidants. Due to these compounds, these mushrooms fight oxidative stress in the body which causes ageing effects, inflammation and contributes to the risk of developing diseases such as; cancer and heart disease.
- Lower cholesterol – again the antioxidant properties within chaga can lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol. High levels of this cholesterol are associated with heart disease, resulting in heart attacks or stroke usually. These antioxidants are long sugar molecules which are called polysaccharides. These aid in providing a hypolipidemic effect, thus lowering cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels may result in heart disease if not controlled.
- Prevent & fight cancer – The inhibition of cancer progression so far has only been seen in a lab environment or with animals but due to these promising results it is thought that it may exhibit similar results in humans (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 2017). As we know the antioxidants fight free radicals in the body, but what you may not know is that free radicals can cause cancer, so it is vital we eliminate this oxidative stress. In laboratory conditions, it was found that the antioxidants from chaga mushrooms reduced the growth rate in lung, cervical and breast cancer cells1. These are promising results, but again no human tests or studies have been conducted so tests need to be carried out and human trials.
5. Support the immune system – Interleukin 6 and T-lymphocytes are two immune cells which can be boosted by chaga. Compounds in the mushroom keep the immunity on track so they don’t overact and attack the good body tissues or organs.
6. Inflammation – Is when the heathy tissue is attacked by the body’s immune system as it thinks it is bad even though it is good. Chaga mushrooms have compounds (inotodial, betulnic acid and ergosterol peroxide) which balance out the body’s environment and allow it to become less inflamed. Notably, it is done by stopping the cytokines (aids in behaviour of cells around them) being produced.
7. Carries one of the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbent capacity) score of most foods. In simpler terms, this means that chaga mushrooms have a great ability of protecting the body from disease which causes free radicals to invade the body and damage the healthy cells.
Now that you know all of the benefits there won’t be mush-room (sorry bad pun!) left for your brain to cope with how to use them. These all need to be bought from reliable sources.
- Supplementation form – please go and see a doctor or a qualified health professional for this advice as they may interact badly with some medications.
- Coffee mix
- Hot chocolate mix
- Chung MJ et al., (2010) 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. Nutrition Research and Practice Vol 4, Issue 3, pp 177-182. Korea.