So first let me start off with an apology. I’m what I like to call an “Optimistic Pessimist.” So while I try lots of new health trends and diets, I always want to dig into the science behind them so I know I’m not just buying into snake oil.
Disclaimer: This post will get into some science but I promise to make it as bearable as possible!
SO WHAT IS THIS SUPERFOOD?
Well, it’s not so much of a food as it is a funghi. But before you say “yuck” and close the page, hear me out!
This mushroom has the most antioxidants than anything else on the planet! And not just by a little…
In fact, it’s 40X more powerful than goji berries, 70X more powerful than cacao, and 410x more powerful than blueberries.
And while it might not be the most pleasant thing to look at in the wild, when prepared properly, it’s quite delicious!
WHY HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF THIS “MAGIC MUSHROOM”?
The first recorded use of this mushroom was about 5,000 years ago so it’s not anything new. While it’s almost completely unknown to the western world, many other civilizations have been harvesting it for its health benefits for centuries.
- It’s the most coveted herb in Chinese medicine…
- It’s the most prized natural medicine in historic Russian folk herbalism…
- It has very high regard in Scandinavia historically…
- And it’s even mentioned in some Native American contexts.
The reason you’ve probably never heard of it? Simple: location, location, location.
This mushroom grows best in extremely harsh winter climates. And to make it even more difficult to find, it only grows on particular types of birch trees.
The first documented uses of this mushroom were from ancient tribes living in extremely harsh Siberian terrains. As far as I could find in my research, they were the first to grind up this “black conk” growing on birch trees.
Why you ask…? I have no idea!
I guess there is nothing better to do when you are living in sub-arctic environments then grinding up and drinking strange things growing on trees.
But regardless of why, what they found is one of nature’s best kept secrets. They deemed it the “Diamond of the Forest” and the “King of Natural Medicine.”
Later it was named, “The Mushroom of Immortality” by the Shamans and traditional medicine men who would use it as a local remedy for their tribes for anything from upset stomachs to aches and pains.
The common name for it now however is Chaga, and it’s just now starting to get the credit it deserves in the western parts of the world.
WHAT DOES CHAGA HELP WITH?
When I first heard about Chaga, it was from a friend of mine that had been taking it for about a year and quite honestly, wouldn’t shut up about it. She used to be overweight and had a lot of medical issues that went along with being such.
She claimed that since she started taking Chaga, she had a number of things change for the better in her life including:
- Reduced Blood Pressure
- Less Stress
- Boosted Immunity
- Better Skin
Now again, I’m an “Optimistic Pessimist,” so hearing how something helped one person doesn’t make a believer out of me. I had to do my own homework…
The first thing I do when I research any new trend I hear about it go straight to Google Scholar. If you haven’t heard of Google Scholar, I highly recommend it! It’s basically Google Search but only for peer-reviewed websites.
To my shock, there were 1,370 positive studies proving a wide range of benefits of the chaga mushroom.
I obviously had a lot of homework to do. Here is the most accurate list I could find from the studies I researched:
- Nutrient dense superfood — chaga mushrooms contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. …
- Slowing the aging process…
- Lowering cholesterol…
- Preventing and fighting cancer…
- Lowering blood pressure…
- Supporting the immune system…
- Fighting inflammation…
- Lowering blood sugar…
- Preventing Drug Side effects from Chemotherapy and Radiation…
WHY CAN CHAGA HELP WITH SO MANY DIFFERENT AILMENTS?
Ok, this is the part where I get a little “science-y,” but I promise I’ll try to keep it short and sweet!
In order to understand why chaga works, we first have to look at the mushroom kingdom as a whole. Dr. Karl Maret, Scientist and Energy Medicine Specialist, says mushrooms are a “living pharmacy that’s here to help heal humanity.” Here’s a few fun facts about mushrooms!
- 40% of pharmaceuticals today use fungi as an important healing ingredient…
- 10 out of the top 20 medicines use fungi in some form…
- 92% of nature and forests rely on mushroom’s mycelium (their “roots”) to be healthy…
- Mushrooms can “eat” plastic and oil and turn it into organic matter that can be used by nature…
- And as humans we share 30- 50% of our DNA with fungi. Because of this, we can get better health benefits from mushrooms than most other foods.
But according to the articles I read, Chaga is like no other mushroom for a few a variety of reasons. The first is what I mentioned earlier:
Chaga has more antioxidants than anything else in mother nature.
But upon further research I discovered that all antioxidants are not created equal. Did you know that humans are the longest living mammals on earth? The longest living reptile is the tortoise.
Kind of a strange segway, I know, but there is one thing that you and a tortoise have in common that help you live so long. It’s called Superoxide Dismutase, or SOD for short.
SOD is arguably the most crucial antioxidant ever discovered and it’s the reason we and our half-shelled friends live so long.
It does an extremely effective job protecting our bodies from free radicals. In fact, it’s so effective, it can leave your cells, DNA, skin, and immune system virtually “untouched.”
Conventional medicine actually creates SOD pills and markets them as “life extenders” for this very reason.
Chaga however, contains 10x more SOD than the best pills on the market… plus, it has 20x more SOD than the next best medicinal mushroom.
SOD is great for boosting your immune system, detoxing your body from free radicals, and allowing you to enjoy a longer, healthier life.
Chaga is an extremely high source of natural Melanin.
So what is Melanin you ask? Melanin is is what gives your hair, eyes, and skin color.
In fact, when it’s abundant in the body, it can actually REBUILD collagen, thus reversing the “wear and tear” effect on your skin – keeping it elastic and healthy.
Because of the extremely high amounts of natural Melanin, Chaga is a powerful anti-aging supplement that promotes better cell regeneration and vitality for your skin, hair, and nails.
University Health News reported Chaga was the #1 food for anti-aging and improving skin health… and its high source of natural Melanin is the reason why.
Chaga contains a large amount of Betulin and Betulinic Acid.
Pathogens do terrible damage to your body. They can cause food poisoning, whooping cough, and even the sexually transmitted disease, gonorrhoea.
It’s our immune system’s job to keep them out, and one of the most effective antioxidants to do this is called Betulin and Betulinic Acid.
These are the most antiviral compounds ever discovered, and Chaga contains a lot of it.
A study in 2012 revealed Betulin to have strong anti-inflammatory effects.
It mainly supports the immune system, nourishes healthy cells, and even breaks down “bad” cholesterol in your bloodstream.
This makes Chaga a great internal “force field” in a cup.
HOW DO I CONSUME CHAGA?
So from not knowing anything about Chaga, to basically becoming a Chaga expert in the month I was researching it, I was shocked at how many different types of Chaga are on the market.
But upon a little more research I discovered that all forms are not created equal.
The concept behind getting the most from your Chaga is making sure you extract the chromogenic complex from the fungi to absorb into your body. That is basically the technical speak for “all the good stuff”.
Raw Chaga is consumed by taking full mushrooms, putting them in hot water and then drinking it. Raw chaga must be steeped in hot water for 8-12 hours to release all of it’s therapeutic qualities. Because this is a form of water extraction, the liquid tea will contain around 15-18% chromogenic complex unless you sit around for 12 hours watching it sit in hot water before you drink it.
Ground raw Chaga is commonly sold in tea bags or in capsule form. Technically you can extract the same 15-18% chromogenic complex concentration if you steep the tea for 8-12 hours. Raw Chaga is indigestible by humans unless subjected to an extraction method. Capsule supplements containing chaga powder basically have zero noteworthy therapeutic effects.
Many more nutrients can be drawn from the chaga mushroom through a dual-water extraction process which creates a fine, highly concentrated “instant coffee” type powder. There are varying degrees of extracts. A good quality Chaga extract should contain a minimum of 40% chromogenic complex.
Moral of the Story… If you don’t buy Chaga that has been through a dual water extraction process you are basically wasting your money.
WHERE CAN I GET CHAGA?
I was surprised at how many results came up when I typed “Chaga” into both Google and Amazon. But as I mentioned above, all Chaga products are not created equal. Here are my favorites thus far:
This one is my personal favorite for a few reasons.
The first, is that the owner of the company, Krysta (aka “Lady Chaga”), was the first to get back to me when I wanted to learn more about Chaga (she got brownie points for that!).
The second is that after speaking with her, I found out she has dedicated the past several years telling the world about Chaga and what it has done for her in her own life. It’s truly a purpose-driven company and I always appreciate a little passion behind a brand.
The Wild Remedies Chaga itself contains 57% chromogenic complex which is the most I could find on the market — so you are getting the most bang for the buck.
It’s roughly $1.50 per daily serving and is sold in a delicious cinnamon tea. According to her site she uses the powder in various recipes outside of tea, but so far, I can only speak to it in tea form. And It was delicious.
Another great choice for chaga mushroom tea is Four Sigmatic. Four Sigmatic focuses on more than just Chaga and has branched out to other mushrooms as well. Like Wild Remedies, they have a pretty great story. They were a group of friends who left their day jobs to pursue their love of mushrooms.
Their tea is also sold in extract form and contains roughly the same chromogenic complex as Wild Remedies chaga tea, and is flavored with mint and rose. They are roughly $2.00 per serving.
The only reason they come it at #2 is because I just preferred the taste of the Wild Remedies tea better. Four Sigmatic isn’t bad by any means, but I think tastes a bit medicinal.
This is also a great product. They say that you only need 1/6 tsp as a serving, which would make this a great deal because you’d get 50 servings for $45, but I found the potency to be similar to the other two brands. You need about a gram of extract for a proper serving. So you’re really only getting around 25 servings.
Four SigmaticInstant Chaga Superfood Mushroom Drink Mix
Mint or Rose Flavor
Wild RemediesPremium Chaga tea
Can be used as tea or in food recipes
Highest chromogenic complex (57%)
Nordic NordicInstant Chaga
Best if mixed with other food + drinks