Have you ever heard of Chaga? Neither had I until a friend mentioned it and now I can’t get enough!
Chaga is a beneficial fungus that grows on yellow birch (and a few white) trees in northern climates. The more research I did on Chaga, the more we wanted to try some. My neighbor mentioned that she had found some on their property last winter, so, a hunting we did go! We’d done some searching around on foot the last few weekends and had not been successful, but this time we hit the motherload!
Here’s a short video of our hunting excursion!
It doesn’t look very appealing and in fact, doesn’t look much like a mushroom at all. But looks can be deceiving as this wonderful medicine from Mother Nature has more antioxidants than blueberries and is known to boost our immune system. In fact, Chaga has the highest ORAC score (the measure of antioxidant potency) of any superfood! Chaga also has anti-cancer properties. In fact, the anti-cancer benefits have been so amazing with mice that studies are now being done on humans. Interestingly, the benefits of Chaga have been known and studied in Russia and China for centuries.
Chaga is rich in natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phenols, containing the compounds betulin and betulinic acid – which come directly from the host birch trees. Both betulin and betulinic acid have demonstrated anti-tumor effects, which explains why Chaga is known as an anti-cancer agent. Another compound in Chaga, called lanostanoids, also appears to play a significant anti-cancer role. The exact anti-cancer activity of Chaga is not completely understood yet, but according to the studies I read, some compounds in the fungus boost immune activity, some specifically prevent cancer cells from replicating, and others cause premature cancer cell death. Hence, the recommendation is to use the whole conk for your tea or extract, rather than isolating single parts. In this super food, all the parts appear to be active anti-cancer agents.
The compound ergosterol in Chaga, along with related agents, shows anti-inflammatory benefits. This is why Chaga is thought of as a life-extending agent in China, since inflammation is part of every chronic, degenerative disease. Reducing systemic inflammation can mitigate or help prevent a variety of health problems, leading to a healthier life!
Another surprising benefit of Chaga is in regards to psoriasis. In one Russian study, psoriasis patients who took Chaga recovered from their condition. Here in the west, psoriasis is notoriously difficult to treat and responds poorly to current treatments. This effect alone could be of enormous benefit to many, including myself.
My neighbor and her husband, who turned us on to Chaga, now joke that we’ll all live to be healthy centenarians! For now, we’re drinking our daily Chaga tea, we have some extract brewing that will be ready in four months, and we’ll keep you posted on how healthy it makes us!
Best of Health,