Health and wellness awareness has never been greater, and the supplement market is booming. Nootropics, a class of traditional medicinal mushrooms used for thousands of years, are rising in popularity.
One such nootropic mushroom is the humble Chaga mushroom. But what is Chaga, and how do you use them? In this blog post, we’ll discuss all things Chaga and help you decide whether to include it in your wellness regimen!
What are Chaga Mushrooms?
Chaga mushrooms, also known as Inonotus obliquus, is a parasitic fungus that grows on the bark of hardwood trees like birch trees. They are usually found in cold climates in the northern hemisphere, such as Canada, Siberia, Russia, Alaska, and Northern Europe.
The mushroom resembles an odd-shaped growth with a dark exterior called the sclerotia, which can look like burnt charcoal. The exterior is irregular and bumpy and doesn’t have the typical mushroom shape with a cap and stem.
The interior is a brownish-orange color with a woody or cork-like texture. The size varies but ranges from a few inches to a foot or more in diameter. The interior is what is used in mushroom supplements.
These mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional medicine, and in recent times, it is rapidly gaining popularity as a supplement.
How Does Chaga Grow?
Chaga starts as airborne fungal spores or mycelium that land on a suitable hardwood tree like birch. The spores enter through a vulnerable area of the tree, like an injury or wound in the bark.
Once inside the tree, Chaga has a symbiotic relationship with the host, exchanging nutrients and chemicals. The tree may benefit from the protection that the Chaga provides from pathogens, and the Chaga gets nutrients and energy.
Chaga will develop into black “conks” with a bumpy and irregular exterior. The mushroom can take up to 20 years to fully develop; in the meantime, it continuously feeds on the wood. It causes the tree to develop what is known as “heart rot,” and it will weaken and eventually die.
Once the tree is dead, the Chaga will fruit underneath the bark and start to reproduce by spreading spores to other hosts.
Chaga Characteristics and Preparation
Chaga tastes mild and can be compared to herbal tea. You can boil the mushrooms to extract the nutrients or grind them into fine Chaga mushroom powder and add it to your food or beverages.
Although the most common method is hot water to extract the beneficial compounds, ethanol or methanol extraction and fermentation are also used. Chaga powder also can be turned into supplements in the form of capsules.
The wellness benefits of Chaga are plentiful, and it is chock-full of beneficial plant compounds such as melanins, polysaccharides, polyphenols, and triterpenes. Some of these compounds are powerful antioxidants that may prevent oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a condition when your health is out of balance due to the high presence of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that we get from external environmental factors such as smoke, pollution, and chemicals. To balance the free radicals, we need antioxidants.
Prolonged periods of oxidative stress can result in serious illnesses such as the growth of cancer cells, heart disease, and Parkinson’s. While the antioxidants in Chaga mushrooms cannot prevent or cure these diseases, they can play a role in limiting some of the conditions that may lead to certain diseases.
Chaga as a Supplement
If you are considering adding Chaga to your wellness regimen, here’s what you need to know! Before starting your Chaga routine, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.
The exact dosage will depend on your weight, age, metabolism, and overall health. It also depends on the potency of the Chaga supplement, but an average adult should take about 1,000 mg to 2,500 mg a day.
Chaga is a nutrient powerhouse with many known health benefits. It is generally safe, but you’ll have to take a few precautions.
Some people might have a mushroom allergy and be sensitive to Chaga, so if you do, it would be best to avoid all mushrooms.
Also, buy only from reputable sources with strict quality standards. This will ensure that the products are free of potential contaminants such as pesticides, mold, or heavy metals. Always look for products that have undergone third-party laboratory testing to ensure purity and potency.
Lastly, if you have existing health conditions and are on medications, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting Chaga. The mushroom can mess with the effectiveness and interact with your current medications.
Although rare, there can be some side effects of Chaga.
Allergies – As mentioned before, some folks might be allergic to mushrooms and have reactions like skin rashes, hives, or tummy troubles.
Digestive Problems – Some people can experience negative digestive changes like diarrhea, cramps, or loose stools. If you do, stop taking Chaga or reduce the dose and gradually increase it when your body adapts.
Blood Thinning – Chaga can have mild blood-thinning properties and affect those already on blood-thinning medications. If you take anything to prevent clotting, check with your healthcare professional before taking Chaga.
Chaga: Final Thoughts
Chaga has been used for centuries in traditional medicine but has only recently exploded in popularity in the supplement industry. Although more clinical trials on humans are needed before any health benefits can be claimed, early research shows that Chaga has many compounds that can benefit overall health and reduce the possibility of illness.
Are you interested in trying Chaga and other nootropics out? Check out our Blessed Wellness Nootropic Mushroom products containing Chaga and other antioxidant powerhouse mushrooms!