We checked in with registered dietitian nutritionist, Kim Rose, to see what she had to say about the not-so-well-known superfood properties of chaga mushrooms.
What do shiitake, white button, oyster and chaga all have in common? If you're thinking these are all different varieties of mushrooms—pop the confetti—you are one hundred percent correct! While different mushrooms have different nutrients, the fungi that we are going to focus on may be one of the lesser known varieties: chaga mushroom.
What is It?
Chaga is a unique mushroom, better known as a fungus, that is known to grow on birch trees. It appears hard, black, and cracked on the outside, and is actually quite brittle and brown on the inside. Historically, it's been used in folk medicine for tumors, digestive disorders, and a whole host of other health related issues (1). But what does science today say about chaga?
What is it good for?
Protecting Against Cancer:
During 2011 animal research, it was discovered that chaga may protect the body against cancer (1). Cancer is a type of disease that is characterized by unregulated tissue growth. The study showed that the fungus demonstrated “decreased tumor cell proliferation” and anti-cancer activity (1,2). I don't know about you, but this looks very promising. Bear in mind that much more human research needs to be done before the anticancer effect can be applied to humans, but overall I am impressed.
Chronic inflammation is a huge problem. In a recent study, it was reported that chaga helped to reduce the development of inflammation in animals in vivo (3). Though inflammation is a normal part of the body's defense system, chronic inflammation is not. For this reason, decreasing inflammation is important. Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and asthma, to name a few. Decreasing inflammation is important because it may help to negate these issues. Though more human research needs to be conducted, chaga still seems to be a win.
Better Blood Sugar Control:
Diabetes is a condition that impacts the manner in which your body uses carbohydrates—a type of sugar—for energy. A 2018 study showed that chaga may have a hypoglycemic effect. In other words, it may lower blood sugar levels. Again, because this research has been done in animals, more human research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Chaga may be a golden ticket to awesome health. Even though more human research is needed, it's historical use in folk medicine could be a clue for us in modern day. At the very least, chaga can be a tasty addition for your palate—who couldn't appreciate that?
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