4 Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms – Cleveland Clinic

Sure, you’ve heard of portobello and shiitake mushrooms. But have you heard of chaga mushrooms?

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Typically found in Siberia, mushrooms have been used throughout history to boost immunity thanks to their high antioxidant content.

So where can you find chaga mushrooms, how do you use them, and what kinds of benefits will you get from them?

Dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, fills us in.

What are chaga mushrooms?

Chaga mushrooms, which tend to grow on birch trees in cold climates, have a rocky appearance. They don’t taste like traditional mushrooms. Instead, they taste bitter, but vanilla. They are also high in fiber and low in calories.

“It’s not like a traditional mushroom that you would see in grocery stores,” says Czerwony. So, you may need to head to a specialty store or health food store or order it online.

You’ll find most versions of chaga mushroom in tea, where it was ground into a powder, but it’s become a popular ingredient in skincare products and is also available in supplement form.

Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms

More research is needed to fully understand the impact of chaga mushrooms, but here’s what we know so far.

Reduces inflammation

Rich in antioxidants, chaga mushrooms help fight inflammation.

“By having these antioxidants, chaga mushrooms decrease inflammation in our gut, which can cause issues like irritable bowel syndrome,” Czerwony explains.

A study shows that chaga mushrooms can not only help reduce inflammation, but can also fight off harmful bacteria.

Fight cancer

Numerous studies show the potential of chaga mushrooms to slow the growth of cancer cells.

“One study found that using the chaga supplement resulted in a 60 percent reduction in tumor size,” Czerwony says.

Other research shows that it helped prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the liver.

“This is really exciting news for those who have liver cancer as a viable treatment, perhaps in the future,” she says.

Similar results have been seen in lung, breast, prostate and colon cancers, but more research is needed.

Lowers blood sugar

For people with insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome, or type 2 diabetes, using chaga mushrooms can help lower blood sugar and improve insulin resistance.

Several studies show the potential – up to a 31% decrease in blood sugar levels – but more research, especially in humans, is also needed.

“The use of chaga mushrooms might be beneficial for these people to help lower their blood sugar levels,” says Czerwony.

Lowers cholesterol

With their high amounts of antioxidants, chaga mushrooms may also help lower cholesterol, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.

A study shows that chaga mushrooms reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and overall cholesterol. It also increased antioxidant levels. There is also some evidence that chaga mushrooms may raise “good” HDL cholesterol.

“Chaga mushrooms could protect your cholesterol levels and possibly help improve your arterial walls,” says Czerwony.

Chaga Mushroom Side Effects

As with all supplements or vitamins, Czerwony advises speaking with your doctor before adding anything new.

If you have type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor first to make sure you’re keeping your blood sugar where it needs to be.

Also, if you are on blood thinners or have any upcoming surgery or procedure, talk to your doctor first, as chaga mushrooms contain a protein that prevents blood from clotting.

And since supplements aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Czerwony also suggests doing your homework before buying chaga mushrooms.

“You could get a mixed bag of potency with each dose,” she says. “You can use a tea once and have no side effects. But the very next time you might have something more potent because of how it was grown or processed. And then you might have some of the side effects.

But if you’ve done your research, talked to your doctor, and want to try chaga mushrooms, go for it.

“You have to be educated and watch out for certain things because it can do more harm than good,” says Czerwony.

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