What Are Chaga Mushrooms and Are They Healthy?
Chaga mushrooms have been used for centuries in Siberia and other parts of Asia as a medicine to boost immunity and improve overall health.
Though ugly in appearance, the chaga mushroom is gaining popularity in the Western world for its potential health benefits.
What’s more, a cup of tea made from chaga is packed with antioxidants.
However, consumption of this special mushroom may come with some risks.
This article examines the uses, benefits and potential side effects of chaga mushrooms.
Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a type of fungus that grows mainly on the bark of birch trees in cold climates, such as Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada and Alaska.
Chaga is also known by other names, such as black mass, clinker polypore, birch canker polypore, cinder conk and the sterile conk trunk rot (of birch).
Chaga produces a woody growth, or conk, which looks similar to a clump of burnt charcoal — roughly 10–15 inches (25–38 centimeters) in size. However, the inside reveals a soft core with an orange color.
For centuries, chaga has been used as a traditional medicine in Russia and other Northern European countries, mainly to boost immunity and overall health.
It has also been used to treat diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease.
Traditionally, chaga was grated into a fine powder and brewed as an herbal tea.
Nowadays, it’s not only available as a tea but also as a powdered or capsuled supplement. The tea may feature chaga alone or in combination with other mushrooms, such as cordyceps.
Taking chaga with either warm or cold water is believed to release its medicinal properties.
Keep in mind that reliable information on chaga’s nutritional content is extremely limited.
That said, they’re low in calories, very high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants.