Health Benefits of Mushrooms: Cha Cha Chaga

When I was growing up, my household never ate mushrooms, they were seen as a slimy and sort of gross vegetable substitute.  It wasn’t until I was eating dinner at a friend’s house and tried mushrooms on pizza that I realized that I really liked them. For a while I just saw mushrooms as flavor enhancing part of cooking, and not much more.  Recently, we have discovered that there are prominent health benefits in the nutrients available through eating mushrooms, so in this blog we are going to talk specifically about chaga mushrooms. As always, I have linked multiple sources throughout the post to encourage further reading if this is something that interests you.  At the end I have also included a delicious recipe, so that you can try and make your own chaga latte, hopefully in time to enjoy with the colder weather.

Chaga Contains Cancer Fighting Properties

It is a bold claim that something natural can aid in the fighting of cancerous tumors.  Cancer is a heartbreaking disease process that far too many people are well acquainted with.  With intense therapies oftentimes people are searching for natural aids, that can supplement their care for cancer.  Chaga mushrooms grow parasitically on birch trees in France, and due to the nature of their life cycle they create many chemicals that possess cytotoxic properties.  Below I have included two sources, one demonstrating tumor reduction size in mice associated with Chaga, and second using Chaga mushrooms to obtain ingredients to fight human lung cancer cells, both of which acknowledge the potential of Chaga as a therapeutic agent for fighting cancer.

Chaga Mushroom is Good for Healthy Gut Bacteria

A prominent emerging category in health science is the gut microbiome.  In short, the itty-bitty bacteria cells that live inside of our guts play a very large role in our health.  From moderating our food cravings to blocking out harmful microorganisms, the bacteria in our gut affects large aspects of our daily life.  Like a little yard, we need to promote healthy living things as much as we need to deter un-ideal growth.  Chaga mushroom contains a prominent chemical called betulinic acid, which is easy for our bodies to use when chaga is made into teas.  An article in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences demonstrated that betulinic acid was effective for creating an ideal environment for a healthy gut biome.

Chaga Contains Anti-Inflammatory Properties

    A common theme when discussing things to add to the diet is inflammation.  Many of the foods we so readily turn to are very pro-inflammatory in the body.  Whether you’re wrestling with joint pain or other more noxious disease processes, our bodies inflammatory response has a drastic impact on daily quality of life.  Chaga mushrooms have been demonstrated to decrease the inflammation in our gut. They can be a great for ameliorating instances of harmful inflammation.  Check out the link below, where researchers induced inflammation in the gut’s of mice. They were able to demonstrate a decrease in their inflammatory markers following digestion of chaga mushrooms.

Chaga Mushrooms can be Tough on Kidneys

    It is important to understand that any treatment or supplement comes with pros and cons.  While doing research for this blog something that I came across was that chaga mushrooms contain high levels of a chemical called oxalate.  Oxalate is not something to be afraid of, but it can be a component of kidney stone formation.  To put it in perspective other foods that are high in oxalate are nuts, rhubarb, spinach, and soda.  In my opinion, the anti-inflammatory effects and benefits for gut health are more important than oxalate content in someone without kidney disease.   Personally, chaga mushroom is something I am excited to add to my diet, but being cognizant of my kidney health. Drinking adequate amounts of water and eliminating other damaging foods for the kidneys can help.  Whenever in doubt, make sure to talk to your clinician about adding something to supplement your diet.


Chaga Latte:

Here is a recipe for a chaga latte that I cannot wait to try. The mushroom extracts add a full bodied flavor and brings all of the health benefits shown above .  Almost all of the researchers cited above used a form of tea to extract the betulinic acid. A hot drink is the perfect way to get all the health benefits of chaga mushrooms.

1 tsp Chaga Extract / Mushroom Blend

1 tsp Maple Syrup/ honey  (your choice of sweetener)

1 tsp cacao powder

1 pinch of cinnamon 

1 pinch of salt

Coconut milk / Almond Milk based on preference

1 shot espresso