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Chaga -A Rediscovered Superfood

Updated on November 10, 2016

Chaga Health Benefit Claims

Lately there has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)). In fact, many are calling this rediscovered medicinal mushroom a superfood. Although it has recently gained a lot of attention, it has been used as a folk remedy in Russia and North European countries since the 16th century. There is even documented evidence showing that Chaga was used as early as 4600 years ago is Asian countries such as China.

According to some experts, Chaga has numerous health benefits like boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, protecting against viruses, reducing cardiovascular disease and improving liver health. Chaga has also been claimed to prevent cancer. Even though there have not been sufficient scientific studies on Chaga, many still feel that this medicinal mushroom is a valuable superfood.

Have you ever tried Chaga?

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A study from the World Journal of Gastroenterology (2008) indicates that Chaga may help combat cancer. The research team studied cells taken from human liver tumors and found that Chaga extract inhibited cancer cell growth. The World Journal of Gastroenterology research suggests that Chaga may be helpful in the treatment of liver cancer. Moreover, their studies indicated that Chaga has numerous biological activities such as anti-bacterial, hepato-protective (prevent damage to the liver) and anti-tumor effects.



According to a study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2008), Chaga may help treat diabetes.Studies showed that mice given Chaga had lower blood sugar levels and also reduced cholesterol.

On the other hand, some experts advice that diabetics or people with blood sugar problems should consult their healthcare specialist before consuming Chaga.


Inflammatory Bowel Disease

According to a study published in Biofactors (2007) Chaga may help treat Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The research involved 40 volunteers. Half of the volenteers were healthy and the other half had inflammatory bowel disease. Chaga supplementation resulted in a 54.9% reduction of H_{2}O_{2 } induced DNA damage within the patient group and 34.9% within the control group. The researchers concluded that Chaga extract may be a valuable supplement to inhibit oxidative stress in general. For example: When there is oxidative stress in the body the free radicals and reduced antioxidant levels may cause inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Another Biofactors publication (2004) researched the Chaga claims of anti-bacterial, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. The study concluded that Chaga mushroom treatment affords cellular protection against endogenous DNA damage produced by H2O2. Endogenous is something that grows or originates within a tissue or organism.

Foraging for Chaga Mushroom

A Word of Caution

According to the Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), Chaga’s effectiveness and safety for disease or cancer prevention has not been determined. The MSKCC states that no clinical trials have been conducted to prove its medicinal validity. Moreover, consumers should be cautious when taking Chaga because it may interact with anticoagulant and anti-diabetic drugs.

In addition, there has been some concern about consuming Chaga along with blood thinning or diabetes medications. Many experts say that there can be adverse side effects when combining the two.


Consuming Chaga for Health

If you are thinking about using Chaga for any chronic conditions or other health concerns, make sure to consult your healthcare provider first. Self-remedies for chronic conditions with Chaga or any other self-treatment may have serious health results.

Always consult a health professional before starting any supplement or diet program including self treatment.


Harvesting Chaga

Chaga mushroom, scientifically known as inonotus obliquus, (a Latin Russian term of 'чага'), is a fungus in the Hymenochaetaceae family. It is a conk normally found on trees that are at least 40 years old. The most common tree that it grows on is the birch tree. However, it sometimes grows on alder, beech and elm trees.

Chaga grows predominantly in the birch forests of Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, Northern United States, in the North Carolina Mountains and in Canada.

Generally it takes at least 3 to 5 years before the fungus reaches maturity and can be harvested. Therefore, Chaga can be somewhat expensive. After the first harvest, Chaga grows back. Sad to say, once a tree has the fungus it does not go away and the tree will eventually die. However, in in 3 to 10 years, Chaga can be harvested once again.

The name Chaga (pronounced "tsjaa-ga") comes from the Russian word mushroom (czaga) which is derived from the Komi-Permyak word fungus (indigenous peoples in the Kama River Basin). The sterile conk has an irregular shape that looks like burnt charcoal. The black color is due to the substantial amounts of melanin* (see notation).

The medicinal powder is predominantly found in the outer black bark. Many Chaga harvesters say that the most potent part of the fungus is where the white veins runs through it. On the other hand, the fungus itself is not digestible for humans. Chaga needs to be either extracted with alcohol or hot water to make a tincture or dried and then ground into a powder. Dry Chaga is very light and similar to cork.

* Notation: The production of melanin is called melanogenesis. When referring to the skin, melanogenesis occurs after exposure to UV radiation, thus causing the skin to tan. Melanin is an applicable absorber of light. In fact, the pigment is able to disperse over 99.9% of absorbed UV radiation.


Chaga Nutritional Breakdown

The Chinese call Chaga “King of Plants” while the Japanese call it the “Diamond of the Forest”. In Siberia, this famous mushroom is called a “Gift from God” and the “Mushroom of Immortality”.

Chaga will have different nutritional properties, depending on where it was harvested. For example, apples grown in Washington will have different properties than apples grown in Sweden. Chaga with the highest therapeutic strength is harvested in Siberia and the Changbai mountains in China. Research suggests that this may be due to extreme environmental conditions.

As well, cultivated Chaga is said to have a different composition and therapeutic properties. On the other hand, wild Chaga is believed to have at least 50% more medicinal value.

For consumers, it is important to note that some Chaga producers that sell cultivated Chaga (not wild Chaga) claim their product has the same medicinal properties as the wild harvested fungus.

Chaga is said to have over 215 phyto-nutrients, is high in zinc and rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins A, C and E. According to the article Chaga – The Facts posted on ORIVeDA, raw Chaga is high in carbohydrates, ash, proteins, lipids, ergosterols and other compositions.


Chaga Uses

Traditionally, Chaga is grated into a fine powder and used to brew a beverage similar to tea or coffee. Many feel that Chaga tastes kind of like coffee with a hint of raisin or current.

For medicinal use, the mushroom goes through an extraction process and is created into a tincture or extract. Generally you can find Chaga sold as a tincture with or without alcohol processing. Yet many believe that in order to get the most out of a Chaga tincture, it should be extracted with both alcohol and hot water.Alcohol is used to extract the elements that are not water soluble.

Chaga Recipe

Chaga has a nice earthy flavor and a touch of vanilla sweetness. It goes well with chai spices like cardamom, anise, ginger, clove, cinnamon and fennel. Chaga tea is a soothing warm drink in the winter and a calming drink in the summer.

If you decide to order Chaga and are not sure how to prepare it, here is a fabulous yet simple recipe to try: Chaga Tea Latte | Vegan Superfood


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    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      Hi poetryman

      No it sure doesn't, does it? But some like it immediately, others need to acquire a taste for it. At least it is palatable. Many medicinals are not tasty at all. Let me know if you try it! It's definitely worth trying.

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      4 years ago

      It doesn't look that appetizing in it's native state but I hope it can the things that are claimed for it.

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      You are most welcome Suzanne. I do hope that the article is helpful Chaga is an amazing medicinal mushroom that is fu=ianlly making a comeback.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      4 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      This is the first I've heard of Chaga - thanks for the eye opener!

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      Hi mvaivata

      Sorry for the delay in responding. It has been a very long time since I checked my HubPages. Yes, Chaga was recently new to me as well. But the health benefits are well worth mentioning.

    • mvaivata profile image


      4 years ago

      This is actually the first time I've heard of this. I love the way you have broken down all of the information. Thank you for this Hub!

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi VioletteRose

      It is very interesting and tastes great. Let me know if you try it!

    • VioletteRose profile image


      5 years ago from Chicago

      This sounds really interesting, I have never heard of it before. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi Billy! :-) Chaga can be hard to find. Many Health Food stores don't even carry it. Let me know if you are successful and if you like it! Cheers

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Have I tried it? I've never even heard of it. Now I'll have to go on a search this weekend and see if any local store carries it. Thanks for the information.

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi rajan jolly Did you move to India, or are you just visiting? Let me know if you try any Chaga.. Thanks for your kind words

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Had no idea about Chaga at all. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi AVailuu

      I recently discovered Chaga myself. It is a fabulous superfood that is actually tasty. Thanks for the fabulous feedback! :-)

    • AVailuu profile image

      A. Cristen Vailuu 

      5 years ago from Augusta, Ga

      This is the first time I've ever heard of Chaga! I've been a fan of kombucha for a few years but it's nowhere near as pleasant tasting as a coffee vanilla blend lol. I'll have to check it out.

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi Christy

      Thank you for the great feedback. Chaga is amazing, it sort of tastes like coffee with a hint of vanilla. Most shrooms/konks are not to tasty. Let me know how you like it. :-)

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi Joe

      Kombucha Spritzers sound wonderful. I bet Chaga would make a great Spritzer. Thanks for the wonderful feedback

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I have never tried Chaga so this is really new to me. Wow, it has many great benefits when consumed. Thank-you!

    • Joe Cinocca profile image

      Joe Cinocca 

      5 years ago from Pasadena

      We make "Kombucha Spritzers" (Kombucha + Cider), which are delicious and I've had Shitaki and a few other types of mushrooms, but had never even heard of Chaga. Very curious now. Thanks for the 411. Very helpful.

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi LisaRoppolo

      Yes, Kombucha is great.

      Chaga is a shroom that is hard to find. Hopefully it will be at the health food store. If not, I did put Amazon/eBay links in the post. TY for stopping by.

    • LisaRoppolo profile image

      Lisa Roppolo 

      5 years ago from Joliet, IL

      I will have to look for this at the health food store. I already enjoy Kombucha which is excellent for gut health. Mushrooms are awesome!

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi teaches12345

      Yes, Chaga has recently become a new 'superfood'. Finding it at the market might be a bit difficult, but I suppose it depends on where you live. I know I cannot find it where I live and have to order online. But I live in a somewhat remote area.

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi midget38

      Yes, I am also very much a mushroom fan. Thanks for the share. It is well appreciated. :-)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      I'm quite a mushroom fan, so I love this! Will check these out and share this hub too.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      I have to say the photo of the "smoothie" looks really good. I have never heard of Chaga before but would love to try it for the health benefit. Thanks for the information and I am going to look for it at the market next time I go.

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi rebelogilbert

      Thanks for the great feedback. Yes, I find Chaga history quite fascinating.

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      5 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Thanks for informing me about a new health food product. The background story about the Chaga mushroom is interesting.

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago


      Thanks for the feedback and votes

    • mecheshier profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi DDE

      Yes, it has been used for centuries in many countries

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 

      5 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Nice and informative hub. Voted up.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Chaga A Rediscovered Superfood sounds awesome and is a unique food with great benefits.


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