Chaga is known as “the king of medicinal mushrooms” for good reason. Among other benefits, it’s an absolute powerhouse when it comes to supporting a healthy immune system. How does this fungus play a role in immunity? That’s what we’ll be exploring today. Here’s everything you need to know about using Chaga for the immune system.
First of all, what is Chaga?
Although it’s typically referred to as a mushroom, Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is actually a sclerotia—a hardened mass of fungal mycelium. Chaga primarily grows on birch trees in cold climates, like those in Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia, and some parts of the United States. Appearance-wise, Chaga isn’t going to win any beauty contests. You can recognize its charred, charcoal-looking mass (called a conk) growing on a tree’s trunk.
How does Chaga support the immune system?
Despite the unsightly exterior, Chaga’s potent effects on the immune system more than makes up for its lack of aesthetic beauty. Chaga mushroom is packed with healthful compounds and minerals, like B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, potassium, zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Chaga has one of the highest ORAC scores (a measure of antioxidant potency) of any food—three times higher than açai berries! The higher the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score, the better a food’s ability to support the body against the harmful effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. With such high levels of antioxidants and nutrients, it’s no wonder that one of Chaga’s best-known health benefits is its ability to support immune health. This is because Chaga contains beta-D-glucans—naturally occurring polysaccharides that have been shown to have strong immune-boosting qualities.
Even more impressive is that Chaga has been shown to modulate the immune system. This means that when the immune system is over-reacting, it calms it down, and when it’s underperforming, it boosts its activity. Due to this, Chaga is often used to help reduce allergy symptoms and support those with autoimmune disorders, both symptoms of a hyperactive immune system.
Other early research on mice shows that Chaga extract may also regulate the production of beneficial cytokines, which can stimulate blood cells and strengthen the immune system’s means of communication. This can help support your immune system in fighting everything from minor colds to more serious illnesses.
Find a trusted source for your Chaga
Purchasing Chaga mushroom from a trusted supplier is the best way to ensure its effectiveness and safety. Not all Chaga products are created equal so be sure you’re getting yours from a company whose Chaga is organically grown, sustainably harvested, carefully extracted, and tested for quality and contaminants, such as heavy metals, pesticides, microbial contamination, and gluten. If a Chaga supplement lists any ingredients like “mycelium on grain” or other funky fillers, it's best to avoid it. To reap the full potential of this fungal powerhouse, seek a Chaga extract that uses wild-harvested Chaga. As with any supplement, get permission from your doctor before consuming Chaga.
The bottom line
A well-functioning immune system is the foundation of your health, so it’s very important that you do what you can to support it. One highly effective way to support a strong immune system is to regularly consume Chaga. Packed with so many beneficial nutrients and compounds, this powerful fungus is definitely something you want to have in your cupboard.
All referenced sources are linked in the blog.