For centuries, people in Eastern Europe have been drinking Chaga tea for its extraordinary health benefits. Today, we’re going to cover why you should be drinking Chaga tea, too. Trust us, it’s something you want in your cupboard!
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. As a parasitic fungus, Chaga primarily grows on birch trees in cold climates, like those in Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia, and some parts of the United States.
Chaga doesn’t pop up from the forest floor like many more common mushrooms. Rather, Chaga appears as a charred, charcoal-like mass with a woody, orange interior. In nature, it’ll look like a black lump growing on the trunk of a birch tree.
What’s Chaga tea?
Chaga tea is a tea made by brewing Chaga mushroom in hot water. It can also be made by simply adding a dual-extracted powder to hot water. Alternatively, if you’ve harvested Chaga from the wild yourself, you can simply break the Chaga into small pieces and steep them in hot water for an hour. Once steeping is finished, simply strain out the Chaga pieces and enjoy.
Why you should drink Chaga tea
Why would anyone want to consume a fungus that looks like a piece of coal? That’s a valid question. Despite its unsightly exterior, the wide-ranging health benefits of Chaga more than make up for its lack of aesthetic beauty.
Chaga is extremely nutrient-dense
Chaga is packed with healthful compounds. It’s rich in B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, and several minerals, including potassium, zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium. As if that wasn’t enough, Chaga mushroom is brimming with beta-glucans (specifically beta-D-glucans), which boast powerful antioxidant properties. In fact, 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.
Chaga is most well-known for supporting the immune system
With such high levels of antioxidants and nutrients, it’s no wonder that one of Chaga’s most well-known health benefits is its ability to support immune health. This is because Chaga contains beta-glucans (specifically 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, meaning it improves both underperforming and overreacting immune responses in the body. If you want to learn more about immune support, read this blog here.
Chaga is essentially a functional fungi powerhouse. In addition to the above-mentioned health benefits, research suggests that Chaga may:
- provide anti-inflammatory benefits
- support heart health
- promote good digestion
- play a role in cancer prevention
- act as an antiviral
- support healthy resilience to stress response
- improve metabolic health
- support skin health
Read more about Chaga benefits here.
What does Chaga tea taste like?
You know how some teas are pretty mild-tasting and you have to search for the flavor? That’s not the case with Chaga! Chaga has a unique, strong, smooth flavor—sometimes compared to an earthy version of medium roast coffee, with soft notes of vanilla. Many people drink Chaga tea straight, but you can also dress it up by adding a little milk, plant milk, sugar, honey, or maple syrup.
How often and when should you drink Chaga tea?
It’s best to consume 1-2 cups of Chaga tea daily. For those trying to reduce or eliminate caffeine intake, Chaga makes a great alternative for coffee or black tea. Chaga won’t give you a sudden energy jolt like caffeine and certainly won’t cause any jitters. Rather, Chaga acts as an adaptogen, promoting balanced energy throughout the day rather than jitters and crashes.
Since Chaga doesn’t have caffeine, you can also consume it before bed for a calming nightcap. With its stress-reducing properties, it can help you get a deep, restorative sleep so you’re well-rested for the next day.
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 rigorously quality tested. This process checks for 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.
The bottom line
Chaga tea is becoming increasingly popular for good reason—it offers several important health benefits that support your body and mind. Having a cup or two of Chaga tea a day is an easy, soothing way to add a powerful boost of nutrients and antioxidants to your routine.
All referenced sources are linked in the blog.