What Is Chaga and Is it Good For You?
By Paul Rothbart
There are many foods that are relatively unknown in Western culture that nevertheless have great health benefits. Often these foods and their benefits have been exploited for centuries in other parts of the world. With the ever-growing emphasis on good nutrition, more and more of these foods are being recognized in the West. One of these foods is chaga, a type of mushroom that is generally brewed as a tea.
What Is Chaga?
Chaga mushrooms are a type of fungus that grows on birch trees. It thrives in cold climates, occurring naturally in Siberia, Russia, Northern Canada, and Alaska. Also known as black mass or birch canker, chaga is a woody growth that looks like a lump of charcoal. On the inside, it is soft and orange in color. It has traditionally been grated into a fine powder and then brewed into tea. It is now available as a supplement in powder or capsule form. Chaga has potential benefits to health.
Boosts Immune System Health and Fights Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural immune system response to protect against disease. However, when inflammation is long-term it can be quite harmful. Inflammation has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease. Studies using both animals and test tubes have found that chaga may help boost immunity by reducing inflammation as well as fighting harmful bacteria and viruses. Chaga stimulates white blood cells by promoting the formation of cytokines. These specialized proteins stimulate the immune system and are helpful in fighting off harmful microbes.
Fights and Prevents Cancer
Chaga contains a number of antioxidants, substances that fight free radicals that can cause cell damage and lead to cancer. One antioxidant in particular, triterpene, has been shown to help kill cancer cells. Chaga is rich in triterpene. In a test tube study, chaga extract prevented the growth of cancer in liver cells. Similar prevention has been observed in studies involving, prostate, breast, and colon cells. These findings point to great potential but further research using human subjects must be conducted to come to any conclusive findings.
Lowers Blood Sugar
High glucose levels in the blood are unhealthy and can lead to diabetes. A number of animal studies have shown that chaga may help low blood sugar and therefore help prevent diabetes. One study involving obese, diabetic mice found that chaga extract lowered their blood sugar level as well as reduced insulin resistance. Study of human subjects must be conducted, but there appears to be potential for chaga as an effective way to prevent diabetes.
Science continues to find sources of nutrition that have solid benefits to health. Some of these foods are not new. They have been used for centuries but are just now being studied. Chaga is one that has already shown health benefits, and may demonstrate even more in the future.
To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Davis, Calif.