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Ingredient Spotlight: Your Quick Guide to Chaga Mushroom

One of the mushrooms in our brand-new 310 “All-In-One” Shake blend is known as a  “parasitic organism” that feeds on the bark of trees in colder winter climates. But, its parasitic nature is what makes it a powerful antioxidant AND adaptogen with many potential health-boosting benefits. 

Can you guess the mushroom? 

It’s the Chaga mushroom! Also known as black mass, clinker polypore, birch canker polypore, cinder conk, or its Latin scientific name, inonotus obliquus1

So how exactly can a “parasitic mushroom” support your health and wellness? Read on to find out! And head to our blog on adaptogens to learn more about all the other powerfully beneficial herbs, mushrooms, and fungi you can find in our new 310 Shake.

Chaga Mushroom Quick Benefits

  • Packed with health-promoting antioxidants 
  • Supports overall heart health
  • Promotes balanced blood sugar levels 
  • May boost immunity & build your body’s defenses 
  • Helps reduce inflammation, promoting overall wellness 

What is Chaga?

Chaga is a “parasitic mushroom” that grows on hardwood trees like birches and oaks in the colder climates of North America, Japan, Korea, China, and parts of Europe like Russia and Ukraine (1, 2)

What does it mean to be parasitic? It means that to secure its own survival, it gets its nourishment from another living thing (in this case a tree), often killing it in the process. Chaga takes in nutrients from the tree, which rots the tree from the outside in (2)

Though this may seem harsh, the nature of this parasitic mushroom is exactly what enables it to be so packed full of nutrients! 

What else is unique about Chaga? It also doesn’t look like your traditional mushroom. The conk, or the growth of the mushroom on the bark of the tree has a dark black or brown color on the outside like charcoal or a burnt marshmallow. When you cut it open, the mushroom reveals a bright orange coloring (1)

Although it grows to a hefty size of around 10-15 inches, the dark coloring easily camouflages the mushroom so that it looks like part of the tree (2). You may have passed this mushroom in the woods without even realizing what it was! 

But this burnt marshmallow-looking parasitic mushroom does more than kill trees. It’s also a frequent ingredient in traditional medicine across China, Korea, Japan, and Russia. The mushroom especially has a rich history in Eastern Europe, where it’s been used since the 12th century (2). In fact, the name “chaga” comes from the old Russian word for mushroom (3)

The mushroom is edible but thanks to its bitter taste it’s rarely eaten on its own. It’s most commonly ground up into a powder or used in herbal tea (1, 4). It’s known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and its potential beneficial impact on cardiac function (2)

And today, parts of the Western world are looking past the ugly exterior of this mushroom and starting to embrace its potential health benefits!

In-Depth: Chaga Health Benefits

There’s more to this mushroom than meets the eye! It’s loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, including B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, potassium, rubidium, cesium, amino acids, fiber, copper, selenium, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, and calcium (5)

All these nutrients, especially the antioxidants, are what give this mushroom its potential health-boosting effects: 

Promotes heart health

Studies show that Chaga’s antioxidant properties may help lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and support the prevention of other health problems caused by oxidative stress (5, 6). In one study on obese, diabetic mice, researchers found that those consuming Chaga reduced their blood sugar levels compared to mice who didn’t (7)

Some of the substances at work here include polyphenols, beta-D-glucans, polysaccharides, betulin, betulinic acid, and phytosterols, many of which the mushroom absorbs from the tree bark as it grows (6). While it’s sad for the tree, it’s good for us because these substances could help support your liver, heart, and intestinal health (6).

Helps boost immunity

In Russia and other parts of Northern Europe, they’ve used Chaga for centuries to support a healthy immune system (1). And there might be something to this traditional medicinal use, especially considering how many vitamins and minerals it contains! Some studies even suggest that the mushrooms’ parasitic nature makes them a powerful asset in your body’s own natural defenses (8)

This is because adaptogens like Chaga interact with your immune-neuro-endocrine system, which helps regulate your body’s immune system and fight against certain infections. The beta-d-glucans found in Chaga mushrooms help create a healthy balance in the body by boosting or slowing down your immune system, depending on what it needs (6)

The mushroom could also help stimulate your white blood cells, which are your body’s greatest warriors against all sorts of infections (5)

Supports reduced inflammation

Some animal studies suggest that Chaga could also help reduce inflammation in the body (1, 3). Inflammation is a natural bodily response to unwanted bacteria and viruses (10). It’s designed to help protect you but sometimes the body triggers unnecessary inflammation resulting in damage (10). Chronic inflammation is the cause of many serious health concerns (10).

The betulinic acid, inotodiol, and ergosterol peroxide found in Chaga mushrooms could help limit your body’s production of cytokines, which cause inflammation (6, 11). However, we need more research in this area to understand exactly how this works and what impact it could have on the human body. But early results are extremely promising! 

Shop Our Brand-New 310 Shake

Who knew a parasitic fungus could pack such a healthy punch? And there’s even more where that came from!

Our 310 “All-In-One” Shake blend features additional amazing adaptogens (just like the Chaga mushroom!) that offer numerous potential health benefits for both the brain and body. And we’re just getting started understanding the full potential of these powerful fungi and herbs! 

Take care of yourself with better nutrition, including powerful superfoods and superherbs like Chaga every day with the new 310 “All-In-One” Shake blend!

Shop our exciting new flavors and add some adaptogens to your diet today! 

And in case you missed it, check out this article Explaining All About Different Adaptogens and how they might benefit you — including every adaptogen you’ll find in brand-new 310 meal replacement shakes!

Sources:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chaga-mushroom#_noHeaderPrefixedContent
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142110/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6777855/
  4. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/chaga-mushroom
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318527
  6. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-chaga-tea#2
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28954386/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7551890/
  9. https://www.forbes.com/health/body/what-are-adaptogens/
  10. https://www.webmd.com/arthritis/about-inflammation
  11. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-chaga#1
Written by:

Megan Elizabeth Clark

310 Nutrition Content Writer 

Megan Elizabeth Clark is a freelance copywriter and content marketing specialist in the health, wellness, and fitness industry. As a NASM certified personal trainer and RYT-200 certified yoga instructor Megan is passionate about using her fitness background and writing skills to provide authentic, actionable, and accurate information to the world [...]

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