Updated by Georgina Roberts
What is Chaga?
Continuing our love for medicinal mushrooms, we created a product that celebrates the wonderful chaga mushroom (Inonotus Obliquoos). A charcoal like fungus that grows predominantly on birch trees in cold climates. As the chaga grows, it draws in nutrients from the birch tree. Birch tree extract is a known superfood in itself, and this supercharged fungi is an age old celebrated adaptogenic health food that is often named the “cure-all” mushroom. You will find chaga in our MAGIC Chaga Chai Latte.
As always, the information shared here regarding chaga's potential health benefits should not be taken instead of medical advice. If you are unsure if chaga is suitable for your individual needs, we advise to consult with your doctor or a clinical nutritionist.
Chaga has been used in traditional medicines such as Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine for millennia. In such times clinical research was not around, but hundreds of years of anecdotal evidence supported the continued use of this mushroom for many different aspects of health. Modern science is catching up and research is underway to explore the benefits the ancients have celebrated for an age.
How to use chaga
Chaga is often supplemented in powder form. We have blended our chaga with Indian inspired chai spices and creamy coconut so you can enjoy a functional dose of chaga with ease. Each serving of MAGIC Chaga Chai contains .75g per serving. There are no set upper tolerable limits for chaga consumption, as the research is yet to explore this however we have given guidelines on the pouch. There are no known safety concerns for chaga consumption, providing the chaga is from a trusted and reputable source.
Are medicinal mushrooms safe?
Medicinal mushrooms are 100% legal and do not have psychoactive effects as they do not contain psychotropic compounds, you will not be “high” after drinking Magic. Those are very different mushrooms! The health benefits you may experience however in our opinion are truly Magic. They are of course safe to consume, but as with anything you can have too much of a good thing so, please stick to the recommended amounts on the packaging.
What is an adaptogen?
Adaptogens are a group of plants and herbs that can help us to manage and balance mood, energy levels, stress hormones within the body, and even enhance cognitive function. Modern nutritional science has been exploring this in more recent years and re-discovering the bio-active benefits that our ancestors celebrated. Adaptogens have been shown by modern research to improve the resistance of the human body to a wide range of stressors, from external (environmental) to internal (bodily systems). They do this by working with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and the immune-neuro-endocrine system, both of which comprise of multiple bodily systems and their interaction with each other.
Stress comes in many forms and on occasions acute stress can actually be very beneficial to the body and encourage adaptions, for instance in the case of exercise our bodies undergo short term stress and provided the exercise stimulus and recovery are appropriate, our bodies will adapt to better handle that stressor. It is when stressors become chronic, or there is not sufficient recovery from acute stress that we can run into problems.
Stress of course comes in many other forms, environmental, psychological, sociological, and then we must consider the stressful implications of a poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of sunlight, fatigue, depression, to name a few. For such a broad potential of stressors on the human body, an adaptogen must meet the following criteria to be classified as such: firstly, an adaptogen must be non-specific and must assist the human body in resisting a wide range of adverse conditions and secondly adaptogens must balance and maintain homeostasis in humans by offsetting or resisting physical disorders caused by external stress. These definitions were first established in 1940 by scientist N. Lazerev, and later elaborated on by scientist I. Brekhman to say than an adaptogen must reduce harm caused by stressed states, have positive excitatory effects on the human body, must not cause side effects from these excitatory effects (like common stimulants) and lastly, they must not harm the human body. This impressive checklist is met by a range of different plants and herbs, of which medicinal mushrooms are included. These benefits were considered sacred by our forebearers, and modern research continues to discover more about these wonderful plants.
Potential health benefits of chaga
This powerful little mushroom contains a potent elixir of bio-active compounds with far reaching healthful affects: polyphenols, melanin, triterpenoids, beta glucans and polysaccharides. Among these, polysaccharides are the most studied and the health benefits of medicinal mushrooms are generally attributed to these compounds.
Modern research has explored chaga's potential to help in the following areas of health: viral infections, excessive cell growth, oxidative stress and inflammation, fatigue, gut health and auto immune conditions.
Chaga and viral infections
Chagas concentration of polysaccharides and beta glucans help to activate a type of white blood cell known as leukocytes. These leukocytes (in particular, macrophages) are the first line of defense concerning invading pathogens and viruses. As soon as a pathogen enters the body these white blood cells attack and then clear up the debris. The encouraged activation of these leukocytes that chaga offers is of huge value to our immune response. The body's leukocytes are produces in the spleen, the “central” immune defense. Triterpenoids, also found in chaga have a positive effect on spleen function and therefore assist in immune defense as well. Invitro studies have also found that chaga is able to impair a virus’s ability to invade cells, this has been demonstrated in animal studies, but more human research is needed.
Chaga and excessive cell growth
Excessive and abnormal cell growth can sometimes occur and if left unchecked form a tumor (these can be malignant or benign). In either case, chaga has been demonstrated to show inhibitory affects on excessive cell growth and can be used as a preventative or complimentary treatment of such. For such medical conditions please consult with a Doctor or clinical nutritionist.
Chaga inflammation and oxidative stress
Chaga has been explored for its anti-inflammatory properties which has whole body potential health benefit. The rich polysaccharide content of chaga has been shown to scavenge for and mediate inflammation across the body. Inflammation is a pre-curser to many health imbalances and chaga has potential as a useful anti-inflammatory agent.
Oxidative stress is disturbance caused by free radicals in the body, free radicals are a bi product of cellular metabolism, and the body has pathways by which it mediates them. The polysaccharide content of chaga contributes to this free radical buffering.
Chaga, gut health and auto immune conditions
Gastro-Intestinal (GI) conditions are common and range in severity from mild to chronically debilitating. The gut and its bacteria flora are inextricably linked to our immune system, and the two are interdependent on each other’s optimal functioning. GI conditions when left unchecked can lead to auto immune conditions such as Crohn’s disease or Psoriasis, auto immune conditions are complex and involve the improper modulation of immune system response, often causing extreme physiological outcomes for the person.
Chaga's rich bio-active compounds are thought to play a role in modulating gut health and in turn help to prevent GI conditions and immune system dysfunction. The rich anti-oxidant and their free radical fighting capacity helps to clear cell debris, as well as encouraging macrophage activity to destroy harmful bacteria whilst supporting the healthy gut flora. Combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, chaga has the potential to prevent or even reverse GI imbalances. More human studies are required to further this hypothesis, but anecdotal evidence from traditional medicines has supported these claims.
Chaga and fatigue/burn out
Chaga is an adaptogenic fungi, meaning it has the capacity to help us manage stress. Adaptogens tap into our HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) to help us buffer how we cope with environmental, physiological, and emotional/mental stressors. Not only do adaptogens help us manage stress in the instance, but they also help us to build resilience to future instances.
Chaga in summary
This little mushroom packs a powerful punch when it comes to overall immune support and longevity, a powerful fungi to add to our wellness toolbox. Research is continually developing unveiling the bio-active pathways of this mushroom that our ancestors intrinsically knew and utilized. If you would like to try some chaga, check out our MAGIC Chaga Chai Latte here!
Haibo Mu, Amin Zhang, Wuxia Zhang, Guoting Cui, Shunchun Wang, Jinyou Duan. (2012). Antioxidative properties of crude polysaccharides from Inonotus obliquus. International Journal of Molecular Science. 13 (7), 9194-206.
Hong-Hui Pan, Xiong-Tao Yu, Ting Li, Hong-Ling Wu, Chun-Wei Jiao, Mian-Hua Cai, Xiang-Min Li, Yi-Zhen Xie, Yi Wang, Tao Peng. (2013). Aqueous extract from a Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (higher Basidiomycetes), prevents herpes simplex virus entry through inhibition of viral-induced membrane fusion. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 15 (1), 29-38.
Myung-Ja Youn, Jin-Kyung Kim, Seong-Yeol Park, Yunha Kim, Channy Park, Eun Sook Kim, Kie-In Park, Hong Seob So, Raekil Park. (2009). Potential anticancer properties of the water extract of Inonotus [corrected] obliquus by induction of apoptosis in melanoma B16-F10 cells. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 121 (2), 221-228.
Yang Hu, Chunying Teng, Sumei Yu , Xin Wang, Jinsong Liang, Xin Bai, Liying Dong, Tao Song, Min Yu, Juanjuan Qu. (2017). Inonotus obliquus polysaccharide regulates gut microbiota of chronic pancreatitis in mice. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 39 (1), 17-34.