Edible black gold: 8 Health benefits of chaga mushrooms
11/20/2021 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
Edible black gold: 8 Health benefits of chaga mushrooms

Chaga mushrooms may look more like burnt pieces of bark than actual mushrooms, but these edible fungi have long been used in traditional medicine because of their numerous health benefits.

Chaga mushrooms are native to the cold regions of Russia, Northern Canada, Korea and Alaska. They normally grow on the bark of birch trees, where they produce a woody growth that looks like burnt charcoal.

According to research, the Russians were the first to brew chaga mushrooms and drink chaga tea. They believed that chaga mushrooms possess antiviral, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties.

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Despite their unappealing appearance, chaga mushrooms are highly valuable. Experts say only one out of every 4,000 birch trees will have chaga mushrooms growing on it. They are also impossible to grow domestically. Due to their rarity and reported benefits, chaga mushrooms are sometimes aptly referred to as “black gold.”

The health benefits of chaga mushrooms

Chaga mushrooms have only recently gained popularity in the West because of their many benefits. Chaga mushrooms can:

  1. Provide essential nutrients – Chaga mushrooms are nutrient-dense. They contain vitamin D, potassium, calcium, iron and zinc. Vitamin D and zinc play key roles in regulating your immune response, while potassium helps keep your heart healthy. Calcium keeps your bones strong, while iron allows your body to continuously make red blood cells.
  2. Improve gut health – Traditionally, chaga mushrooms are consumed as an herbal tea to improve digestion. Experts believe chaga mushrooms promote good digestion by regulating the production of bile, which helps break down food. In turn, this makes it easier for your body to absorb nutrients.
  3. Slow aging – Chaga mushrooms contain powerful compounds called polyphenols. As antioxidants, polyphenols protect healthy cells from oxidative stress, which has been implicated in premature aging. By supplying your body with antioxidants, chaga mushrooms may help slow aging.
  4. Lower blood sugar – Multiple animal studies have shown that chaga mushroom extract can lower blood sugar levels in rats genetically modified to be obese and diabetic.
  5. Lower blood cholesterol – Chaga mushroom extract can also lower blood cholesterol. In an eight-week study involving rats with high cholesterol, researchers found that chaga mushroom extract reduced “bad” cholesterol, which can build up in the arteries and raise heart disease risk.
  6. Prevent and treat cancer – Chaga mushrooms contain compounds called triterpenes, which can help prevent and treat cancer by triggering the death of cancerous cells. Test tube studies have also found that the triterpenes in chaga mushrooms can target cancerous cells without harming healthy cells.
  7. Boost immunity – Many mushrooms, chaga included, contain a polysaccharide called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan has been shown to protect against infections caused by bacteria and viruses. Chaga mushrooms also stimulate white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off harmful microorganisms.
  8. Fight inflammation – Inflammation is the body’s natural response to illness. But it can lead to various chronic health problems if it gets out of hand. Fortunately, many mushrooms, chaga included, are loaded with antioxidants that keep inflammation in check.

Chaga mushroom recipes

Chaga mushrooms are available in capsule, tablet and tincture form. Chaga mushrooms are also sometimes combined with other mushrooms and edible fungi as part of coffee or tea blends.

Try the following recipes to enjoy the health benefits of chaga mushrooms.

Recipe for chaga mushroom tea

Because of their tough, bark-like exterior, chaga mushrooms are often brewed to make tea or coffee. Make your own chaga mushroom tea by following this recipe.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 5 pieces dried chaga mushrooms
  • 4 cups water
  • Raw honey (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Add the water and chaga mushrooms to a pot.
  2. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. If making large batches, simmer for 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Remove from heat and strain out the mushrooms. Add raw honey if desired. Serve hot and enjoy.

Recipe for chaga mushroom hot chocolate

Enjoy a creamy, indulgent beverage with this recipe for chaga mushroom hot chocolate.

Ingredients for 1 serving:

  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup organic coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon raw Manuka honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon chaga mushroom powder

Preparation:

  1. Steep the chaga mushroom powder in boiling water for a few minutes.
  2. Pour the chaga mixture into a blender, then add the remaining ingredients. Blend for 30 seconds.
  3. Pour into a glass. Sprinkle with more raw cacao powder. Serve and enjoy.

Recipe for chaga mushroom soup

Take your mushroom soup to a whole new level with this recipe for chaga mushroom soup.

Ingredients for 2 servings:

  • 2–3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 4 cups strongly brewed chaga mushroom tea
  • 2 cups wild mushrooms (e.g., morel, chanterelle)
  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, melted
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms until fragrant. Add the thyme, salt and pepper.
  2. Add the carrot, garlic and onion. Cook until fragrant.
  3. Add the chaga mushroom tea. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Let the mixture cool slightly before pouring it into a blender. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour the mixture back into the pan and reheat. Once hot, ladle into bowls. Serve and enjoy.

Loaded with nutrients and health-supporting compounds, chaga mushrooms are worth adding to your diet.

Sources:

FoodsForBetterHealth.com

IEEEXplore.IEEE.org

ImmuneNetwork.com

EarthFoodAndFire.com

AscensionKitchen.com

Indigo-Herbs.co.uk

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