Chaga is one of a variety of medicinal mushrooms which has been providing health benefits to humans for generations! Scientific research has revealed numerous and wide-reaching restorative effects.
Protecting from oxidative stress
As we age and encounter pollutants, our bodies produce free radicals, ions that can begin to break down proteins and even our DNA. By attaching to new molecular structures, free radicals act like a wrench in a machine or something snagged in fabric, stopping production and eventually destroying the material. Our bodies utilize these to kill off pathogens. But these chemical defense weapons can also be over-produced and end up hurting our own bodies! This is called ‘oxidative stress’. But here’s where chaga comes in: its extract can reduce oxidative stress in humans, attaching to these ions and deactivating the potential harm caused by too many free radicals. By decreasing oxidative stress, chaga was also shown to reduce age-induced changes to the heart in mice models, potentially keeping the heart healthier for longer.
Improving and preventing diabetic symptoms.
The hormone insulin brings blood sugar into cells in order to provide energy. As insulin resistance develops, more blood sugar is left behind in the bloodstream without providing energy. Cholesterol is a lipid used to build cell membranes which is helpful in moderation but can block the flow of blood and increases the risk of heart disease. A 2022 study induced diabetes in rats through a high-fat diet and streptozotocin injection (an antibiotic used often to model diabetes), and observed higher total cholesterol and blood sugar, both signs of diabetes. After being given chaga for 8 weeks, the two groups that consumed chaga significantly improved their diabetic symptoms, increasing kidney function and lowering blood sugar and cholesterol to similar levels of the non-diabetic control group. The exact mechanisms aren’t clear, but another study showed similar results and observed an increase in the cells which support the flow of blood through the kidney.
Inflammation is a healthy part of the immune system’s response to damage and disease, just like how fire can restore the health of a forest or destroy invasive species. But, like fire, our bodies sometimes go too far and we’re left with pain, redness, stiffness, or headaches. From endometriosis to arthritis to asthma and Crohn’s, chronic inflammation can be a real pain in the, well, just about everywhere! Fortunately, chaga can reduce inflammation by inhibiting the expression of inflammatory cytokines, proteins that signal the need for inflammation.
Ulcers can develop from a number of causes, including stomach acid as well as anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin. Chaga extract has also been tested on rats with ethanol-induced ulcers. The extract was non-toxic and caused no other effects to the rats while helping all models recover from their ulcers.