If someone invited you over for tea and cake and told you that they were serving toadstool tea, what would you do? Would you politely decline, run for the door, or brave it and give it a try? Believe it or not, mushrooms, fungi, or toadstool tea is not only blossoming with health benefits, but it is also delicious. It has an earthy taste that is naturally sweet and warms you from the inside out. Let’s take a closer look at the spectacular health benefits of mushroom tea.
Edible mushrooms are pretty fashionable these days. Found in both tea and coffee, they have an impressive lineup of health benefits. In particular, Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) are rushing to the front with an extremely high ORAC score – compared to all other foods. ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbent capacity.” Foods with a high ORAC value can protect the body from free radicals that cause damage. Chaga mushrooms have a massive amount of antioxidants and an ORAC score of 146,700.
What are Chaga mushrooms?
Chaga mushrooms are also known by a few other names including, cinder conk, black mass, birch canker polypore, and clinker polypore. In case you didn’t already guess, Chaga mushrooms grow mainly on the bark of birch trees and are primarily found in the cold climates of Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada, and Northern Europe.
Chaga ranges from 10-15 inches in size and has a softcore with an orange hue and an appearance similar to a clump of woody burnt charcoal.
Chaga mushrooms have a long history of being used to remedy numerous health conditions. They have an appearance similar to a clump of woody burnt charcoal and have been prized for their ability to boost immunity and improve overall health and wellbeing. This unique fungus has also been used to remedy diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the impressive health-promoting properties in these remarkable mushrooms.
Chaga’s cancer-fighting power
A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology examined the effects of Chaga mushrooms on cancerous cells in the human liver. The research showed that Chaga extract might prevent liver cancer cell growth, making it a potential treatment for liver cancer.
Another study found that mice with tumors who received a Chaga mushroom supplement experienced a 60 percent reduction in tumor size. In addition, mice who had metastatic cancer had a 25 percent decrease in the numbers of nodules compared to the control group.
A study published in 2010 found that Chaga could slow the growth of lung, breast, and cervical cancer cells in a petri dish and mice.
The Memorial Sloan Cancer Center has this to say about Chaga mushrooms, “Laboratory and animal studies show that Chaga can inhibit cancer progression. Studies in humans are needed.”
Chaga’s blood pressure-lowering power
High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, as well as other cardiovascular ailments. Research indicates that oxidative stress is a major contributing factor to high blood pressure. Because Chaga is chock-full of antioxidants, it could play a huge role in lowering blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular events.
Chaga’s inflammation-busting power
Inflammation is behind most illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Animal studies have shown that Chaga mushroom extract can reduce inflammation due to ulcerative colitis. Researchers identified that Chaga’s anti-inflammatory ability in the colon was due to its ability to suppress the expression of chemical mediators of inflammation. This is big news because, with all inflammation, chemical mediators released make the inflammatory response more intense and promote the continuation of this response.
Chaga’s immunity defense power
As mentioned, historical use of Chaga mushrooms shows it was the go-to for boosting the body’s immune defense properties and improving overall health and well-being. Animal studies show that these fungi increase the production of immune cells that regulate the immune system and help fend off bacteria and viruses. Researchers have found that Chaga extracts stimulate spleen lymphocytes which improve immune system function.
Chagas’s endurance-promoting properties
If you are looking for a boost to get you through your workouts, Chaga might be the thing. Animal studies show that the Chaga mushroom can significantly improve physical endurance while reducing fatigue. In one study, mice given Chaga mushroom polysaccharides swam longer, and glycogen content used for fuel in muscles and the liver increased, while lactic acid levels in the bloodstream decreased. This means more energy and less soreness after a workout.
Chaga’s antiviral power
Published research shows that Chaga mushroom extracts have an antiviral impact on HIV type 1. Additionally, animal studies have found that this same anti-viral power successfully combats the hepatitis C virus. Chaga demonstrated anti-viral ability when it decreased infective properties in the virus by 100-fold in only 10 minutes. As studies continue, Chaga looks like a promising candidate for future anti-viral therapies.
Chaga is a powerful toadstool; there is no doubt. If you take prescription medication or have a health condition, it is always good to ask your doctor before enjoying this mushroom. While there are no clinical trials that have studied the safety of Chaga mushrooms, there are some things to note before use.
- If you have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or multiple sclerosis, Chaga can make the immune system more active, which may increase symptoms.
- People with diabetes need to be careful as this mushroom can reduce blood sugar levels.
- If you have a bleeding disorder, it is best not to use Chaga as it may increase the risk of bleeding. For the same reason, stop using Chaga at least two weeks before surgery.
How to enjoy Chaga mushrooms
One great way to enjoy the benefits of this potent fungi is to drink it as tea or coffee. There are numerous options available for coffee and teas that combine Chaga with other powerful toadstools, including:
- Turkey tail
- Lion’s mane
Just be sure to choose something 100 percent organic. Add a little raw honey to your favorite mushroom beverage to boost its healing properties even further.
Happy and healthy sipping!
-Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener