Chaga tea has gained significant mainstream popularity in the last few years, but natural medicine enthusiasts have been using this antioxidant packed mushroom to boost immunity, reduce inflammation, and improve general physical and mental health for centuries. Follow along as we examine the harvesting, uses, and benefits of this fantastic fungus.
What is Chaga Tea?
This wild fungi tea is made from the Chaga Mushroom, or Inonotus obliquus. This mushroom grows on birch trees in cold climates and is widely known for its many health benefits. Chaga tea can be made from steeping chunks or ground powder in simmering water for about 10 to 15 minutes. One can also steep the mushroom for many hours, allowing the chaga to be fully extracted and therefore maximizing it’s use.
We recommend maximizing it’s use, which helps to preserve this amazing fungi for generations to come. Luckily, in northern Canada, there is limited road access to wild places, which means that harvesters can only access a small portion of the wild stock. This hopefully will ensure that the mushroom does not get overharvested and it will be available for the generations to come. At Laughing Lichen, we also never climb trees to harvest the mushroom, and as over 50% of them grow at heights that are above what we can reach, the danger of over harvesting is greatly reduced.
You can drink this tea alone or mixed with other natural medicinal teas to increase the drink’s health benefits and taste. We sell various formats and blends of chaga mushroom, click here to find out more.
About the Chaga Mushroom
Wild Chaga Fungi (Inonotus obliquus) is found in the world’s northern regions. In Canada, it can be found growing from coast to coast. This elusive fungus has a unique symbiotic relationship with its host, the birch tree. Some also call it a parasitic relationship. In some cases, Chaga causes its host tree’s eventual death. However, this is not always the case as there are many other factors involved.
When the host birch tree dies, so does the Chaga growing with it. Once this happens a rare event occurs in which the fruiting body erupts on the trunk of the birch tree. This fruiting body of the mushroom looks nothing like the sterile conk/mycelial mass of Chaga that we collect for tea. Instead, it forms a thick 1–2-inch layer comprised of thousands of tiny spores that blow away in the wind. Insects, other creatures, and wind can also carry the spores to new birch trees. Thus, the life cycle of this fungi begins once again.
Harvesting this mushroom to make tea should be done with the integrity of the mushroom and appreciation of the environment in mind.
To ensure that the entire life cycle of wild Chaga is completed, we do not harm the host birch trees with logging spikes (used to climb trees to reach higher Chagas) or cut living trees down to access the out of reach ones. This practice is becoming increasingly common in Canada and in no way does Laughing Lichen support this type of wildcrafting.
If you are collecting wild harvested Chaga in the wild, please do not dig deep into the mycelium layer, which is a fuzzy mass of branching thread-like fungal threads found between the Chaga conk and the trunk of the tree. Damaging this layer will cause conk will stop growing. If you leave it intact you can usually return to the same tree within 3-5 years to re-harvest more. As a rule of thumb, the specimens that are smaller than your fist should be left to grow and mature on its host tree before being harvested.
Birch trees growing in polluted or contaminated environments should never be harvested. It is very important to only use Chaga that is collected from unpolluted environments and living birch trees. If you are a mushroom and fungi lover like us, check out this awesome FUNGI magazine, as it has some wonderful scientific based articles about Chaga.
Chaga Tea Uses
While Chaga tea is one of the most popular ways to consume wild harvested chaga, there are many methods of using this fantastic fungus! Create a Chaga Chai mix by incorporating chaga tea with your favorite chai tea, make chaga chocolate milk for the kids. There are so many delicious ways to take advantage of this amazing wild fungus’s significant antioxidant compounds.
Wild Chaga tea has a light vanilla flavor and slight nutty aroma, which will help you clear your head and harness that extra energy you need to finish a hectic day (without the caffeine!). Wild Chaga can also be blended with other teas and beverages or enjoyed chilled on a hot day. This wild fungus is gaining popularity in North America as a super-food. All of the Wild Chaga we sell is hand harvested in an ethical manner from birch trees in Northern Canada.
Chaga chunks can be re-used for multiple pots of tea, but if you prefer a stronger flavor, try the ground format.
Keep in mind that it requires straining just like other loose teas. Only a small amount of mushroom is required to make tea (1/8th of a cup will make 2 liters of brew!). We also use this incredible fungus in our favorite baking recipes, especially brownies. For an added kickstart to your day, check out our Organic Chaga Chai, as well as our gourmet Organic Chaga Chocolate Mix.
10 Benefits of Wild Chaga Tea
Natural medicine enthusiasts have been turning to Chaga for years due to its abundant health advantages and lack of side effects, which is the downfall of many traditional medicines. It can help with a number of issues from mild aches and pains to severe diseases and illnesses, and you’ll find some of its most powerful benefits below.
#1 – Great Source of Vitamins & Nutrients
Wild harvested Chaga is packed with beneficial vitamins and nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis. These include:
- Vitamin B Complexes
- Vitamin D
- Amino Acids
#2 – Reduces Inflammation
Excess inflammation can cause a number of serious health issues including chronic pain and illnesses like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis. The Chaga mushroom is high in antioxidants, which play an important role in reducing inflammation. These anti-inflammatory properties can have a huge benefit for people who struggle with autoimmune disease or other inflammatory conditions.
A 2020 article by Paul W. Thomas, Waill Ahmed Elkhateeb, and Ghoson Moshbah Daba on the medical benefits of Chaga stated that,
“Van et al. (2009) tested several different types of extractions from Chaga, for their ability to reduce inflammation. All of those tested significantly inhibited inflammation” (Sydowia 124).
#3 – Lowers Cholesterol
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It is often caused by high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol. Luckily, Chaga’s high antioxidant amounts can help lower this bad LDL cholesterol, and even increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol!
Lowering cholesterol helps reduce your risk of heart attacks, stroke, and bypass surgeries. So, if you have a family history of heart disease or have been told you have high cholesterol, it may be a smart choice to incorporate Chaga tea into your diet.
#4 – Helps Prevent and Battle Cancer
Many studies have found that the chaga mushroom actually has tumor suppressing properties. Specifically, a 2016 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that,
“Our findings suggest that the I. obliquus extract could be used as a natural remedy for cancer suppression by promoting energy metabolism” (NCBI, 1).
Always consult a doctor when deciding to use Chaga as a natural cancer treatment, but the research shows that it could have serious benefits in slowing the growth of cancer cells.
#5 – Lowers Blood Sugar
There has been no research on humans yet, but a study in 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that rats who consumed the chaga mushroom for 8 weeks saw a significant decrease in blood sugar levels.
While more research is needed, this could be an extremely helpful natural medicine option for those struggling with Diabetes or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in the future.
#6 – Supports the Immune System
Cytokines are a category of small proteins that play a vital role in cell signaling. They are involved in the autocrine, paracrine, and endocrine systems, and serve as messengers. These special proteins also stimulate the production of white blood cells, which are essential in your body’s defense system against illness and infection.
Chaga mushrooms are said to regulate the production of cytokines, which greatly supports your immune system. Helping these cells communicate with each other through cytokines can aid in preventing and fighting serious infections and illnesses.
#7 – Facilitates Healthy Skin
The Chaga mushroom is said to aid in skin cell repair and regeneration, promoting healthy glowing skin. It also has been shown to stimulate the production of Collagen. Collagen is an abundant protein found in animals’ connective tissue, skin, tendons, bones, and cartilage. It is credited with helping skin elasticity, hydration, and has anti-aging properties. The Chaga mushroom also contains betulinic acid, whose anti-inflammatory properties inhibit the growth of bacteria on the skin which causes acne and infection.
By stimulating collagen production and containing betulinic acid, consuming wild harvested chaga has the ability to reduce wrinkles and fine lines, hydrate dry cracked or flaking skin, and prevent acne breakouts.
A 2019 study by the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications also found that Chaga can help protect your skin from UV-A and UV-B damage, often caused by too much time in the sun. The study concludes that,
“we demonstrated for the first time that birch sap and chaga mushroom extracts protect the skin against the UV-induced damages” (Scientific Research Publishing Inc.).
They found that chaga’s antioxidant properties not only protected skin from UV rays but also helped repair already damaged skin.
#8 – Improves Digestion
Another benefit of Chaga tea’s anti-inflammatory properties is that it can reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. Excess inflammation can cause Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). IBD is a grouping of similar conditions that all stem from inflammation of the digestive tract.
These can include Ulcerative Colitis and Chron’s Disease. Common symptoms include consistent diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, rectal bleeding, unhealthy weight loss, and lack of energy. Since IBD’s issues are caused from inflammation, Chaga tea can help with reducing the symptoms of these frustrating diseases.
Additionally, wild harvested chaga has been shown to stimulate bile flow, which is crucial for fat digestion. Consuming a high fat diet can have many health benefits, but if your body is not digesting it properly, you could find yourself experiencing nausea, fatigue, cravings, dry skin, and hair loss.
Optimizing bile flow will not only help your body digest fat properly, but it helps transporting toxins to feces to prevent toxic overload, relieving constipation, maintaining a balanced gut microbiome, and neutralizing stomach acid.
#9 – Relieves Muscle & Joint Pain
A large factor in most people’s joint pain and muscle soreness is inflammation. Inflammation is an immune response where blood flow increases to a certain area, creating chemicals that leak into the tissue and cause swelling. This excess swelling and fluid retention can stimulate nerve endings, causing pain or soreness. Inflammation can also wear down cartilage between joints causing friction when a joint is used, which can be extremely painful over time.
Wild chaga tea helps successfully reduce excess inflammation in the body, which can in turn reduce joint and muscle pain.
#10 – Provides Energy
Americans are reliant on caffeine-filled energy sources now more than ever. While caffeine does give you a quick drastic boost of energy, it’s also associated with bad crashes once it wears off and caffeine addiction.
If you’re looking for an energy boost that is completely natural, will not cause a crash later in the day, and actually helps your concentration and endurance, Chaga tea is the way to go. Studies have shown that chaga helps increase a molecule called AMPK, which is a crucial component of energy pathways in the body.
This type of energy kick is extremely helpful for individuals who work a physical labor job or night shifts, or who are avid gym goers looking for muscle gains. The energy provided will help you not only focus and sustain yourself through a long day (or night) of work, but it also helps you last longer in the gym, facilitating larger and faster muscle gains.
Choosing a warm cup of tea in the morning over the typically coffee or pre-workout will provide sustainable energy that will allow you to focus on the tasks in front of you, without the jitters or a crash.
Bonus# – Reduces Stress & Fights Depression
The chaga mushroom falls under a rare species of plants called “adaptogens”. What does this mean? Studies show that an adaptogen allows your body to adapt and adjust to your environment more quickly and easily than it would on its own. This is especially useful in situations of distress.
We often think that all stress we undergo is bad and damaging. However, some positive stress, or eustress, on the body is actually a good thing. Small doses of good stress can actually increase productivity, endurance, and strength. However, when stress becomes a chronic, long-term condition, it can be extremely harmful.
A surplus of stress can cause issues like anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, muscle aches, headaches, depression or unhappiness, mood swings, and stomach issues. Luckily, being an adaptogen, it actually allows your body to adapt and adjust to stressful situations without causing harm.
Adaptogens do not completely remove your body’s natural stress response but reduces the changes in cell function that cause adverse effects to stress in the body. This type of adjustment can be lifechanging for those struggling with anxiety, depression, or even someone in a stressful line of work like healthcare or law enforcement.
No one is immune to the pressure of daily life and undergoing too much stress is one of the most common causes of health conditions in modern society. Using natural stress relievers like chaga tea can help improve mood, reduce feelings of worry, and relieve physical symptoms caused by stress.
Chaga Tea Side Effects:
Chaga Fungus is generally considered safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts as a dietary supplement or food. However, as with any natural product, there are some potential side effects to be aware of:
Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may be allergic to Chaga Fungus or other mushrooms. Allergic reactions may include skin rashes, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, or digestive discomfort. If you experience any of these symptoms after consuming Chaga Fungus, discontinue use and seek medical attention immediately.
Interactions with Medications: Chaga Fungus may interact with certain medications, such as anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs, and immunosuppressants. It is important to consult with your healthcare professional if you are taking any medications to avoid potential interactions.
Digestive Issues: In rare cases, Chaga Fungus may cause digestive discomfort, such as upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation. This may be due to individual sensitivities or excessive consumption. If you experience any digestive issues, reduce your intake or discontinue use.
Blood Sugar Management: Chaga Fungus may lower blood sugar levels, which can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes. However, if you have diabetes or are taking medication to manage blood sugar levels, it is essential to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly and work closely with your healthcare professional to avoid any potential interactions or complications.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: There is limited research on the safety of Chaga Fungus during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is best to consult with your healthcare professional before using Chaga Fungus if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant.
As with any dietary supplement or natural product, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare professional before adding Chaga Fungus to your routine, especially if you have any existing health conditions or are taking medications. They can provide personalized guidance based on your individual health needs and help you make informed decisions.
Fun Facts About Chaga:
- Did you know that Chaga helps your body break down and utilize Betulin, from birch bark? Betulin has many medicinal properties that benefit the human immune system, but when consumed directly from the birch tree, our bodies can’t process it. When the fungi develop on birch trees, they change the betulin’s chemistry, transforming the compound into a form digestible to humans.
- Chaga is approved by the USFDA and is therefore deemed safe for food and supplemental use!
- The Chaga mushroom has been used around the world in natural medicine for centuries. The Otzi used it over 5,000 years ago, Northern Europeans included it in their medicinal practices 400 years ago, and 60 years ago, Finland began using wild chaga tea as a replacement for coffee due to its many health benefits.
- Chaga can also be used in cream form to help alleviate joint pain.
- In Soviet Russia, the government once ordered athletes to use the tea for its mental and physical health benefits.
This magical mushroom has gained its popularity due to its plentiful physical and mental health benefits. If you’d like to incorporate chaga tea into your daily routine, be sure to find a sustainable distributor that harvests this fantastic fungus with care for the environment and the integrity of the mushroom and birch tree in mind. If you are choosing it as a natural medicine for serious illness or disease, always consult a doctor first.