Consuming superfood mushrooms might seem like a fad in the health and wellness industry, but the fact is, the West is only now catching up with the East where the practice of using these wonders of nature with valuable medicinal properties has been documented for centuries in both written and oral histories. Today, research shows that many functional mushrooms have a plethora of benefits that are even more important and relevant in our increasingly stressful modern lives. We’re inundated with physical, emotional and environmental stressors that can weaken our immune system and accelerate aging. Cue functional mushrooms, which support the immune system due in part to their powerful antioxidant capabilities and immune-modulating compounds. One such functional mushroom, Chaga, is often referred to as the “King of Mushrooms” for its myriad of health benefits and nutrient density. Indeed, Chaga may help the body fight free radicals and oxidative stress, support a healthy immune response and even assist the body in naturally managing inflammation. Learn why you should include this superfood mushroom as a powerful tool in your health and beauty regimen.
History of Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a charcoal-colored mushroom that, in the wild, grows predominantly in the cold Taiga forests in Russia, Scandinavia, Korea, Japan, the U.S. and Canada. At first glance, it may seem as if the mushroom is living parasitically off the trunk of birch trees and a few other species of temperate forest trees on which it thrives, but that’s not the case — instead, it shares a relationship with the tree, which can live for years while Chaga grows along its trunk and branches. The indigenous people living near the Ural Mountains in Russia were some of the first to enjoy the health benefits of the Chaga mushroom, and later, in the 12th century, Tsar Valdimir Monomakh was a renowned Chaga user and admirer. Now, thanks to proprietary cultivating methods that capture the naturally occurring bioactive compounds of the mushroom while making it available beyond its limited existence in the wild, the wondrous benefits of Chaga are available to a much wider range of people. Om Superfood Mushrooms is an example of a company that has done just this, making it easier than ever to incorporate the unique benefits of Chaga into everyday routine.
Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms for Immunity and More
Chaga mushroom, with its robust array of nutrients and bioactive compounds, has been used extensively in folk medicine in Russia and throughout Eastern Europe, as well as in Japan and North America, for millennia. With the rampant stress and toxins of modern life contributing to accelerated inflammation and oxidative stress, some people are experiencing rapid aging and the illnesses that can accompany chronic stress.
Studies suggest that Chaga shows great promise in helping to restore the body’s defense mechanisms against inflammation, calming oxidative stress by countering free radicals and helping to protect the liver from damage - all important factors in aging healthfully and gracefully. Chaga is reported to contain the highest levels of antioxidants — even higher than blueberries and acai. Antioxidants including glutathione, ergothioneine, polyphenols, flavonoids, and superoxide dismutase neutralize stress caused by free radical compounds that contribute to illness and accelerated aging as well as compromise the immune system.
But it doesn’t stop there. Cultivated Chaga provides immune-modulating beta glucan compounds that support immune function by a response that involves potentiation of various immune cells and an up-regulation of immune cell signaling events. In fact, they have been shown to promote the formation of cytokines — the proteins that regulate the immune system. This, in turn, stimulates white blood cells, which are key in supporting immune health and function. Chaga mushrooms are also chock-full of natural prebiotic fibers, sterols, amino acids, alpha glucans, Vitamin D, B-complex vitamins including Biotin, long used for beauty, and an array of minerals such as selenium which provides additional immune support.
Considering that Chaga mushroom can help combat oxidative stress, a contributing factor in aging, it’s no surprise the mushroom has been revered for hundreds of years as a superior natural beauty supplement. In fact, it often makes appearances in natural cosmetic products to support healthy, youthful skin - but don’t just apply it topically; consume it to see its most potent effects. Due to its antioxidant content as well as melanin and a hispidin analogue, Chaga mushrooms may help to even pigment and reduce the signs of aging. Oral products containing Chaga mushrooms - including capsules and drink powders - may strengthen hair and nails.
How to Take Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga mushroom powder can easily be mixed into a variety of foods and drinks. Its flavor profile is subtle and pleasantly earthy. It contains a naturally occurring form of vanillin - the same compound that gives the vanilla bean its distinctive and delicious taste. A daily dose in the form of a hot tea, coffee, blended with a smoothie, or simply taken in a capsule form, can help to support the body’s immune system and fight oxidative stress.
While superfood mushrooms have incredible power to support the body, not all mushroom products on the market are of the same quality. Om Superfood Mushrooms is a leader of the functional mushroom supplement industry, growing certified 100-percent organic, whole food Chaga mushrooms under the supervision of renowned mycology experts at their certified GMP indoor farm in California. Their product range includes Chaga mushroom powders and capsules, blends of Chaga with additional mushroom species and other ingredients such as folate, and Beauty+ a comprehensive beauty product that contains Chaga combined with other mushrooms, marine collagen peptides, Biotin and Vitamin E in a tasty strawberry lemonade flavored drink mix that can be added to your water bottle. Daily functional mushroom intake can give you the edge you need to stay afloat in today’s stressful world, supporting your body with healthy aging properties and vitality from the inside out.
Amy Myszko is a Certified Clinical Herbalist, nutritional consultant, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and freelance writer. Her writing work focuses on the benefits of natural remedies and holistic health. She lives with her two daughters and many animals in Espanola, New Mexico.