Inonotus obliquus, also known as chaga, is a fungus with a wide distribution throughout the deciduous, hardwood forests of the northern hemisphere. It is one of the few functional mushrooms that are well-known outside of Asia, having been used by Native Americans, ancient Mesopotamians, and Russian czars. Unlike other medicinal mushrooms, chaga forms on living trees and may grow symbiotically for as long as 20 years. Its large, rough conk protrudes from the tree, black on the outside and golden brown on the inside where the mycelial mass is concentrated.
Since chaga is a natural substance, it is essential to know the source of your products. Due to their role as decomposers in their ecosystem, mushrooms break down and recycle nutrients from dead—or in the case of chaga—live plant matter. This characteristic contributes to the benefits since it is the reason mushrooms provide some nutrients not found in plant or animal products. However, this same characteristic may have a negative effect if mushrooms absorb toxins from their environment.
Chaga powder grown indoors is not just a convenience, it's a matter of safety. Mushrooms are natural bioaccumulators, which means they can absorb toxins and heavy metals from their surroundings. This is particularly relevant for wild chaga as this species can be sourced from Russia in an area downwind from Chernobyl. Om grows its chaga indoors safe from toxins and pesticides. In this clean and controlled environment, mycology experts monitor these optimal growing conditions.
If you are curious to try this unique functional mushroom that has been used historically as both a beverage and a medicine to treat stomach and other ailments, chaga tea might be the way to go. By brewing a cup, you can taste it for yourself and discover the chaga tea benefits appreciated around the world by diverse cultures for centuries.
Brewing Chaga Tea
Though you can brew chaga tea by steeping pieces of the conk, the easier (and much more practical) method is to use a pre-ground chaga powder. It should come from chaga cultivated indoors in a controlled environment that ensures no exposure to the contaminants that wild chaga may be exposed to since mushrooms are bioaccumulators. Om Mushrooms has a Chaga Organic Mushroom supplement for which the work has been done for you. Adding a teaspoonful to water heated to 160°F provides a quick and convenient way to make a cup of chaga tea.
While some people appreciate chaga’s flavor profile as is, others prefer to enhance it with their favorite add-ins. These might include:
- Sweeteners: a dollop of honey, agave, or maple syrup to taste
- Milk: dairy, nut, or oat milk adds a creamy element
- Flavorings: vanilla or cocoa powder will add a flavor note
- Spices: cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and ginger add interest
Another option that combines the best of the above is a chaga Chai Latte. Froth your milk, sweeten it up, and add a combination of warm spices for a fragrant and frothy beverage that gives you all the chaga tea benefits.
Or, try chaga Cherry Iced Tea, by brewing a teaspoonful of chaga powder in hot water, then pouring over ice with an ounce of tart cherry juice; sweeten to taste.
Diverse Chaga Tea Benefits to Enhance Your Day
While functional mushrooms have some benefits in common, each has characteristic attributes based on the specific active ingredients it produces. chaga contains oxalic, gallic, protocatechuic, and p-hydroxybenzoic acids. These and other bioactive substances provide a number of unique chaga tea benefits:
1. Provides Nutritional Support
As a nutritious, functional food, chaga provides B vitamins and minerals: calcium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium, and magnesium. It is also a source of amino acids and fiber.
2. Supports Immune Function‡
Chaga is a naturally occurring biological response modifier, a substance that supports the body’s immune responses. Like other functional mushrooms, it contains potent beta-glucans. These polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates that support the immune system with immune-balancing properties.
Through immunomodulation, chaga promotes a healthy immune response when challenged by an infection but resists overreaction that contributes to autoimmune disease. In research with animals, a water extract of chaga administered daily had an immune-enhancing effect.‡
3. Aids the Digestive System‡
One of the legendary chaga tea benefits in Siberia, where birch trees are plentiful due to the cold climate, is as a functional beverage for stomach ailments. Its fiber content and active compounds, including ergosterol, ergosterol peroxide, and trametenolic acid support gut health.‡
4. Has Superior Antioxidant Power‡
Free radicals are by-products of the many chemical reactions that take place in our cells every day. These unstable ions can cause a domino effect of oxidative stress that ages our cells and damages body tissues. Antioxidants in our diet are believed to counteract the aging effects of free radicals.
Nutritional scientists measure the antioxidant capacity of foods by their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). Chaga has the highest ORAC value of all the functional mushrooms and a higher value than most foods. As such, regular intake of chaga tea may help to support the body in counteracting free radical damage.‡
5. Provides Adaptogenic Balance‡
Chaga is one of the functional mushrooms that provides adaptogenic support. By supporting the body’s ability to adapt and recover, it helps to protect from the negative effects of internal and external stresses. This promotes a return to homeostatic balance.
6. Supports Healthy Blood Sugar and Lipids‡
Research studies with lab mice have shown that the polysaccharides in chaga support healthy blood sugar and lipid levels. Including chaga tea in your daily routine may lead to a healthier metabolic balance.‡
Note: People who are taking medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, or a clotting disorder should consult their healthcare provider before making this functional mushroom part of their routine. Its unique benefits could have an additive effect on their prescription medication.
In addition, chaga is high in oxalates. Consumption of large amounts of oxalates, also found in spinach, beets, and dates, may contribute to gout and kidney stones. Check with your doctor if you have experienced either of these conditions.
Getting the Best Quality Products
Making chaga tea part of your daily routine is easy and convenient with Om Mushroom’s chaga products. They contain and are available in loose powder or capsules. If you prefer a curated blend with the superfood power of five functional mushrooms, including chaga, try Om’s Beauty Blend Organic Mushroom Powder to support healthy skin, hair, and nails. For added convenience, try Om’s Immune Multi Boost drink-mix blend with 2,500mg of combined mushroom power and vitamins C and D in single serving pouches to take with you on the go. Chaga powder can also be used in delicious recipes.
‡These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Functional mushroom products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.