The Best Mushroom for Immunity & Gut Health: Meet Chaga
Imagine a day where you feel endless energy, a bulletproof immune system, and a happy and healthy gut. This is exactly what Chaga, the mushroom formally known as Inonotus obliquus, offers. That, and more.
Back in the 16th Century, this mushroom was used for its ability to help with stomach ailments. Chaga has been used for thousands of years in Eastern Medicine, but primarily in teas. Hot water extracts are commonly used because the main active ingredient in the majority of medicinal mushrooms – beta-glucans – are water-soluble. We get our daily dose of Chaga in coffee-form, Wunderground's amazing coffee.
Nicknamed “The Diamond of the Forest” and “Black Gold,” Chaga doesn’t quite look like a traditional cap and stem mushroom. While mushrooms like Lion’s Mane and Reishi are pretty easy to identify, Chaga is unique. Found in the wild, it kind of looks like a mass of burnt charcoal, but when harvested and opened, the interior is a magical-looking, yellow-brown color. Grown as a mass on trees, Chaga is called a “conk” by mushroom experts.
Where It Comes From
Chaga loves cold weather and it won’t grow anywhere that doesn’t have a chilly climate. That means this ‘shroom is found in the Northern Hemisphere in forests across Canada, Russia, and Northern Europe. We even have some in the U.S., including Minnesota.
How It’s Grown
Chaga mostly grows on birch trees. Although it can be found on a few others (like ash, alder, and elm trees), the relationship between this mushroom and the birch tree is a pretty powerful one. Growing on this specific tree allows Chaga to develop a ton of beneficial compounds that just aren’t present when grown on other trees. As a result, Chaga that’s grown on birch is considered the real deal.
How? Chaga starts to grow inside the birch tree and slowly expands outward. As it eats the birch’s wood, it weakens the tree until it reaches a decaying state. By the time Chaga is ready to be harvested, the birch tree is likely dead (or still decaying).
Chaga grows very slowly on its host tree, and it can take up to five years to reach 10 inches in diameter. In time, though, this ‘shroom can grow to over a foot in diameter.
How It’s Harvested
The best time to harvest Chaga is in the winter, as cooler temps lead to the highest nutrient density and the most potent benefits.
Harvesters cut Chaga from trees with a hatchet or a sharp knife, and should wait until the conk is at least the size of a grapefruit before harvesting.
Another important step? Leaving at least a third of the chaga mass untouched. This way it can regrow once harvested!
There’s no need to refrigerate this mushroom after harvesting. It has a super hard exterior, and doesn't need special care. It needs to be stored in a dry environment with enough airflow, and can keep for months.
Okay, now that we’ve filled you in on all the growing and harvesting stuff, let’s chat about the benefits. Chaga is a pretty great addition to your daily routine, and here’s why:
Gives that immunity a serious boost
Out of all of Chaga’s benefits, this is one of our favorites...health is wealth! Packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and beta-glucans, it helps protect the body from free radicals so we have game-changing protection against sickness. Excellent choice during cold season!
Puts your gut in a good mood
Inflammation can lead to poor gut health and digestive issues. Thankfully, Chaga has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help bring the gut back into balance. With all those antioxidants, your digestive tract can stay on track, too.
Boosts your energy
A boost of natural energy without the jitters? Chaga can help with that. Not only will it put a little pep in your step, but it also helps support physical endurance supporting anyone on the go. Chaga and coffee are a power combo.
Helps reduce bad cholesterol & supports whole body wellness
There’s those antioxidants at work again! Chaga is believed to help lower bad cholesterol in the body. Plus, it’s high in B vitamins, flavonoids, and zinc, which support all around well-being.
Wondering how to get your daily dose of Chaga? Incorporate a daily does with a delicious cup of coffee. Hocus Pocus, one of our bestselling blends, combines the benefits of Chaga and Reishi for a source of creative energy, a line of defense against colds, and serious stress relief.
We have an instant version, too! That way you can bring this magic mushroom with you, wherever you go.
Want to learn about our other favorite mushrooms? We have a post on Lion’s Mane, and will be breaking down Reishi and Cordyceps in the weeks to come.