This crusty looking mushroom contains a whole lot of health benefits.
Known as the "King of Medicinal Mushrooms," chaga is the second most antioxidant-rich food in the world aside from chocolate. Found on yellow and white birch trees in cold regions like Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada, chaga has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
Primary benefits of chaga include:
Improved Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health
"Chaga contains the compound betualin, which helps lower cholesterol and balances blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity," Village Juicery holistic nutritionist Gabby Ouimet tells The Huffington Post Canada.
Chaga mushrooms are anti-inflammatory due to their high levels of antioxidants, which combat free radicals and prevent cellular damage.
It Boosts Longevity and Healing
High antioxidant levels also support cellular regeneration and protect against cellular damage and genetic mutation.
"Chaga also contains high levels of a very powerful antioxidant called Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), which is important for liver cleansing," says Ouimet.
Immunity Boosting and Cancer Fighting
Chaga mushrooms are renowned for improving immune function. Chaga is also a strong antibacterial and antiviral, making them helpful in preventing and recovering from cold and flu. Finally, chaga contains melanin, which helps fight radiation and tumours, says Ouimet.
Chaga helps the body adapt and respond to stressors by having a normalizing effect on the body.
And It Aids Digestion, Too
Chaga stimulates bile flow, which is important for fat digestion. It also reduces inflammation in the digestive tract.
"In order to reap the benefits of chaga mushrooms, it is important to prepare it properly," says Ouimet. "The cell walls of chaga contain chitin, which is indigestible and must be broken down."
Commonly consumed in tea form, chaga should be infused in hot water for at least 1 hour before consuming — longer if you are brewing cold tea — for full extraction of medicinal compounds. One the tea is brewed pull out the chunks and set them aside for later use. According to Ouimet you can keep using the chunks until the extract loses its dark colour.
Chaga can be found at most health food stores and herbal dispensaries. Before incorporating chaga into your diet speak with your physician to ensure it is best for you.