By Dr. Jen Newell, ND
I love adding medicinal foods into the treatment plans of my patients. I strongly believe that food should be the foundational medicine and can really contribute to great health. One of my favourite superfoods for health is the Chaga mushroom.
Chaga is a wild mushroom that grows on birch trees in Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska and Canada; it thrives in harsh winter environments. It appears as a hardened, blackened, crusty formation like a bursting tumor on the trunk of a birch tree.
Health Benefits of Chaga Mushroom:
ORAC Value and Antioxidant Status
The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale designed by the USDA, measures the amount of free oxygen radicals that a food, or supplement can absorb in your body. Chaga has the highest ORAC score for natural foods or supplements as tested by the USDA and Tufts University in Boston, MA.
ORAC values are associated with the ability of a food to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals contribute to age related degeneration and disease, inflammation, and some cancers. Foods with high ORAC values are considered antioxidants and protect against the effects of free radicals.
Top ORAC fruits and vegetables per 100 g ~ Tufts University
|Acai berry, freeze dried||41,000|
|Cacao, raw (also contains caffeine)||26,000|
|Tibetan Goji Berries||25,310|
Increased research is exploring the benefits of chaga mushroom extract on immune function. Animal studies have successfully shown that chaga mushroom extract improves immune response by stimulating IL-2 cytokine expression (regulates both immune activation and homeostasis)and increasing T cell (white blood cell important to adaptive immunity) population.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)
Chaga mushroom extract may be beneficial in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. Oxidative stress (free radical damage) to cells lining the gastrointestinal tract may contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Chaga mushroom extract suppresses edema (swelling) and mucosal damage within the gut and has an anti-inflammatory effect at sites in the colon and rectum.
How to Consume Chaga Mushroom:
Tea – Chunks of chaga can be boiled in water for 15-30 minutes to create a dark decoction that you can drink as a tea or use a base for soups of smoothies. You can also boil the chaga with other herbs or spices to create customized tea blends. It mixes well with chai spices (cardamon, ginger, cloves, anise, fennel, etc.) or with cacao, chickory and dandelion root.
Tincture/Supplement – A few supplement companies have created really fantastic liquid chaga extracts as well as included chaga in their supplement formulations. These can be recommended by a Naturopathic Doctor and integrated into a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan.
Powder – Chaga mushroom powder can easily be added to soups, smoothies, and teas. It has an earthy, slightly vanilla-like taste.
(n.d.). Retrieved from Natural News: http://www.naturalnews.com/036974_chaga_mushroom_anti-cancer_tonic.html#
Enkhbaatar Batjargal, H. H. (2009). Effects of Korean Chaga mushroom extract on stimulation of immune response in mouse splenocytes. The Journal for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology .
Lemieszek MK1, L. E.-S. (2011). Anticancer effects of fraction isolated from fruiting bodies of Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.) Pilát (Aphyllophoromycetideae): in vitro studies. Int J Med Mushrooms
Najafzadeh, M. R. (2007). Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Mol Cells , 31 (2), 165-73.
ORAC Results Fruits and Vegetables per 100g / 3.5oz (Conducted by Tuffs University Dept. of Health Sciences Boston, MA:U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Health Project Expo 2003)
Dr. Jen Newell is passionate about helping people embrace health, feel amazing and easily incorporate “real” food into their busy lives. Her mission is to make health accessible and achievable, and to inspire patients to live an active, vibrant and healthy life.
Jen has a clinical focus on digestive health, food sensitivities and healthy nutrition; mental health and stress-related illness; women’s health, hormone balance and fertility; optimal aging; and dermatology. She focuses on integrating healthy foods into one’s diet in a medicinal and therapeutic capacity and providing individuals with nutritional support that is easy to incorporate into a busy day. Dr. Newell practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.
main image via flickr