Birch trees, common in the United States, Russia, and Korea, are not a fan of the parasitic chaga mushroom. This black fungus grows on the trees and usually after the birch tree is already dying or dead. For humans, chaga mushroom is a promising nootropic compound that may have evidence as an immune booster or anti-cancer supplement.
There is not much research on the topic, but what exists looks promising. Despite the fact that Russian and Baltic peoples have used chaga mushroom for cancer support for decades, studies are showing the promise of chaga mushroom as an anti-cancer agent . Chaga can support other markers of immune health, such as reducing DNA fragmentation and damage by 40% in some instances .
Generally, chaga is a well-tolerated medicinal mushroom that aids in general health and immune strength. It is available as an extract online and has few recorded side effects.
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Editors’ Thoughts on Chaga
I have found little information online regarding chaga mushroom and the medicinal effects compared to many of the other nootropics (and even medicinal mushrooms). It is surprising that there are relatively few entries analyzing the drug (especially from sources like Examine).
My experience with chaga mushroom is mostly beneficial. I thought it was more mainstream as I know of chaga tea products, I used chaga in one of my smoothie mixes, and it’s popular amongst foodies in Austin, Texas.
I don’t feel anything when I take it in my smoothies, but it is more of an immune booster for general health. I don’t take it every day, but if I had cancer or if I knew someone who did, I would certainly recommend using supplement more.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
Benefits of Chaga
The major benefits of chaga are related to the immune system and how the supplement helps to prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading. In one study, chaga extract helped inhibit the cancerous cell growth and lead to death of other cancer cells prompting the researchers to concluce that “Chaga mushroom may provide a new therapeutic option, as a potential anticancer agent…” .
Another study in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms in 2011 showed that chaga extract decreased the tumor cell growth while showing low toxicity or harmful effects in normal cells . In essence, the chaga was able to kill the bad cells while leaving the good cells relatively unharmed. For a cancer patient, this is an important distinction that many conventional methods do not support (such as chemotherapy, which essentially kills healthy and non-healthy cells).
Finally, the chaga benefits extend beyond cancer prevention and anti-cancer, but into general immune health. As mentioned previously, chaga extract can inhibit oxidative DNA damage by over 40% compared to a control. This was measured through a “comet assay” test and concluded that chaga mushroom provides cellular protection . Another trial showed that chaga mushroom could protect bone marrow cells in mice who had an already weakened immune system .
Side Effects of Chaga
The side effects of chaga are relatively unknown and not well studied in humans. There aren’t even anecdotal reports to suggest that people feel a certain way in specific instances. One common theme with medicinal mushrooms is that extracts can sometimes cause gastrointestinal discomfort when consumed in higher quantities. This might be something that you remain vigilant for when taking chaga supplements.
A speculative case study analyzed the experience of a 72 year old Japanese woman who is said to have developed liver cancer after taking chaga daily for 6 months. The study theorized that chaga mushroom was to blame because it is high in a compound called oxalate. These high oxalate concentrations were correlated with the cancer and thus chaga mushroom .
This single case study (analyzed after the fact) is not indicative of the chaga side effects, so it is worth taking this information with a grain of salt.
As with any medicinal mushroom or natural product, the chaga mushroom has specific bioactive ingredients that can create a health response in humans. One compound is called beta-glugan, which should be in the 10% range when consuming an extract of chaga mushroom.
Assuming 10% beta-glugan content, a good starting place is around 1000 mg of chaga mushroom extract daily. There is no reason to take any more than that for the purposes of boosting your immune system or as a anti-cancer agent.
Some anecdotal reports claim that chaga mushroom can be used for mental alertness at higher doses (of 2 grams), but this is unreported and tested. The chaga dosage should remain around 1000 mg if you are starting and then you may decide to increase the dosage after a time.
How and Where to Buy Chaga
Chaga mushroom, despite being relatively popular, is still a rarity in many health food stores and ships. Instead of looking for a place near you to buy chaga mushroom, it might be a good idea for you to consider looking on the internet.
Several internet retailers have chaga for sale that is not only of better quality, but is also more affordable. We recommend buying from Nootropics Depot because they have partnered with Nammex to provided certified organic whole fruiting body extracts with specific percentages of the active ingredient we mentioned above (beta-glugan).
The processing for chaga extract makes a big difference in the bioactive ingredients and the effects in general. Because Nammex puts such time and care into producing the extracts, it yields a far better product.
Selected Community Experiences
“I've introduced a 2 gram scoop of Chaga Mushroom into my morning tea because it's purported to help with mental clarity + have a host of other medical benefits.”  – TitaniumDreads
“I only tried it once. I really liked it actually. It had a very mild earthy flavour, and it seemed to very mildly or gently energize me, and improve mood. It came in chunks. I'm asking her where she got it so I can buy some more to see how it works over a longer period of time.”  – humanefly
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