CHAGA: King of the medicinal mushrooms


Hail to the King! An introduction to chaga

Chaga is a remarkable medicinal mushroom that grows in living trees. It grows most abundantly in nearly all species of birch found in the circumpolar temperate forests of Earth’s northern hemisphere. As a food-herb and nutriment, chaga is a premier herbal adaptogen (a metabolic regulator that increases an organism’s ability to adapt to environmental factors and resist stress), cancer fighter, immune-system modulator, anti-tumour agent, gastrointestinal (digestive) tonifier, longevity tonic, and a genoprotective (DNA-shielding) agent.

A mainstay of traditional Siberian shamanism and healing, chaga has long been considered “king of the mushrooms.” It continues to be highly regarded in Siberia (where chaga is used as a nutritional medicine and tonic) as an external treatment for the skin—in tea and wetted-poultice form, as an inhaled medicine (chagasmoke), and as a fire starter (kindling). Chaga is recognized across Asia and is now rapidly gaining renown in Europe and North America.

Chaga is impressive in appearance and effect. You can tell people about its power and character, yet few can truly understand it until they experience it: the foamy, yellow-orange, dense chaga core; the scorched outer ridges; and the nutritionally rich, hardened layering found on the inner mushroom in between.

In essence, chaga makes wood edible for humans. And what kind of wood? Primarily, it is the powerful medicinal wood of birch trees, chaga’s preferred host. The rich tonics in birch bark are improved, concentrated, and delivered in an edible form by this superherb.

Chaga is part of the order of mushrooms known as Hymenochaetales, the members of which can affect dead wood and living trees. Like the highly acclaimed medicinal Polyporales (reishi, Ganoderma spp., Fomitopsis spp., Grifola frondosa, Trametes versicolor, etc.), some of the Hymenochaetales (notably chaga and Phellinus spp.) are considered to be members of a group of “medicinal mushrooms” because they have compounds that positively influence the immune system, joints and nervous system of mammals, including humans.

Medicinal mushrooms have super tonic and adaptogenic properties that allow you to consistently (even multiple times daily) ingest their nutrient-medicines that strengthen immunity; help fight allergies, asthma, and cancer; improve core vitality; and confer many other valuable gifts. For example, the fabled queen of the medicinal mushrooms, reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), helps support a healthy immune system, heart, lungs, and kidneys; lowers elevated blood pressure; and assists with rejuvenating brain and connective tissue—all while fighting allergies. The medicinal mushroom cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) fights fatigue, improves endurance, and increases both lung capacity and primordial life-force energy—what the Taoists call jing (which is a different energy from energy-flow chi, also spelled qi).

The king of the medicinal mushrooms, however, is chaga (Inonotus obliquus). This royal moniker comes down to us from traditional Siberian shamans, who crowned chaga the most powerful member of the mycelium kingdom. Chaga constitutes perhaps the greatest storehouse of medicinal healing properties of any single mushroom—or any herb, for that matter.

Chaga’s unique healing powers

Chaga is composed of a dense configuration of antioxidant pigments, distinguishing it from other medicinal mushrooms. Like other superherbs, such as Astragalus membranaceus and Gynostemma pentaphyllum, chaga helps to reduce the workload of the immune system as a whole. Nearly every type of superherb has a different content of saponins and polysaccharides, with each combination helping to boost the activity of our immune cells in different ways—polysaccharide beta glucans molecules match up with a specific type of cell in the immune system, each promoting a different immune response.

Various substances found in chaga possess powerful anti-cancer and anti-tumour properties. Many of chaga’s anti-cancer properties are now being attributed to beta glucans and melanin, as well as to its other vitality- and longevity-inducing medicinal properties. Beta glucans are scientifically recognized as one of the richest, most important forms of healing polysaccharides. Their discovery in the mycelium (netted, brainlike fungal structure) and in the fruiting bodies of medicinal mushrooms has provided insight on the chemistry of how medicinal mushrooms work to heal the human body.

The efficacy of beta glucans is only one of the mechanisms by which chaga acts to resist cancer. In addition to the beta glucans’ polysaccharide superpowers, chaga has notably high levels of the DNA-protective antioxidant known as melanin, which fights radiation by activating the pineal gland. Chaga’s phytonutrients have an ability to inhibit nuclear factor kappa B—a compound known to cause healthy cells to mutate or self-destruct. The anti-cancer medicinal compounds betulin, betulinic acid, lupeol, and related triterpenes are also found in chaga. Anecdotal evidence from Russia associates the consistent intake of chaga with resistance to all cancers, all of which make chaga an excellent adjunctive superherb to support any cancer-fighting protocol.

The myriad benefits of this alkaline, medicinal tree mushroom can be gained in various forms: drying wild chaga to make teas; eating it fresh, or eating it dried; and make special alcohol and alchemical extracts from it. As this book reveals, there are many ways to bathe in its hidden powers!

Basically, there are benefits to every type of chaga product. We see this reflected across chaga literature and research worldwide. In a Russian atlas of medicinal plants, chaga is recommended as a tea, extract, or nastoika (tincture) for malignancies. Dried wild chaga powder, simply eaten as food, appears to have healing effects on the digestive tract. In MycoMedicinals, An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms, fungal pioneer Paul Stamets summarizes the many unique uses for medicinal mushrooms in all possible forms (hot-water extraction, methanol, ethanol, and freeze-dried mycelium powder, etc.), all validated by scientific literature.

The available information indicates that not only the tea, extract, and alcohol tincture of wild chaga have unique and valuable healing properties, but also that commercially available chaga mycelium powder (grown on a grain medium, not harvested in the wild) has great healing properties as well.

Chaga safety

Chaga tea and chaga mycelium are safe and important health-food products for all ages (1 to 101+ years of age) and all stages of life, including pregnancy. Barring rare tree-mushroom allergies, pregnant women can take chaga tea and chaga mycelium daily during their entire pregnancy.

To date, no side effects or toxicity of chaga have been reported.

Luckily for all of us, chaga has already been classified by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “food.” Chaga has been granted GRAS status (Generally Recognized as Safe) from the World Health Organization. It’s legal for distribution in the European Union and is classified as a medicinal mushroom by the World Trade Organization.

David Wolfe is the author of best-selling raw food books including The Sunfood Diet Success System and Eating for Beauty. He is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on raw-food nutrition and conducts seventy to eighty health lectures and seminars each year. He holds degrees in mechanical and environmental engineering, and in political science.From Chaga: King of the Medicinal Mushrooms by David Wolfe, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2012 by David Wolfe. Reprinted by permission of publisher.
image: Charles de Martigny (Creative Commons BY-SA)
Posted by × December 20, 2012 at 7:16 AM


  1. Crazy, I never even heard of Chaga. It sounds pretty amazing.

  2. i want to become a great scientist…i m a student of biotechnology but still i m lacking in this field so please tel me wt should i do….

  3. been gathering and drinking chaga tea for about a month now ,and i feel great gives me the energy i need

  4. I started using Chaga Powder one week ago and drinking it as a tea. 1/2 tsp daily. Wow! Both my blood pressure and blood sugar levels are lowering. Even my energy level is a little better. Can’t wait to see how I am feeling in a month or so.

  5. “To date, no side effects or toxicity of chaga have been reported.”

    False, high dose testing in mice by mouth (5000 mg/kg every two days for a month) showed a mortality rate of 20%.

    Due to the relatively high rate of polysaccharide (?-Glucans) and their property of reducing sugar in the blood, chaga is not recommended for those who are hypoglycemia.

    Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, chaga is not recommended for those who take anti-inflammatory drugs without consulting their doctor.

    Because it contains lithium, chaga is not recommended for people who use an antidepressant lithium-based medicine without consulting their doctor.

    “Barring rare tree-mushroom allergies, pregnant women can take chaga tea and chaga mycelium daily during their entire pregnancy.”

    False, chaga is not recommended for pregnant women, breastfeeding women and young children.

    • Please explain why pregnant women cant take chaga.

      • Nowhere in the article did it say that pregnant women couldn’t take chaga. In fact, it stated exactly the opposite.

        “Chaga safety

        Chaga tea and chaga mycelium are safe and important health-food products for all ages (1 to 101+ years of age) and all stages of life, including pregnancy. Barring rare tree-mushroom allergies, pregnant women can take chaga tea and chaga mycelium daily during their entire pregnancy.”

        • Pregnancy requires an adaptation of the immune system; as strange as it sounds the fetus is seen by the mother’s immune system as ‘non-self’ meaning it would normally try to get rid of it. Nature has a workaround for this, but if you start boosting the immune system with Chaga or some other medicinal mushroom you are taking a risk. This has never been investigated so Wolfe is wrong if he makes this statement – he does not know, just assumes something.

          Apart from that, this whole book is a collage of facts and fiction (and recipes fergosake!!) with a bit too much fiction IMO.

          A much better (and free) source of information is this very extensive monograph about Chaga, covering more POV’s than Wolfe’s book and neutralizing much of the hype:

          It contains a lot of references as well

    • Wapush, please inform yourself better before spreading such misinformation. To use your “style”, let me just say – FALSE! As an amateur mycologist of many years, I have never heard or read of the mortality figures you cite in ANY study, anywhere of any edible mushroom. However, plugging in your figures with some other key words yielded a result which cited your figures exactly…in the treatment of Chagas disease. Since you failed to provide the source of your outrageous claim, let me do it for you. The link is at the bottom of my post, page 355, top left paragraph.

      Chaga sclerotia or mycelium have absolutely nothing to do with Chagas disease. Chaga mushroom/sclerotium/mycelium has been used for many centuries as an effective natural treatment of many conditions and ailments. Chagas disease is a tropical parasitic disease with no connection to Chaga mushroom, which grows in northern boreal forests. And the Internet is a double-edged sword. It provides valuable information and at the same time it contains plenty of baseless, blogged opinions and statistics to those who want to seem more informed than they actually are. All I can say is inform yourself and verify. Otherwise you may find yourself a victim of misinformation.

      Here is the link:

  6. Where can I get chaga alcohol and chaga tea in South Africa?

  7. Pingback: Immune Sytem: ENGAGE! | A Healthy Dose of Awesome

  8. Pingback: Chaga | Farmgirl Bloggers

  9. I have been taking Chaga for ten years now. In one word: Healthy.Gladly Introduced it to hundreds of people . in Europe as well in the Far East. And they all just love it

  10. ChagaHerb says:

    You can read more about Chaga related stuffs at ChagaHerb website as well.

  11. Well, there are many products under the chaga herbs and they can be used for many treatments as well. You can check this as well.

  12. this info sounds very good.I intend to try chaga.

  13. Pingback: Lyme Disease and Benefits of Chaga Medicinal Mushrooms | Soulfully Connecting

  14. Salena Brower says:

    I just started with this and I have lung cancer . Lupus etc I’m willing to try anything at this point then to keeps swallowing hand full of pills.
    Today no pills first day of making the tea I feel really good.

    • I just saved this comment from another site. Maybe it was meant for me to share it with you.

      Combining chaga mushrooms [melanin] with red raspberry seed powder [ellagic acid] is a very POTENT cancer killer and preventative. Supplement daily with chaga, agarikon, and MyCommunity mushrooms along with red raspberry seed powder.

      *I have no affiliation with any company. I’m researching chago for myself to treat RA.

  15. I would Google for Medical Medium or Anthony William, this is where I would start if I was in that situation. Good luck and wishing you Healing

  16. Ive been taking chaga extract for a long time, i startled when i was pregnant. I had hypothyreos and was on medicine for a long time. I was sleepy and tired and My body hurt. I didnt stop with My medicine, but i started to drink chaga tea as soon as i got up from bed and the last thing i did when going to bed.
    I feelt better and better after a week, less pain, i was more awake daytime and sleept better.
    After 2 month i started get headaches and the body was so tired, i recognized that as soon as i took My hypothyreos medicin i started get headaches. I didnt stop with chaga, Dr took some thyroid test and they reduced My thyroid medicine and again everything was good for almost 3 months and again i got the headaches this time worse than before. Again i had to reduce My thyroid medicine. Today i dont take any medicinens. I feel so good and My pregnancy was normal. My daughter looks just fine, i have been giving her chaga since she was 8 month once a day in very small doses.
    She have not eceb had flue and have never been sick.
    So try it before saying anything, very good for whole body!

  17. i have skin cancer i am nursing, can i take this mushroom????

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Pin It on Pinterest