If you live above the northern hemisphere, you may be wondering why on earth I’m asking if you need an immunity boost. After all, you’re in the throws of summer and probably have vitamin D coming out the yin-yang.
I have two things to say to you. First, you lucky fish. Some of us live south of the equator, where it’s currently not very warm at all. Second, and more importantly, just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you should neglect your immune system.
Keep it strong now, and you’ll sail through next winter without so much as a sniffle. Think about it, you can be the superhero in your office who dodges lurgies better than Ant-Man dodges bullets.
WHAT ARE CHAGA MUSHROOMS?
Okay, now that I have your attention, let’s take a look at what a chaga mushroom is. Referred to as ‘The King of the Medicinal Mushrooms,’ wildcrafted chaga has been used in traditional herbalism throughout the colder regions of Northern Asia and Europe for centuries.
Found in the old forests of Latvia, these prized tonic ‘shrooms look more like lumpy pieces of dirt or charcoal than their table-variety cousins. Don’t go looking for them on the ground, though. Chaga mushrooms grow on wild birch trees.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHAGA MUSHROOMS
Once dried and ground into powder form, chaga mushrooms are ready to work their magic. Like with so many popular superfoods nowadays, they come packed with a host of benefits.
Containing everything from B-complex vitamins, vitamin D and potassium to selenium, zinc, iron and manganese, chaga mushrooms definitely top the list of nutrient-dense superfoods. This wonderfully medicinal mushroom is also packed with healing properties.
Along with building a strong immune system, it promotes longevity, endurance and fitness and even metabolic health. Chaga mushrooms are also known for their cancer prevention properties.
POTENTIAL CHAGA MUSHROOM SIDE EFFECTS
While chaga mushrooms have amazing health benefits, there are some precautions you need to keep in mind. Because it stops blood clots from forming, you shouldn’t use chaga if you’re on any kind of blood-thinning medication.
It’s also been known to lower blood sugar levels, so if you’re taking medication for diabetes, chaga is a no-no. Because the mushroom is known for its immune-boosting qualities, people who suffer from autoimmune diseases should also avoid it.
Adding medicinal mushrooms to your diet can be hugely beneficial, but make sure you do so cautiously. Start off slowly, and gauge how you feel. It’s also a good idea to talk to a naturopath or qualified professional, if you’re not sure how to go about incorporating them into your day-to-day life.
HOW TO EAT CHAGA MUSHROOMS (OR DRINK THEM!)
The most common (and easiest) way to add this superfood to your diet is by making chaga tea. Most people simply brew the store-bought powder and either drink it as-is or add it to smoothies, but Jesse from Jesse Lane Wellness has spiced things up a little, by creating chai and vanilla variations. Both sound yummy.
Spiced Chocolate Chaga Elixir
This spiced chocolate chaga elixir from Emma at Coconut & Berries sounds perfect for the cold winter days we’re currently experiencing here in Cape Town. Along with the chaga tea, she’s added cacao, lucuma, cinnamon and a little cayenne to heat things up.
Creamy Chaga Mushroom Soup
Finally, another great way to add chaga mushrooms to your diet is to make a hearty soup. Made with roasted cauliflower, navy beans and leeks, this creamy chaga mushroom soup looks like winter heartiness in a bowl. (I’m off to make this just as soon as I hit publish on this post.