Mushrooms 101: A Closer Look at Chaga Thanks to FourSigmatic

Mushrooms tend to be one of those fruits of nature that people either love or hate. Whether it’s their texture or the idea that there are countless mushroom species that make you chat with the smoking caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland or take you to the hospital – there are plenty of mushrooms that are magic without those ill side effects.

Mix of forest mushroomsOne such mushroom happens to be Chaga (aka Inonotus Obliquus) that can typically be found in the Northern Hemisphere handing out on birch trees. This powerful mushroom may not even look like a mushroom to you – check out that picture! Known for being a healthy addition to tea in the East for centuries, this ugly (is that mean?) mushroom has made its debut in the U.S. bringing with it all of its health benefits.

So what does it do? Well, according to Dr. Edward Group, chaga is “a highly-concentrated black mass of mycelium that protrudes from birth trees infected with parasitic – but non-toxic- fungus Inonotus Obliquus.”

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Chaga (Picture Courtesy Mother Earth News)

Ok… before you get all grossed out. Remember that to grow mushrooms, you must inject the corresponding tree (usually a dried log) with the fungus of whichever mushroom you want. Where do you think the term “fungi” came from! (The mushroom walks into the bar and the bartender says, ‘we don’t allow your type in here,’ and the mushroom says, ‘why not… I’m a fun guy!’ – Ok, I’ll stop with the corny jokes now.)

So back to this non-toxic fungus. Chaga is recognized from its dark, hard and cracked exterior which resembles “burnt charcoal” and if you crack it open, it boasts a rusty yellow brown interior. Yum! (Yes, I’m being sarcastic). Even though it sounds horrid, by consuming chaga, you’ll be supporting your immune system thanks to its abundance of Beta-D-Glucans, which gives your system a boost or slows it down when its in hyper drive. In addition, it supports your blood vessels, soothing irritation, normalizes blood pressure and cholesterol levels thanks to its betulinic acid, which helps break down LDL cholesterol (aka “bad cholesterol”), and can even assist in supporting your gastrointestinal health.

All of this from one little mushroom? Yes! Thanks to its high levels of polysaccharides (which can help improve your mood), phytosterols, Super Oxide Dismutase enzymes, and a large amount of antioxidants including melanin (actually, chaga has the highest ORAC score which measures the amount of antioxidant potency of any superfood!) Take that kale!

Now that you know the health benefits, I’m sure you want to figure out where you can get some chaga of your own. Don’t worry, I’m not sending you out into the forests of New Hampshire. Thanks to Four Sigmatic, a cup of chaga is a click away.

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Cordyceps (Photo Courtesy The Chalkboard Magazine)

The geniuses of Four Sigmatic have turned this powerhouse into a “Mushroom Elixir” and have also added it in their “Mushroom Coffee” that in addition to Chaga includes Cordyceps, another mushroom that’s traditionally grown on the bodies of caterpillars (I’m not making this up!) Don’t worry, Cordyceps doesn’t include any caterpillars, but it is believed to enhance athletic performance and improve aerobic capacity. Dr. Weil even recommends it as a “natural energy boost” which has helped people with “low mood and compromised overall vitality.”

img_3252Back to the Mushroom Elixir – I’m in love! This little power packet as I’ve come to call it is the perfect addition to my morning smoothie routine. It adds a little pep to my step (I’m not a coffee drinker) without the caffeine, while giving me the immune boosting properties my body is craving (especially during the winter, when I’m running on no sleep thanks to my little six month old). It really doesn’t change the taste of my smoothie so you don’t even realize this little mushroom that could is hiding in the depths of your raspberries and peanut butter.

So go ahead, try it in your next morning smoothie and see how you feel. Getting back to the dirt never tasted so good and you don’t even have to “know a gal” who shares the location of that log on that trail in those woods that grows the goods. Four Sigmatic took care of that for you.

Check out my next post on their Mushroom Hot Cocoa with Reishi… yes, they made hot chocolate a health food – FINALLY!

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