Chaga has gained a reputation for having many beneficial properties, from boosting our immune systems to helping us feel more energetic. One desirable purported benefit of Chaga—particularly in the increasingly stressful world we live in today—is its ability to help with anxiety. But is it true?
Chaga can help with anxiety, thanks to the fact that it is an adaptogenic mushroom. Adaptogens are a select group of herbs and mushrooms that can help to regulate your stress levels, whether that calls for relaxation or stimulation.
Of course, there is a world of difference between improving your anxiety levels and curing clinical depression. While Chaga can help with anxiety, it will not magically cure someone who is suffering from severe psychological issues.
The best way to think of Chaga in relation to your stress and anxiety levels is as a supplement rather than a medicine. Combining Chaga with plenty of exercise and a healthy lifestyle is likely the best defence against anxiety that you can find naturally. That being said, there are plenty of other aspects of Chaga can contribute to your wellbeing—or harm it in some specific circumstances—so read on, and we’ll take a closer look at the properties of this remarkable mushroom.
Does Chaga Get You High?
It is almost unavoidable, but whenever someone brings up the concept of medicinal mushrooms, many people’s minds will immediately go to psychoactive mushrooms that people take to get high. The reality is Chaga Mushrooms do not contain any of the chemicals that typically bring about some of the more… interesting effects. In fact, in terms of analogs for the effect it has on your body, Chaga is closer to the properties of green tea than it is to any psychedelic substances. Albeit without the caffeine.
The intention with such substances can range from gaining a sense of euphoria to altering the perception of the person taking it. It can also be used for pain relief, and in that respect, there is a similarity, as Chaga can also provide some pain relief. That being said, the mechanism through which Chaga achieves pain relief is different. Psychoactive substances can provide pain relief by altering the user’s perception to the point where the pain is not as troubling; however, this kind of pain relief is temporary and, frankly, dangerous.
Some discomfort should not be ignored wholly, especially when it is a structural pain, such as a bone or ligament injury, and taking this kind of substance to dull that pain can lead you to make your injury worse. The pain relief that Chaga can provide comes in the form of anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation may be your body’s natural defence against things like infection, but it can sometimes get out of hand, and Chaga can help to manage the resulting inflammation without putting you in danger of exacerbating any problems.
The effects of Chaga Mushroom are far more subtle. For instance, regular consumption of Chaga tea should result in higher levels of energy, though that increased energy will be gradual and something you may not notice for a little while. Another beneficial property of taking Chaga is a boost to your immune system, which should prevent you from getting sick as often as you might ordinarily have done. Once again, this is a benefit that will not necessarily be obvious for a little time.
In keeping with the long-term benefits that aren’t immediately obvious, Chaga also contains plenty of antioxidants that help to eliminate free radicals. For those of you know know what free radicals are, the significance of this will not be lost on you, but for everyone else, free radicals are free-roaming particles that collide with your cells and causing damage to them. This is a contributing factor in the aging process, and eliminating these free radicals can slow down that process and potentially even reverse it somewhat. Of course, we are not saying that drinking Chaga tea will add decades onto your life or wind back the clock so that you look twenty years younger than you actually are, but it can help you to keep your vitality for longer.
Can Chaga Be Harmful?
Before getting into the subject of whether or not Chaga be harmful, it is important to note that there have been little to no human studies conducted for determining how safe it is or what dosages should be taken. This does not mean it is unsafe, of course; it just means that we are drawing on the anecdotal experience of centuries of humans using Chaga rather than scientific research into the subject. We can also infer a lot from the substances in Chaga and how we know they react with our biology, though chemistry is a complicated science, and guessing the reactions of individual chemicals in a complex organism like a fungus without a chemistry degree should be hardly be considered as solid evidence. But it can point us in the right direction.
And the direction we are pointed in is this; people who are in good health and have no underlying medical conditions should be perfectly fine to consume Chaga. Indeed, the majority of people—even those with less than stellar health or who have certain conditions—should be fine to consume Chaga. There are, however, exceptions.
Chaga can impact the blood sugar of the person taking it, which would not necessarily be a problem for someone without diabetes, but for people who do have the condition and are taking insulin because of it, Chaga represents the potential for some serious side effects. It is important to remember that your insulin dosage is carefully calculated to ensure your body’s blood sugar is regulated. If you take something like Chaga that alters the blood sugar levels in your body, the insulin may no longer be effective—or may even be too effective.
We’ve briefly mentioned above that Chaga can help to boost your immune system, and this is true from the experiences of hundreds of years of people trying this remarkable fungus. However, that immune system boost is not always a good thing. People with autoimmune disease—a disease that causes your body’s own immune system to attack you—could suffer severe, even fatal consequences as a result of taking something that boosts that immune system. People with this condition are typically put on immunosuppressants to stop their immune system from hurting them, so it shouldn’t be a shock that something like Chaga giving your immune system a boost would be a bad thing.
Pregnancies and Nursing Mothers
There is no evidence that anything bad might happen to a pregnant or nursing mother or her baby—unborn or not—however, there has been no research to confirm that this is the case either.
While the centuries of safe consumption of Chaga would ordinarily lead us to say it should be fine, a newborn baby is an incredibly fragile thing, and given the importance of life and the potential consequences, if some issue were to develop as a result of consuming Chaga, we feel it is best to steer clear of the mushroom until pregnancy and nursing are well in the rearview mirror. That or some research is done, and the mushroom is officially designated safe for new and pregnant mothers.
Will Chaga Keep Me Awake?
The fact that Chaga is a natural energy booster often leads to some confusion about the nature of the mushroom, specifically as it pertains to your state of awakeness. The energy boost that you get from Chaga is a deeper, more fundamental boost that stems from your body being given important nutrients that it might previously have been lacking. It does not contain caffeine, however, which is a stimulant.
Another way to think of this particular aspect of Chaga is as an analog for car engines. Caffeine would be the equivalent of dropping some high-performance boosting fluid into your engine—it would give the car a significant and noticeable boost for a short time. Unfortunately, overdoing it with this kind of boosting would ultimately result in a burned-out engine. Chaga, on the other hand, is the equivalent of adding some high-quality fuel additive into the mix. The results are far more subtle compared to the explosive kick your high-performance fluid gives you, but they last for longer. And, perhaps most importantly, it is actively helping your engine stay in good condition.
Chaga is the high-quality fuel additive to caffeine’s explosive high-performance boosting fluid. It won’t keep you awake at night, but it will help you feel more energetic and ready to face the world when you are awake.
Is Chaga Bad For Your Kidneys?
Chaga is not inherently bad for your kidneys; however, it does contain substances that can become bad for your kidneys if you go overboard with your Chaga consumption.
Oxalate is considered to be an “anti-nutrient” due to the fact that it can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb other nutrients. This alone is a cause for concern, but it is the way in which oxalate binds with calcium that is the major reason to worry. In binding with calcium, oxalate can create kidney stones, which are extremely painful. There have even been cases of kidney failure as a result of too much Chaga.
So, does this mean you shouldn’t take Chaga? If you have kidney disease, you should absolutely steer clear of this mushroom. If, however, your kidneys are fine and you do not have any of the issues we mentioned above, you should be fine with the occasional mug of Chaga tea. As with most things in life, just try to refrain from having too much of a good thing. Everything in moderation, including Chaga Mushroom.
Can You Consume Too Much Chaga?
As mentioned in the last section, consuming too much Chaga can result in kidney stones. And, if you have any of the health conditions we have covered in this post, having any Chaga can result in much worse consequences than kidney stones.
That being said, there are other reasons to avoid consuming too much Chaga that have less to do with your physical health. The first reason is your own preferences. Anyone who formerly had a food or drink that they loved but can no longer stand the stuff after overdoing it will be able to attest to how easily your body and mind can turn against something. Chaga has a distinctive taste, and if you subject your palate to it too often, you may find yourself getting nauseous at the thought of even a small cup of Chaga tea.
Another reason is the sustainability of your Chaga habit. Chaga is a finite resource, and it takes a while to grow back—assuming you harvested it in a way that is sustainable and will allow it to grow back. If you go around gobbling up all of the Chaga, you leave less for other people. And, of course, there are always consequences of excessive consumption of natural resources, such as the disruption to the local ecosystem it causes.
When you consider all of the beneficial side effects that Chaga can grant you—anxiety management, anti-inflammation, immune system boosting, increased energy levels—it can start to look a little too good to be true. All of this from a simple mushroom?
As with all things in life—and particularly in nature—there is no such thing as a free lunch. Simply incorporating Chaga into your diet will not magically cure you of all your ills and make you feel superhuman, but it can certainly help in the areas we have mentioned above. It is important to remember that no single substance can make you healthy. You will always need to strive for a healthy lifestyle with good food and exercise to properly care for your body. And Chaga can play a large role in that process.
That being said, if you have any of the conditions we have covered in this post—autoimmune diseases, diabetes, etc.—or you are pregnant or nursing a child, you should stay away from Chaga. It is a remarkable fungus, but it is not right for everyone.