Fungus can actually be good for us? Go figure!
Studies on reishi, shiitake and turkey tail mushrooms have shown incredible immune-boosting and cancer-fighting wonders. Paul Stamets, an internationally renowned mycologist, explains the power of fungi in this TEDMED talk. He even wears a hat made out of mushrooms!
The chaga mushroom is perhaps a more recent newcomer on the superfood block, and it’s no poor spore when it comes to healing properties. Chaga grows like a crusty charred mass on birch trees in the deep boreal forests of northern damp climates. Having been around for centuries in alternative healing realms, this super ‘shroom could be the stuff that dreams are made of (not the ‘magic’ hallucinogenic ones).
My recent journey into healing mushrooms began as I was foraging for a caffeine replacement. It first hit me when I noticed the copious piles of tea bags accumulating all around me. It was out of control, and I realized the steady hits of caffeine were likely NOT doing wonders for my adrenals and blood sugar levels (caffeine –> stimulant –> releases stress hormones –> raises blood sugar). High time for a caffeine-tervention.
Then just the other week, I suddenly found myself gazing at a box of chaga mushroom tea in my local health food store. This enigmatic fungus had intrigued me for a while, and I finally had a compelling reason to try it out!
Here are five perks of sipping on some chaga…
1) Antioxidants. Out of the few studies conducted on chaga, all have shown over ten times the amount of antioxidants than acai and goji. Wow!
2) Protective Prowess. Chaga covers the whole gamut of anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and coincidentally, anti-fungal properties. A well-equipped immune system warrior.
3) Vits and Mins. A cup of steeped chaga offers vitamin B’s, K, D2 and minerals like calcium, iron, manganese and zinc.
4) Blood Sugar Balance. Interestingly, chaga has shown positive results in lowering blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes. This is more cautiously optimistic for us insulin-dependent type 1’s, and so far I haven’t experienced any noteworthy lowering effects. I’ll keep you posted.
5) Caffeine-Free. In the caffeine crazed world we live in, I must say this substitute has promise. I find chaga has a light roasted nutty flavor that doesn’t offend the taste buds. I can’t guarantee anything for the caffeine lovers out there, but could be worth a try.
Given the toxic (or loopy) side effects of certain wild mushrooms, I think I’ll leave the foraging up to the experts. For now, I’m happy sticking with local mushrooms from the farmer’s market and chaga in tea form!