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The Fantastic Antioxidant Powers of Chaga Mushrooms
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The Fantastic Antioxidant Powers of Chaga Mushrooms

Maddie S.
Maddie S.
March 27, 2023
3 min

Chaga mushrooms are claimed as a “superfood” in the wellness world for their high levels of antioxidants and power to reduce inflammation. But what does that all mean exactly? How effective are these supplements at helping to fight cancer and “reduce aging,” as some products claim?

Antioxidants, free radicals, and ORAC

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Free radicals

As you go about your life, your body constantly goes through processes like building new cells and turning food into fuel. These processes release particles called free radicals, which can cause cell damage, reduce immune system effectiveness, and cause other health issues over time. Free radicals can also be formed based on environmental factors, like sun damage and air pollution. (1)

Antioxidants

These proteins can help counteract oxidative stress and limit damage to your cells caused by free radicals. Your body has its own antioxidant mechanisms. However, studies have shown that consuming certain antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, and foods like mushrooms can help your body manage free-radical damage and overall immune system response. (2)

It’s important to note that adaptogens are another similar term that can often be confused with antioxidants. Adaptogens are foods that are thought to aid in helping your nervous system respond to stress. At the same time, antioxidants are explicitly associated with helping your body respond to the buildup of too many free radicals.

ORAC

ORAC stands for “Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity” and is a way to measure how well a substance can help your body fight against free radicals. Some examples of high-ORAC foods are berries, leafy greens, and mushrooms. (3)

Consuming foods with a high-ORAC value typically have anti-inflammatory properties and can help improve mental function and even prevent cancer. (3) It’s worth noting that high-ORAC substances don’t directly target cancer cells but rather help support your body’s response towards them. (4)

The antioxidant benefits of chaga

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Chaga, scientifically known as inonotus obliquus, is a medicinal mushroom that grows on birch trees. It has many amino acids, enzymes, and polysaccharides (specifically one called beta-glucan) known for their antioxidant and anticancer properties.

Chaga has been found to have one of the highest ORAC values in the world. To compare, chaga scores higher than any other mushroom, even medicinal mushrooms like reishi and lion’s mane. (5) It also scores over 40% higher than acai berries, a fruit well known for its antioxidant properties. (6)

Studies have shown that consuming high-quality extracts and tinctures created from the entire fruiting body of the chaga mushroom can help inhibit the adverse effects of free-radical buildup in your body. (7)

The health benefits of Chaga mushroom extracts

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Studies on chaga mushrooms have found that they have the potential to affect so much in our bodies positively. Here are just a few findings from studies.

  • Treatment for gastrointestinal disorders (4)
  • Preventing wrinkles and other visible signs of aging (9)
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Help slow the growth of cancer cells
  • Improve mental function and reduce cognitive decline associated with aging
  • Help fight against cardiovascular diseases (6)
  • Help regulate blood sugar and protect against type 2 diabetes (8)

Suppose you’re considering introducing a chaga extract supplement into your routine. In that case, it’s essential to ensure that you source an extract that is high quality and uses both alcohol and hot water extraction methods. Different antioxidant particles are water-soluble; some require alcohol, like an ethanol extract.

Suppose you only use one method, for example. If you make a cup of chaga tea using hot water, you can only extract some important antioxidant particles. Extracts that use both methods will have all the valuable antioxidant materials and provide the most benefits.

References

  1. “Antioxidants.” The Nutrition Source, 3 Mar. 2021, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/.
  2. “Antioxidants: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants-in-depth.
  3. High-Orac Foods May Slow Aging: USDA ARShttps://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/1999/high-orac-foods-may-slow-aging/.
  4. “Inonotus Obliquus.” Inonotus Obliquus - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topicshttps://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/inonotus-obliquus.
  5. Matough, Fatmah A, et al. “The Role of Oxidative Stress and Antioxidants in Diabetic Complications.” Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3286717/.
  6. Mcmahan, Brandon. “Is Chaga Mushroom an Antioxidant? What’s Chaga’s Orac?” Naturealm, 2 Sept. 2020, https://www.naturealm.co/blogs/news/is-chaga-mushroom-an-antioxidant-whats-chagas-orac.
  7. Najafzadeh M;Reynolds PD;Baumgartner A;Jerwood D;Anderson D; “Chaga Mushroom Extract Inhibits Oxidative DNA Damage in Lymphocytes of Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” BioFactors (Oxford, England), U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18997282/.
  8. Sharpe, Erica, et al. “Comparison of Antioxidant Activity and Extraction Techniques for Commercially and Laboratory Prepared Extracts from Six Mushroom Species.” Journal of Agriculture and Food Research, Elsevier, 9 Mar. 2021, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666154321000326.
  9. Thenier, Neil. “Chaga, the World’s Most Antioxidant Rich Superfood.” Wild Kingdom, Wild Kingdom, 22 Jan. 2020, https://wildkingdomextracts.com/blogs/mushroom-benefits/chaga-the-worlds-most-antioxidant-rich-superfood.

Fact Checked: Shannon Ratliff


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Maddie S.

Maddie S.

Content Writer

Table Of Contents

1
Antioxidants, free radicals, and ORAC
2
The antioxidant benefits of chaga
3
The health benefits of Chaga mushroom extracts
4
References

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