Are you tired of drinking the same old tea over and over? Chaga mushroom tea may be a good option for you. Chaga tea has been used in Russia and other Baltic countries for hundreds of years to boost immunity and improve overall health.1 It is now gaining popularity in Western countries, as numerous studies are touting the nutritional components of chaga mushrooms. Continue reading this article to learn more about the impressive health benefits of chaga tea and how you can include it in your daily routine.
What Is Chaga Tea?
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a parasitic fungus commonly found in cold climates, typically in Siberia, Alaska and Northern Canada.2 It is usually attached to birch trees, with the infection eventually killing the tree and the mushroom dying soon after.3
Trees infected with it develop a black growth on their bark reminiscent of charcoal, with a brown interior.4 Chaga mushrooms come irregularly shaped and cracked with a distinct cork-like texture. They typically grow within arms’ reach, making them easily accessible for harvest. However, in some instances the mushrooms may grow at heights of 10 to 30 feet.5
While chaga may look like something you wouldn’t want anywhere near you or your beloved trees, it is actually popular for its wide array of health benefits. Its high concentration of vitamins, minerals and nutrients paved the way for chaga to be lauded as a superfood.6
After numerous studies showed the benefits of chaga consumption, chaga product availability in the market increased. These products range from raw chaga mushroom chunks to chaga tea, skin cream, lip balm and joint rubs. However, brewing chaga tea may be the easiest way for you to benefit from this mushroom.
The Health Benefits of Chaga Tea
Before it became widely popular, chaga tea was already being widely utilized in Russia, Poland and other Baltic countries. It is valued for its antioxidant, antimicrobial and tumor-preventive properties.7 In addition to these uses, chaga tea may:
- Boost immune function. In a 2011 animal study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, chaga extracts were found to influence the production of cytokines that regulate the production of antibodies in the body.8
- Help regulate blood sugar. A 2017 animal study from Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy shows that the polysaccharides found in chaga may have antihyperglycemic properties due to its effect on the Akt/PKB signaling pathway.9
- Help keep inflammation at bay. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, mice were administered chaga extracts to test its effectivity on easing inflammation. Its effectiveness was linked to its effect on the inflammatory cytokines.10
Chaga Tea Nutrition Facts: Does It Contain Caffeine?
If you’re caffeine-sensitive or you’re trying to limit your caffeine intake, the good news is that chaga tea is caffeine-free. It’s also free of other stimulants like methylxanthines, including theophylline and theobromine. This makes it ideal for drinking in the morning and at evening.12
Here’s How You Can Brew Chaga Tea
When brewing your first batch of chaga tea, it’s important that you use wild chaga instead of the lab-grown kind. Also, note that you’ll achieve better extraction the more you crush the chaga mushrooms into powder. Brewing this type of tea yields an earthy and natural-tasting tea with hints of vanilla, due to the trace amounts of vanillin found in the mushroom.
To help you brew chaga tea, here’s a step-by-step guide from David Wolfe’s book “Chaga: King of the Medicinal Mushrooms:”13
How to Make Chaga Tea
- Fill a glass teapot with cold water. Put the ground chaga or chunks in the water.
- Allow the herbs to steep in cold water from a few minutes to an hour.
- After steeping, take the cold water up to a hot temperature slowly to about three-fourths of the temperature to a full boil. You can do this in 45 minutes to an hour. The slow rise in temperature will allow a better extraction of the chaga essences.
- Using a strainer, push the chaga chunks away from the surface of the tea. Dip a ladle in the area within the strainer to get the filtered tea. Enjoy!
How to Correctly Store Chaga Tea
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a region where you can get fresh chaga, you’d need to know how to correctly store the mushrooms. Fresh chaga is susceptible to mold, so any type of moisture can be extremely damaging to it. If you have fresh chaga on hand, make sure that your supply is completely dry before storage. Here’s how to store your fresh chaga correctly: 14
- After harvest, dry your fresh, wild chaga in direct sunlight for several days. Make sure that you bring the chaga in during the night and only bring it out during the daytime.
- If sun exposure is not possible, you have the option of using a dehydrator. Set the dehydrator at a temperature of about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. You may also use a stove for drying out the chaga mushrooms. Set it at 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you have to keep a close eye on the chaga to avoid burning.
- Once dry, break the chaga into golf-sized chunks with a mortar and pestle, or wrap the chaga in a small towel and carefully break with a hammer.
- Store the dry chaga chunks in airtight glass containers. Use the chaga as needed.
Note that if a white film develops on the outer bark, it can still be used, but do so immediately. Mildewed chaga should not be stored as this is not usually present in the mushrooms; rather, mildew develops due to improper storage.
Chaga Tea Side Effects and Contraindications
While chaga tea boasts of impressive health benefits, its consumption may amplify the symptoms of numerous conditions, which include:15
- Autoimmune diseases. Chaga’s effect on immune function may prove to be problematic for patients suffering from autoimmune diseases. By making the immune system more active, chaga could magnify the symptoms that accompany these conditions.
- Diabetes. Chaga may alter blood sugar levels, which could make it harder for diabetes patients to regulate and control blood glucose fluctuations.
- Bleeding disorders. While it is unclear how chaga may affect blood clotting and bleeding, this tea should be avoided by patients suffering from bleeding disorders.
Boost Your Immune System With Chaga Tea
With its impressive nutrient and antioxidant load, chaga tea may just be the next big thing in health maintenance. Its ability to help strengthen the immune system and ease inflammation is enough reason to add this herbal tea to your routine. Just make sure you get chaga mushrooms from trustworthy sources so you can be entirely sure that you’ll be getting all the health benefits they have to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Chaga Tea
Q: How much chaga tea should I drink?
A: Because of the varying tolerance that people may have for chaga tea, it’s best that you consult a health care professional to know the recommended amount.
Q: How long does chaga tea last?
A: When refrigerated, chaga tea may last for up to 14 days.16
Q: Where can I buy chaga tea?
A: There are numerous stores that sell different types of chaga mushrooms. You can get them in chunks or in powdered form. Some health stores also offer chaga teabags for an easier brewing experience. However, make sure that you’re getting chaga from reputable sources to guarantee that you’re getting only the highest quality possible.
Q: What does chaga tea taste like?
A: Chaga tea tastes earthy and a little bitter, but not unpleasant. It’s also said to have hints of vanilla, thanks to the trace amounts of vanillin in the mushroom. Note that the taste may vary depending on the quality of the chaga mushrooms.17