The chaga mushroom grows on birch trees throughout the northern hemisphere. Possible benefits may include lowering cholesterol levels, supporting immune function, and reducing blood pressure.

Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is high in antioxidants and plant compounds that may benefit health. It often resembles a dark clump of dirt but has bright orange tissue beneath its exterior.

Chaga is available as a herbal tea and supplement. Consuming chaga mushrooms as part of a healthy, balanced diet may help reduce oxidative stress, lower “bad” cholesterol, and support immune function.

This article examines the potential health benefits of chaga mushrooms and the research behind the claims.

a bowl of dried chaga mushroom next to a fresh chaga mushroomShare on Pinterest
Yelena Klimova/EyeEm/Getty Images

The exact nutritional composition of chaga mushrooms is unclear. However, they are rich in antioxidants and several beneficial plant compounds, including:

While it is available as a supplement, people also typically use chaga mushrooms to make teas and other infused drinks. This means that chaga infusions often do not have the same nutritional properties as the types of mushrooms that people consume whole.

Learn more about the nutritional content of mushrooms here.

Chaga mushrooms contain many antioxidants and compounds that may reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol.

High cholesterol is a significant risk factor for heart disease, so chaga mushrooms could be useful to protect against cardiovascular disease.

Some studies have explored the possibility that chaga mushrooms may prevent cancer and slow its growth.

Chaga is rich in antioxidants. These are chemicals that help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals or oxidants.

Oxidative stress occurs when the body cannot produce enough antioxidants to prevent this damage. Damage from oxidative stress can contribute to the development of many health conditions, including cancer.

Cytokines are the immune system’s chemical messengers. They are proteins that play a vital role in stimulating white blood cells, which are the immune system’s first line of defense against a range of illnesses.

Chaga may help regulate the production of cytokines, supporting the immune system by helping cells communicate with one another. This could help fight infections, from minor colds to life threatening illnesses.

When the body is fighting an illness, inflammation supports the fight. But sometimes, inflammation transitions from a short-term attack to a chronic health problem.

Some illnesses, particularly chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, are linked to inflammation. Recent research suggests that some conditions that are not considered inflammatory — including depression — may be partly due to chronic inflammation.

Chaga’s role in regulating cytokine production may also help control inflammation.

As with other supplements and medications, chaga carries some risks. It can also trigger side effects and may interact dangerously with some medications.

Chaga lowers blood sugar, so it can be unsafe for people taking insulin and other blood-sugar-lowering medications.

Chaga extract may also inhibit platelet aggregation, according to rodent studies. Platelet aggregation is a measure of how well a person’s blood cells clump together, which is essential for clotting. As a result, it may interfere with anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs.

To reduce the risks of using chaga mushrooms, a person should consider:

  • Continuing to take all prescribed medications — chaga is not a substitute for traditional medication.
  • Informing a doctor about all medications they are taking. As with other drugs and supplements, chaga may alter the effectiveness of various medications.
  • Documenting any side effects from chaga use. Though rare, chaga could trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Trouble breathing, changes in heart rate, and loss of consciousness are medical emergencies.
  • Avoiding other herbal supplements while taking chaga unless a doctor advises otherwise.
  • Researching supplement brands and buying from reputable sources — chaga is not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

People planning to incorporate chaga mushrooms into their diet should consult a doctor before doing so. The right daily intake of chaga varies depending on treatment goals.

However, chaga is not a substitute for other forms of medical care. People who have conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure should continue with their usual treatment.

People should only incorporate chaga mushroom as a supplement under the direction of a doctor.

Chaga mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and may have several potential health benefits.

Though more research is needed, some studies suggest that chaga mushrooms may be beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels, slowing cancer growth, supporting immune function, and reducing blood pressure.

Chaga mushrooms are available in many herbal teas or supplements.

However, a person should consult their doctor before using chaga supplements, as they can interact with certain medications and may cause side effects or allergic reactions for some people.