In recent years, chaga mushrooms have gone from being an obscure folk remedy in the most frigid parts of the Northern Hemisphere to a popular superfood around the world. Chaga is touted for many benefits, chief among them improved immune system function and reduced aging due to the elimination of free radicals. Chaga is typically consumed as a tea, but more recently, some vendors have begun offering chaga supplements. Are these supplements worth your money?
The answer is no. While taking a chaga supplement is better than nothing, chaga is ill-suited to be taken in supplement form and chaga supplements are a waste of money. The only exception to this rule are chaga extracts/tinctures. Read on to discover the truth about chaga supplements.
What Are Chaga Supplements?
Supplements are nutrients that are consumed raw or in capsule form as an addition to one’s existing diet. Depending on your needs, supplements may be the best or only way to obtain certain nutrients. Additionally, many supplements, such as nootropics, offer health benefits above and beyond what one can expect from their daily diet. It is for these reasons that many people choose to take supplements.
However, a major problem with supplements is that the human body is not designed to extract nutrition from raw ingredients, but to instead ingest it from food and drink. Raw supplements run the risk of causing side effects through overdosing, which rarely occurs when eating foods that contain those same nutrients. It is for this reason that doctors typically recommend that patients obtain certain nutrients through changing their diets if possible.
When it comes to chaga, some companies offer chaga supplements in the form of capsules, consisting of chaga or chaga extract that has been ground into a fine powder. The advantages of chaga supplements are self-evident: they require less time to use and are more portable. With chaga supplements, you don’t need to brew them in a pot for several minutes before you can use them; you simply open the bottle and swallow. They can also be easily taken with you on trips.
The biggest problem with chaga supplements is that they do not take advantage of the full nutritional bounty of the mushroom. Much of chaga’s nutritional content is only bioavailable after boiling it, as hot water is needed in order to break down the mushroom’s chitinous walls. Supplements, by their very nature, cannot be used in this fashion. As such, supplements are an inefficient way to use chaga in pretty much all cases.
More seriously, when it comes to industrially produced supplements, the manufacturing process actually destroys nutritional content within chaga. The stresses of creating chaga supplements in a factory strips the mushroom of its natural, beneficial qualities. To make matters worse, a 2015 University of Guelph study showed that one out of every three supplements sold in North America is a fake, so you have no idea if your chaga supplements contain any chaga at all.
The only chaga supplement that is worth taking is chaga tincture, which is made through both immersing chaga in high-grade alcohol over a prolonged period and boiling it in water. Chaga extract has been shown to concentrate chaga’s nutritional content in a way that is easy to use and portable. Chaga tinctures can be purchased from vendors or manufactured on one’s own, and outside of making chaga tea or other food/drink recipes, it is the only way to consume chaga effectively.
Moreover, even if chaga supplements worked, they are an inefficient use of chaga in the same way that eating raw chaga is. While it is possible to eat raw chaga mushrooms, a single chaga chunk can be used to make a large quantity of chaga tea that will last for a long while and can also be shared with others. Chaga supplements are wasteful when it comes to a cost/benefit perspective because chaga chunks and powder are far more economical.
It is tempting to turn to chaga supplements as a fast and easy way to consume the mushroom. After all, we all have busy lives, and the idea of being able to compress your daily nutrition into a handful of pills is tempting. However, don’t fall for the hype. Chaga supplements lack the nutritional benefits that chaga is supposed to provide, are overpriced relative to their value, and may not even contain any actual chaga.
If you want to use chaga, the only way is through making chaga tea, chaga tincture, or other chaga foods and drinks. It may be time-consuming, but when it comes to getting the most out of your chaga, you don’t want to cut corners. Avoid chaga supplements as the snake oil that they are and stick to raw chaga itself, chaga tinctures, and recipes that you can make from chaga. Your wallet and body will thank you.