The Chaga mushroom, a fungus that grows on Birch trees found in the US, Russia, and Korea, is believed to be a powerful nootropic supplement that proves a variety of health benefits.
Although scientists are only beginning to research the mushrooms benefits to humans, they have already discovered potent anti-cancer and immune boosting properties.
What is Chaga?
The Chaga mushroom is a parasitic fungus that takes root in Birch trees that are typically already dying.
While Chaga isn’t beneficial to the trees on which they grow, it does boast some impressive properties that are helpful to humans, including the ability to boost immune health and provide anti-cancer benefits.
In Russia and throughout Baltic countries Chaga has been used as a medicinal supplement, and in 2011 was the subject of one clinical study examining the effects on tumor cells.
In the study, researchers found that the mushroom produced positive anti-cancer benefits on several difference cancer types in humans and animals.
In another study, Chaga produced positive markers of immune health in subjects, like reducing the damage and fragmentation of DNA by up to 40%. 
As a medicinal mushroom, Chaga is generally a well-tolerated option that supports overall health and the immune system.
Totally legal, it can be purchased in the US online or in-store as a tea, pill, powder, extract, or as the actual mushroom that can be steeped into a tea.
Other names for the product
While medicinal mushrooms are nothing new to herbalists and natural health enthusiasts, the Chaga mushroom seems to be one of the new kids on the block.
There are some positive user accounts online but compared to other nootropics Chaga doesn’t seem to be as popular.
Personally, I find that the several ways to supplement with the mushroom make it easy to get my daily dose.
I sometimes add the powder to my daily smoothies and have also sampled the tea products. I don’t necessarily feel any instant effect, but I feel that it’s a valuable addition to my daily supplements to enhance my overall immune health.
Additionally, because of the promising and positive research available, if I had or was recovering from any type of cancer, I would include it in my daily supplementation.
Benefits and Effects
Chaga has several clinically proven health benefits, most related to cancer prevention, treatment, and immune system enhancement.
Prevents cancer cell growth
In a clinical study, Chaga extract produced two-fold positive results subjects with cancer.
The extra both inhibited the growth of cancerous cells, and also helped to kill off existing cancer cells. Researchers were enthusiastic about the results and concluded that the Chaga mushroom may offer a new treatment option to people with cancer.
For people with cancer, this means a possible treatment option without all of the negative side effects of chemotherapy or the long recovery times associated with surgery.
Minimize the impact on healthy cells
In a separate study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms in 2011 researchers discovered that Chaga extract had the ability to slow the growth of tumor cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.
Unlike in chemotherapy treatments, where the treatment aggressively targets all the cells in the body, both healthy and unhealthy, the Chaga treatment fought the cancerous cells without harming the good cells in the body.
This means that during cancer treatment patients may experience fewer negative side effects associated with the death of healthy cells, like extreme fatigue, nausea, weakness, and muscle pain.
Someone without a cancer diagnosis can also benefit from supplementing with the Chaga mushroom.
As a prime source of Beta-D-Glucans, the compound that helps to balance the immune system within the body, Chaga can promote good health and give the body an added boost when it’s exposed to illnesses helping to keep you healthy. 
How It Works
The scientific community agrees that more research on how, exactly, the Chaga mushroom works to produce its many purported benefits is needed.
However, we do have some information on several of the powerful compounds within the mushroom.
The Chaga mushroom is rich in Beta Glucans, which are known to normalize the immune system and help trigger important immune functions.
Not only do they enhance a balanced immune function in a healthy adult, but they are thought to be the component that binds to complement receptor 3 (or CR3) allowing the body to differentiate between healthy cells and cancer cells.
Additionally, Chaga is rich in several phytosterols, including lanosterol at 45% and inotodiol at 25%. Both of these phytosterols have an anti-cancer effect, and lanosterol also produces an anti-viral effect in the body. 
Any medicinal mushroom or other natural supplement is effective because of the specific bioactive ingredient that produces a positive response in humans.
It’s believed that the main compound in Chaga is beta-glugan, and users should look for products with a 10% potency for the best effects from the Chaga mushroom.
If your supplement meets that 10% guideline, start by supplementing 1000 mg daily. There are no studies or research that support a higher dosage for either immune boosting or cancer treatment properties.
Anecdotally, users claim that Chaga extract can be used to enhance mental clarity and alternateness at a higher dosage, around 2 grams daily.
While Chaga side effects haven’t been extensively studied or documented in humans, there are some contraindications to be aware of.
Users who are also taking anticoagulant medications, like aspirin or warfarin, should avoid also taking Chaga mushrooms as a supplement.
The active constituents in the mushroom can raise the risk of bruising and bleeding when combined with these medications.
The mushroom may also have negative interactions with medications used to treat diabetes, like insulin, creating a higher risk for symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Finally, the Chaga mushroom is rich in Beta glucans. Anecdotally, users report occasional dry mouth, upset stomach, nosebleeds, and bloody stool as a result of taking the supplement.
As a mushroom with powerful immune-boosting benefits, Chaga can safely and effectively be stacked with other popular antioxidant and immune enhancing supplements.
It’s also popular to stack the Chaga mushroom with some of its more well-known counterparts, the Reishi and Turkey Tail mushroom, for a powerful immune health enhancing combination.
The Chaga mushroom is considered both a natural way to treat and prevent cancer, as well as an organic immune-boosting mushroom.
There are many different supplement alternatives that make similar claims. Here, we’ll examine a few you can consider.
1. Proteolytic Enzyme Therapy
First introduced in 1906 by scientist John Beard, and then heavily tested by researchers in the 1980’s and beyond, Proteolytic Enzyme Therapy is one natural treatment option thought to be effective for cancer patients.
The approach has a two-fold process. First, those diagnosed with cancer are prescribed a diet specific to their cancer type designed to put the body back into balance and help it heal.
Then, it’s recommended to take 5 grams of proteolytic enzymes three times per day to reduce inflammation in the system.
In studies, this approach was shown to improve overall response rates, improve the duration of remissions, and overall survival in patients. 
2. Reishi Mushroom
There are two main differences in the mushrooms. First, Reishi is the more researched and readily available of the two supplements.
The second main difference between the two is the taste. Chaga mushrooms are said to have a nutty, vanilla-like flavor when brewed into a tea where Reishi mushrooms are notoriously bitter.
However, like Chaga you can purchase this mushroom supplement in a pill, powder, or extract form and do not have to consume it as a tea to reap the benefits.
Another extremely common herb used in immune-boosting teas and supplements is Echinacea.
Long thought to help prevent the common cold, the herb is in the process of undergoing a long-term clinical trial to prove the validity of those claims.
Generally, it’s accepted as a powerful antioxidant that, when consumed by a healthy user, can help boost your immune system and keep you from getting sick. 
Whether you’re searching for the cancer-fighting properties of the Chaga mushroom, or the benefits to your immune system there are many choices on the market.
It’s important to take a look at what’s available and make the best choice for you.