Chaga mushrooms are renowned for their health benefits, but can they help with the prevention and management of diabetes?
According to recent scientific research, the answer is yes!
We examined the hypoglycemic potential of chaga mushrooms and were quite impressed with what we found.
What are Chaga Mushrooms?
The chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a sterile conk that grows on birch trees. It’s one of the most commonly used fungi in alternative medicine, known for its anticancer potential and antioxidant effects. Wild chaga mushrooms prefer cooler climates and grow mostly in North America and northern parts of Asia and Europe.
Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga mushrooms provide an abundance of health benefits. Research indicates that Inonotus obliquus could aid in diabetes management, thanks to its ability to lower blood sugar levels.
In addition to controlling blood sugar, this medicinal mushroom reduces blood pressure, boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, and may even promote physical endurance.
Chaga reduces damage caused by oxidation and is one of the most potent antioxidants known.
Some of the most widely researched beneficial properties of chaga mushrooms are:
- immunomodulatory effects
- ability to treat skin issues
- potential to prevent blood clotting and platelet aggregation
- anticancer activity (chaga promotes apoptosis of cancer cells, which may fight cancer and prevent cancer from spreading)
- ability to lower blood pressure
- potential to aid in the treatment of autoimmune diseases
- ability to lessen oxidative stress
Bioactive Compounds Found in Chaga Mushrooms
Inonotus obliquus contains over 400 bioactive compounds, each with unique benefits. Some of the most talked-about compounds in chaga mushrooms are:
- ergosterol peroxide
- betulinic acid
While researchers are only starting to look into the potential of many of these compounds, some are already known to have profound effects. For example, polysaccharides found in chaga were proven to treat chronic illnesses and prevent metabolic disorders.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes (Diabetes mellitus) is a chronic health condition that affects your body’s ability to turn food (more specifically carbohydrates and sugars) you eat into energy.
A healthy body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars and releases those sugars into the bloodstream. The pancreas then releases insulin, a peptide hormone that allows the cells to absorb the sugar and use it for energy.
People with diabetes don’t produce enough (or any) insulin or have trouble using the insulin properly. Therefore, the sugars can’t get into the cells and provide energy to the body.
The Two Types of Diabetes
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes both lead to high blood sugar levels and diabetes complications that come as a result of the blood sugar increase. However, the mechanisms behind these diseases are different.
Type 1 diabetes is usually hereditary and starts earlier in life, often in childhood or early teenage years. People with this diabetes type don’t produce insulin. Therefore, they need to take insulin shots in order for their body to be able to turn food into energy.
Type 2 diabetes is often the result of a poor lifestyle, although people with diabetes in their family history are more prone to getting it. People with this type have a higher insulin resistance (don’t respond to insulin well) or don’t make as much insulin as they should. In addition to insulin, the treatment for type 2 diabetes may include oral diabetes medication.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Early diabetes symptoms include an increase in hunger and thirst, the frequent need to urinate, dry skin, and weight loss. All of these symptoms will subside once a person starts taking insulin.
Still, if a person with diabetes doesn’t take medication or restrict their sugar intake, they can develop long-term complications, such as:
- eye problems
- slower wound healing
- nerve pain and damage
- skin infections
- kidney issues
Is Chaga Good for Diabetes?
According to animal studies, chaga mushrooms have incredible anti-diabetic potential. A 2017 study examined the effects of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides in streptozotocin-induced type 2 diabetes in diabetic mice and potential mechanisms of its antidiabetic effects.
The mice were fed a high-fat diet and given 900 mg of chaga extract. The researchers examined the effect of Inonotus obliquus polysaccharide on resting blood glucose levels, which reduced significantly after taking chaga.
Although further research is needed, activation of the PI3K-Akt pathway could be the mechanism behind the antidiabetic effects of chaga. This pathway promotes metabolism and cell growth, and its damage is closely associated with type 2 diabetes.
Hypoglycemic Effects of Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga regulates blood glucose levels and provides hypoglycemic effects in diabetic mice. An animal study examined the effects of chaga mushrooms on diabetic mice and compared them to their effects on non-diabetic mice.
While Inonotus obliquus didn’t affect the blood sugar levels of healthy mice, it significantly lowered glucose levels in mice with diabetes. Additionally, chaga helped repair the pancreas in mice with diabetes-related tissue damage.
Chaga and Diabetes-Related Nephropathy
According to the Journal of Diabetes Investigation, diabetic nephropathy and associated renal failure are major health concerns for those struggling with diabetes. Taking a chaga supplement could lessen the kidney damage caused by diabetes.
A 2016 study examined the renal protective effects of polysaccharides found in Inonotus obliquus. The mice that were given a chaga extract for 8 weeks showed fewer signs of kidney damage related to diabetes when compared to those that weren’t given the supplement.
If you have diabetes, taking chaga supplements long-term could be beneficial, as it won’t cause any harm but can provide protection for your organs from the damage caused by chronic illness.
What We Can Conclusively Say About Chaga and Diabetes
Here’s what we know to date about cordyceps and diabetes:
- An animal study suggests that chaga mushrooms have incredible anti-diabetic potential as it activates the PI3K-Akt pathway.
- Inonotus obliquus regulates blood sugar levels and can have a hypoglycemic effect on those who have diabetes without affecting the sugar levels of healthy individuals.
- Chaga mushrooms can alleviate certain symptoms of diabetes and even prevent long-term kidney damage caused by the illness.
- More human studies are needed to explore the underlying mechanisms of chaga mushrooms and their effects on diabetes.
- Given that there are no downsides to taking chaga mushrooms, it may make sense to include them as complementary medicine for managing diabetes.
Are You Interested in Taking Chaga for Diabetes?
If you’re interested in taking chaga mushrooms for diabetes management and prevention, why not have it with your breakfast?
Our healthy mushroom granola contains a daily dose of hyperconcentrated chaga extract, as well as extracts of other healthy mushrooms—lion’s mane and cordyceps (which also has anti-diabetic potential).
And if you don’t like the earthy taste of mushrooms, don’t worry! Our mushroom granola comes in three delicious flavors: sunflower seed cacao, cinnamon, and vanilla almond.
Chaga and Diabetes FAQ
What are the side effects of the chaga mushroom?
There seem to be no studies indicating negative effects of chaga mushrooms, and centuries of use suggests that this mushroom is completely safe. Still, you should be cautious of certain drug interactions when consuming chaga.
In a 2006 study, a chaga extract inhibited platelet aggregation, leading to slow blood clotting. In healthy individuals, this results in a reduced risk of blood clots. However, if you have a bleeding disorder or are having surgery soon, chaga mushrooms may increase the risk of bleeding.
Who shouldn’t use chaga?
For generally healthy individuals, it’s completely safe to consume chaga supplements. However, people with bleeding disorders should be cautious, as these medicinal mushrooms slow down blood clotting, which could lead to excess bleeding if you get hurt.
Although there is no evidence that chaga could be unsafe for pregnant or breastfeeding people, many choose to avoid chaga (and other adaptogenic mushrooms) during pregnancy.
Does chaga interfere with blood pressure medication?
Chaga mushrooms don’t interfere with blood pressure medication. However, this fungus can have favorable effects on the cardiovascular system, including reduced blood pressure and heart attack prevention. Therefore, taking chaga can be beneficial for people with high blood pressure, whether they are taking medication or not.
How long does it take for chaga to work?
You need to take chaga every day for about two to three weeks before you start noticing results. Over time and with regular use, its effects will be more pronounced, especially if you’re taking the medicinal mushroom for its immunity-boosting and anti-cancer properties.
How much chaga should I take daily?
That depends on what type of chaga supplement you are taking. If you are taking chaga powder, the recommended dosage of chaga can be anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons, depending on what you're taking chaga for. Generally, you shouldn't exceed 2000mg of chaga per day, as Inonotus obliquus does contain a fair amount of oxalates.
For those new to adaptogenic mushrooms, it's best to test a lower dosage on yourself and ramp up as needed.
If you prefer chaga tea or foods fortified with chaga, you should follow the dosage and instructions provided by the company, as every brand contains a different amount of this mushroom.
Your best bet is to combine a chaga mushroom supplement with a food fortified with this mushroom in order to make sure you’re getting enough chaga every day.
Does chaga help you sleep?
Taking chaga mushrooms may improve your sleep quality. This adaptogenic mushroom has relaxing properties and can help your body destress. Therefore, if anxiety is keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep, taking chaga supplements could be helpful.
Does chaga lower cholesterol?
According to a scientific study, the benefits of chaga mushrooms include lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of cholesterol-related illnesses. Chaga is particularly useful in lowering LDL cholesterol, which is referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’ due to its harmful effects on the cardiovascular system.
What are the two sides of chaga?
Due to its popularity, people are overharvesting chaga. Unfortunately, overharvesting can lead to the species going extinct. If you don't want to contribute to overharvesting, make sure to buy chaga products from companies that source their chaga mushrooms ethically.
This article was written strictly for informational purposes and is not intended to inform about medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by a healthcare professional or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).