During World War II, Finland faced a coffee shortage due to disruptions in trade routes. The Finns turned to a locally available substitute called chaga, a parasitic fungus that grows on birch trees in cold climates, as a substitute for coffee . Chaga was dried and ground into a powder, which was then brewed in the same way as coffee. It was believed to have a similar taste to coffee but with a slightly sweeter and nuttier flavor. Finnish soldiers drank chaga tea for its nutritional and medicinal properties, believing it could help boost the immune system and fight off illness .
According to a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, chaga contains a variety of bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides, triterpenes, and polyphenols. These compounds have been found to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties, which may explain why chaga was believed to be beneficial for health .
Another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that chaga extract had a protective effect against oxidative stress-induced DNA damage in human lymphocytes . Oxidative stress is a type of damage that occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body's ability to neutralize them with antioxidants. Oxidative stress has been implicated in the development of several chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Chaga has also been found to exhibit anti-tumor activity in animal and in vitro studies. A study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that chaga extract inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells in vitro by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) . However, further research is needed to determine the efficacy and safety of chaga as a cancer treatment in humans.
So if you're looking for a way to reduce your coffee intake and improve your nutritional balance, Chaga is a solid option!
- Nordic Food Lab. (2021, January 7). Chaga. https://www.nordicfoodlab.org/ingredients/chaga
- Kołodziej, B. (2015). Medicinal properties of fungi. Postępy Mikrobiologii, 54(4), 295–308. https://doi.org/10.5604/17331331.1152596
- Rzymski, P., Mleczek, M., Siwulski, M., Gąsecka, M., Niedzielski, P., Kozak, L., Budzyńska, S., & Poniedziałek, B. (2015). Antioxidant properties of ethanolic extract of Inonotus obliquus in submerged culture. Mycobiology, 43(4), 374–380. https://doi.org/10.5941/MYCO.2015.43.4.374
- Park, Y.-K., Lee, H. B., Jeon, E.-J., Jung, H.-S., & Kang, M.-H. (2004). Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay. Journal of Medicinal Food, 7(2), 141–146. https://doi.org/10.1089/1096620041224150
- Lemieszek, M. K., Rzeski, W., & Kaczor, J. (2011). Anticancer properties of a polysaccharide-rich extract from Inonotus obliquus fungi. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 13(3), 257–267. https://doi.org/10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v13.i3.30