Mushrooms are simply a delight. Most people either love them or hate them with very few falling in between. Whenever I’m having a long day, there’s nothing I’d rather do at the end of the day, than have a steaming hot bowl of Reishi mushroom soup and some chicken.
And like it or not, mushrooms have a large number of benefits that you simply can’t get from other food. This is the main reason why doctors recommend mushrooms such as the Reishi mushroom or the Chaga mushroom, especially if you have any health problems. They are low in calories, packed with vitamins, boost your immune system, and have a long list of benefits that just goes on and on.
Our two main contenders are the Reishi mushroom and the Chaga mushroom. But how do you decide which mushroom you should take? Can either mushroom have a list of benefits that only it has? Or is one mushroom the clear winner? Are there any consequences to taking both?
Both the Reishi and Chaga mushrooms boost your immune system and your nervous system. They both also help prevent cancer and reduce the symptoms of allergies. The Chaga mushroom also helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It’s best to take 1 tablespoon of the mushroom powder extract with hot water for maximum effect.
The Reishi mushroom – History & benefits
This mushroom has an ancient reputation for being one of the best medicines in the Chinese culture for over 2000 years. Also called the mushroom of immortality because of its amazing medicinal properties, taste, rarity, and lack of side effects, Reishi mushrooms were only used by Asian royalty up until the 20th century.
Now, these mushrooms have been cultivated and can easily be purchased. But let’s take a look at why these mushrooms were so valuable that only the royal families could afford them.
- Benefits your nervous system – These mushrooms were traditionally prescribed to treat insomnia. However, recent studies confirm that Reishi mushrooms are still prescribed for various psychiatric conditions such as anorexia and even for speeding up recovery from lengthy illnesses.
- Boosting your immune system – The compounds named Organic Germanium, Polysaccharides, and Triterpenes all strengthen your immune system. And yes, these are all available in Reishi mushrooms.
- Reduces allergies and inflammation – The extracts of Reishi mushrooms have been shown to reduce allergic reactions and reduce the effects of asthma, dermatitis, bronchitis, rheumatism, and even stiff necks and shoulders.
- Heals the liver – The extract of Reishi mushrooms has also been used to treat liver failure. Continuously taking this extract has helped the liver regenerate faster, as seen in a 2008 study.
- Preventing cancer – Most of us know of someone who at some point has been afflicted with this terrible disease. The Reishi mushroom has been proven to have an anti-tumor effect due to its sugars which trigger your immune system to activate helper T-cells. It also raises the immunoglobin levels, making it easier for your body to detect any bacteria, viruses, or tumor cells. Reishi mushrooms have also been used to treat cancer, with chemotherapy showing promising results.
Even though these mushrooms are more common than they used to be, they are still rare and seldom found in the wild. This, of course, makes the mushroom expensive and a little hard to find.
Despite its bitter flavor and cost, the benefits of the Reishi mushrooms make them an excellent food to increase and maintain your long-term health.
The Chaga mushroom
Much like the Reishi mushroom, the Chaga mushroom too has a long list of benefits making choosing between the two mushrooms very hard.
When you take a look at the Chaga mushroom, your first thought will probably be, “That’s not a mushroom! That’s a piece of charcoal”. This mushroom has such a dark burnt texture because of the melanin in it. It has hardened to survive in harsh climates, and unlike the Reishi mushroom, the Chaga mushroom can be found growing on birch trees.
If you’ve been eating Chaga mushrooms recently, you might have noticed some changes in your well-being. This is because the Chaga mushroom has the below benefits.
- Boosting your immune system – The Chaga mushroom has unique properties which make it anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. It stimulates your immune system and increases the production of white blood cells.
- Reducing the effects of allergies – If you’ve recently developed a food allergy or an allergy to anything really, the Chaga mushroom can help reduce the allergy symptoms. This is very useful if you absent-mindedly ate something you weren’t supposed to.
- Reducing your cholesterol – Finally, a benefit that wasn’t on the Reishi mushroom list. The compounds in Chaga mushrooms have been proven to reduce cholesterol levels in adults while increasing healthy cholesterol.
- Reduced blood pressure – I’m sure most of us have had high blood pressure at some point. Well, the Chaga mushroom is here to help reduce your blood pressure.
Looking at the above lists, we can see some similarities between the two mushrooms. So how can we decide which mushroom is better?
Chaga vs. Reishi – The comparison
The below tables highlights all the key things that you should know about the Chaga and Reishi mushrooms.
|Chaga Mushroom||Reishi Mushroom|
|Other names||King of Mushrooms||Mushroom of Immortality|
|Texture||Hard and Tough||Hard and Tough|
|Color||Dark black||Six different colors ranging from orange to red|
|Taste||Bitter||Bitter, but can be eaten raw|
|Ecosystem||Grows on Elm, Birch, and Alder trees. Can be found in Siberia, Poland, Russia, and North America||Grows on hardwood trees more commonly in the Asian regions|
|Considered to reduce the risk of colon cancer||Helps prevent and treat cancer|
|Boosts the immune system||Boosts the immune system|
|Benefits||Reduces cholesterol||Promotes a healthy liver|
|Reduces blood pressure||No apparent effect on blood pressure|
|Reduces allergies and inflammation||Reduces allergies and inflammation|
|Best served||Extracted into mushroom powder and with hot water.||Boiled and eaten|
Looking at the above table, we can see that it’s tough to choose between either mushroom unless you have a specific illness that you are looking to treat. But you don’t have to be sick or fighting disease to start taking these mushrooms. Both the Chaga and Reishi mushrooms can boost your already good health to make you healthier.
At the end of the day, the choice might very well come down to which mushroom you can find most easily and for the most reasonable cost. Having tried both, you might prefer one over the other.
The good news is that you can take both since mushrooms have a synergetic effect. The compounds in both the Chaga and Reishi mushrooms support each other once they are eaten and can pack a bigger punch.
It’s better to take a blend of mushrooms such as lion’s mane, turkey tail, and shiitake, all usually available in powdered form.
The best Chaga and Reishi recipes
Now that we’ve covered all that these mushrooms can add to your life, let’s take a better look at how we can add these mushrooms to our diet.
The most common method used by the majority is to buy mushroom powder extracts. This powder can then be added to your morning coffee or hot water to get the fastest results. This method is my favorite since it only takes a minute or two to add the powder into my coffee.
But if you’re looking to create a tasty dish or drink with this mushroom, then you’ll have to grind the mushrooms into a powder or purchase the mushroom extract.
This powder and extract can be added to almost anything from the ingredient list of a muffin, an ice cream, or a cup of lemonade. However, to get the best use of the mushrooms, it’s better to take them with a hot beverage.
Chaga and Reishi tea can also be made with both the mushroom and the mushroom powder. Add the mushroom into boiling water for 30 minutes, add honey or maple syrup, and enjoy any time of the day—this way, the mushroom can be reused 3 to 4 times.
But be careful. Make sure you don’t exceed the amount of the mushroom extract added to your recipes. Each person should ideally have 1 or 2 tablespoons of Chaga or Reishi mushroom powder daily. If you have any conditions such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, it’s always best to check with your doctor before taking these mushrooms as their medication, and the effects of the mushrooms may interact.
When looking at the side effects of both the Chaga and Reishi mushrooms, there aren’t many. But if you do exceed the daily limit, you might feel some of the below symptoms.
- A dry mouth
- Dryness in the throat and nose
- Itchy skin
- Rashes popping up on your arms and face
- An upset stomach leading to diarrhea
- Nausea (which, if present, with a rash and headache, might be an allergy)
While both the Reishi and Chaga mushrooms are good for you, it’s important to remember that these mushrooms are powerful medicine. Too much of anything is bad, and these mushrooms can interact with any other medication you might take. So when in doubt, always check with your doctor.
So now that you’ve learned all the key points about the Reishi and Chaga mushrooms, it’s up to you to decide which one you will buy, if not both. After all, if one is good, then both must be better, in the recommended dosage, of course.