Ugly Chaga Mushroom Clinker Fungus with Health Benefits – Paul Stamets

chaga mushroom

Mycologist Paul Stamets searches for medicinal mushrooms and conks all over the world, even right here in BC. One of them is the weird looking clinker fungus called the chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus). Technically it is a parasitic fungus that grows on birch and other trees. Called a “tree cancer” by some because of its ugly burnt charcoal appearance, as if exploding and oozing out of the tree trunk, this hard, black formation has some amazing medicinal properties that help fight human diseases, including cancer.

The chaga mushroom mycelium can be grown in the laboratory as an alternative supply to harvesting it in the wild, which protects the ecosystems of the natural habitat of the conks. This polypore mushroom typically grows on beech and birch trees, but Paul Stamets says it can also be found on hornbeam, chestnut, and alder trees.

The sterile fungal body of chaga mushroom takes years to grow and makes the tree look like it is sick, although tree mushrooms like chaga typically have amazing medicinal qualities due to pulling properties from inside the trees’ cambium (outer layer).

The local market for chaga mushroom

The demand on the market today is immense since chaga mushroom is sold as a nutritional supplement. The mushroom boasts anti-cancer properties, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, boosting the immune system, and other health benefits.

If you would like to learn more about chaga or other medicinal mushrooms here is a book by David Spahr called Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada. He discusses why chaga is unique and the best form to take it in (alcohol tincture).

The anti-oxidative effects were tested by scientists at the University of Bradford, U.K. in 2007 for IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease) patients for a room temperature water-ethanol extract of chaga mycelium (cultured) and concluded that “Chaga extract reduces oxidative stress in lymphocytes from IBD patients and also healthy individuals when challenged in vitro” (Najafzadeh et al., 2007). This extract was more powerful than twice-cooked hot water extract (from wild conks) in its antioxidant effects.

Other studies have concluded that chaga mushroom helps build the immune system to fight against sickness and diseases and viruses.

The chaga supplements can typically be purchased online or at local Vancouver health food stores or supplement stores. The chaga mushroom is particularly effective since it can be sustainably and locally grown in BC.


The author of this story is a freelance contributor to National Nutraceuticals’ online news portals, such as Amino Acid Information Center at and Vancouver Health News at  National Nutraceuticals, Inc. also owns and operates a third health news portal focusing on medicinal mushrooms at, plus our newest portal at

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