Written By: Emily Spring
Functional mushrooms have long been a part of traditional medicine in many cultures, and modern-day research has given us a better understanding of how certain fungi impact our bodies, mind, and overall health.
That research corroborates the idea that mushrooms are health gems—sometimes hard to find, but always invaluable, particularly to your health. Two such gems are chaga and reishi.
But what’s the difference between these two superfoods, and can you mix chaga and reishi together for enhanced health-packed benefits? Yes! This guide explores the difference between chaga and reishi mushrooms and how to maximize these fruitful fungi for health-boosting results.
What Are Chaga Mushrooms?
Chaga mushrooms, or Inonotus obliquus, are a species of fungus primarily found in cool to cold northern climates.1 They are parasitic, meaning they grow on trees and utilize the tree’s resources to live and grow.
While chaga mushrooms are most commonly found on birch trees, they occasionally grow on other tree varieties as well. Over time, the trees will decay and die, but the medicinal mushrooms will thrive.
The medicinal mushrooms are often compared to coal in appearance. Inside, they have a cork-like feel. Once harvested, they are processed by:
Drying the healing mushrooms into a mushroom powder, which is used for beverage mixes and gummies, like our Wonderday Mushroom Gummies
- Extracting the medicinal mushroom components that aren’t water-soluble for alternative uses
- Fermenting the healing mushrooms for supplements
There is some debate over the best way to use chaga mushrooms to reap their benefits. However, traditional practice dries the mushrooms into mushroom powder, which is consumed in a warm beverage.
Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms
Chaga mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese and Russian medicines for thousands of years and are understood to have the following benefits:
Support your immune system – Research in the journal “Mycobiology” suggests that chaga mushrooms can enhance the power of your immune system.2 These mushrooms, as well as various herbs for the immune system, contain antimicrobial and antiviral properties that help support your immune system when it’s under attack.
Contain a high concentration of betulinic acid – One of the key contributors to the immunity-boosting abilities of chaga is betulinic acid. Betulinic acid is believed to contain anti-cancer properties and is being studied as a chemotherapeutic substance. Betulinic acid also has antimalarial, antiretroviral, and anti-inflammatory abilities, making it an extremely valuable component of the chaga mushroom.
Provide antioxidants – Another major benefit of chaga mushrooms is their antioxidant content which is very similar to cordyceps mushroom benefits. Antioxidants are crucial to repairing and preventing cell damage caused by free radicals and harmful oxidative stress.
Consist of many valuable vitamins, minerals, and nutrients – Mushrooms of all kinds are rich sources of valuable nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Chaga mushrooms contain vitamins D and B, potassium, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and amino acids. All of these are required for optimal body function.
Help balance cholesterol and blood sugar levels – Although further research is required, there is some evidence that chaga mushrooms may be able to play a role in fighting high cholesterol and blood sugar levels in those who need support.3
Adding chaga mushrooms to your routine may help support overall health and wellness.
What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
Reishi mushrooms are another species of fungus that may be a natural health booster. Unlike chagas, which prefer the cool climate of the north, reishi mushrooms are found in hot, humid areas of Asia.4 They are large, shiny, and resemble a fan in appearance. Their other name, lingzhi, symbolizes longevity, well-being, success, and divine power.
Like chaga mushrooms, reishis have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. They are used in several different forms, including:
- Dietary supplements
- Mushroom tea
- Served whole
There are believed to be several benefits to consuming reishi mushrooms in any of these forms.
Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
Whichever way you decide to consume reishi mushrooms can be helpful to your well-being. Some of the potential health benefits provided by reishi mushrooms include:
Impact white blood cells – Reishi mushrooms have been shown to boost the effectiveness of powerful white blood cells. This might help strengthen the immune system, particularly in those who may have a compromised immune system due to illness or infection.
Contain anti-cancer properties – In animal studies, reishi mushrooms have been shown to help kill cancer cells. However, more studies on humans are needed to fully understand reishi’s effect on human cancer cells.
Boost energy – A study in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” found that consuming reishi mushroom extracts may reduce feelings of extreme fatigue and irritability.5 The study was conducted over eight weeks and showed more improvement in those who were given mushroom extract over those who were given a placebo.
Help regulate mood – Another benefit of reishi mushrooms is their impact on mood. The same study that suggests regular consumption of reishi improves energy levels also suggested that taking reishi may improve your emotional disposition.
Might improve HDL “good” cholesterol – One study in the “British Journal of Nutrition” found that reishi lowered the LDL and raised the HDL levels in mice.6 A human trial also showed similar results. More information and trials on humans are needed, but the potential is promising.
Lower high blood sugar – Reishi may also help modulate blood sugar levels. More human research is needed, but preliminary studies of produced promising results.
Provide significant antioxidants – Lastly, reishis are a rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are a critical tool in repairing oxidative damage to your cells that causes cancer and other serious illnesses. These benefits are very similar to Lion's Mane health benefits.
Reishi mushrooms are still being studied to confirm and further understand their benefits, but the potential they have is very intriguing.
How Are Chaga and Reishi Mushrooms Different?
One of the biggest differences between chaga and reishi is where they grow. Chagas rely on trees with scarred bark in cool, northern climates. In contrast, reishis thrive in the heat and humidity.
Other differences between the two types of mushrooms include:
Taste – Reishis are known for their bitterness while chagas are more earthy and rich-tasting. Chaga mushrooms can also be difficult to digest, which is why many people prefer to consume chaga as a dried powder brewed into a mushroom tea to help aid consumption and digestion.
Benefits – Chaga extract mushrooms may help support a healthy immune system and are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Reishis may also support your immune system and are believed to help kill cancer cells.
Availability – Chaga extract mushrooms only grow in the wild. Attempts to grow them in a lab environment or to stimulate their growth haven’t been successful. This makes them more difficult to find than reishi mushrooms, which can be artificially cultivated and more readily available.
Despite their differences, both chaga and reishi can exist in harmony to provide you with health benefits and wellness support.
Are Chaga or Reishi Mushrooms Better for Your Immune System?
If you’re looking for an immune system booster, both chaga and reishi mushrooms might be able to help. These fungi stimulate your white blood cells, which are critical to fighting off infections. They may also help to support your immune system by suppressing the production of markers that trigger chronic inflammation in your body.
Are There Benefits to Taking Chaga and Reishi Together?
Now that you’ve learned about the benefits of both of these delightful fungi, you might be wondering: can you mix chaga and reishi together?
The answer is yes, you can combine them to capitalize on the benefits of both at once. Many products, such as our WonderDay Mushroom Gummies, contain both chaga and reishi, in addition to and eight other beneficial mushrooms.
Who Should Not Take Chaga or Reishi Mushrooms?
Most people can tolerate chaga vs reishi mushrooms without any issues. However, there are a few things you should be aware of before starting a new mushroom supplement, such as:
Interactions with medications – Chaga mushrooms, specifically, might interact or inhibit certain medications, particularly insulin and blood thinners. Specific research on the impact of combining chaga and medications is sparse. As such, always communicate with your doctor before adding any supplements to your wellness routine.
Overstimulation of your immune system – Both chaga and reishi help support a strong immune system. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, speaking with your health care professional before taking these functional fungi is a must.
Potential for stomach upset – Some people may experience an upset stomach when they add functional mushrooms to their diet. Sometimes this may be a simple case of too much too soon, and the side effect will resolve with time or a lowered dose.
Not regulated by the FDA – Vitamins and supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. This means you should only use products from a trusted source that you feel confident you can rely on for high-quality products that contain high-quality ingredients.
Plant People is a BBB accredited B Corp whose products are rigorously 3rd party lab tested, Climate Neutral Certified and FDA Registered. All products are non-GMO and are made with ingredients that are either grown organically or are USDA certified organic. To learn more about Plant People’s safety and certifications, please read our story.
Finally, pregnant women should speak with their physician before adding any supplements to their daily routine.
What to Look for When Buying Functional Mushrooms
When choosing a mushroom supplement to match your lifestyle, ensure that the product is:
- Sustainably sourced
- Laboratory tested
You’ll also want to make sure that, in addition to chaga and reishi mushrooms, the supplements themselves contain natural ingredients.
Find Your New Favorite Health Booster with Plant People
Mushrooms like chaga and reishi have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years across the world. Combined, and on their own, these mushrooms are packed with health-promoting benefits and can easily be incorporated into any lifestyle.
At Plant People, we’ve created supplements backed by science to help improve overall health and wellness. Our beloved WonderDay Mushroom Gummies combine the power of ten different functional mushrooms for immune system support and other potent benefits. Try our natural solutions today!
Written by Emily Spring
Emily Spring is the Director of Marketing at Plant People. A longtime proponent of balanced living, she has enjoyed over 8 years driving growth in the lifestyle, health and wellness sectors with deep experience in functional solutions for optimizing anyone's everyday life.
Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy
Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.
Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.
Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Inonotus obliquus. https://www.gbif.org/species/2521089
Mycobiology. Immunomodulatory Activity of the Water Extract from Medicinal Mushroom Inonotus obliquus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774877/
PubMed. Recent Developments in Inonotus obliquus. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33947037/
PubMed. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/
Journal of Medicinal Food. Controlled Study of a Ganoderma lucidum Extract in Neurasthenia. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15857210/
British Journal of Nutrition. Study of Potential Cardioprotective Effects of Ganoderma lucidum. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/study-of-potential-cardioprotective-effects-of-ganoderma-lucidum-lingzhi-results-of-a-controlled-human-intervention-trial/EA5C9B682C6C112A0D6D0396E06B96E3