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What on earth is a Chaga?

Ash bark fungus, Inonotus obliquus.

Chaga looks like ripe charcoal. It is a dark, crusty, blackened growth of about 25-28cm that appears on birch trees in cold climates (also called birch bark).

Inside is a soft, orange-coloured seed. The chaga mushroom has played an important role in folk medicine since the 16th century and has even been called “a gift from God”. Modern medicine, however, has only recently begun to discover the benefits of this mushroom… and recent studies show promise.

Here are some reasons why your dog could benefit from a taste of this mushroom:

  • The immune system
  • Anti-cancer properties
  • Antioxidants
  • Anti-inflammatory and analgesic
  • Antiviral
  • Stomach problems
  • Diabetes
  • Cholesterol

The immune system

    The main benefit of Chaga mushrooms is its effect on the immune system. Its unique property is that, when needed, they not only boost the immune system, but also slow down the immune system running on overdrive – this is called Biological Response Modifier.

    This is good news for dogs whose disease is due to overactivity of the immune system. Think of the relief from allergies and common autoimmune diseases such as arthritis!

    Anti-cancer properties

    In those areas of Russia where the population has a long history of regular use of Chaga mushrooms, the incidence of cancer is still lower. It has proven effective against many types of cancer, especially breast and uterine cancer. Other recent studies show that chaga is effective for melanoma, liver, and colon cancer.

    Their anti-tumour effects are called “pro-apoptotic”, meaning that they promote cell loss in cells that pose a threat to the body, while leaving healthy cells alone – selectively targeting and killing cancer cells. They have also been shown to help reduce toxicity after conventional radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatments.


    Chaga mushrooms are full of antioxidants! They contain polysaccharides that improve heart, gut and liver health, as well as energy levels. Chaga mushrooms also contain high levels of beta-D-glucans, which are important in regulating the immune system, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, helping the immune system to target cancer cells. High in B vitamins, enzymes, sterols, and many minerals such as zinc and potassium, all of which help fight free radicals.

    Anti-inflammatory and analgesic

    Chaga mushrooms have anti-inflammatory effects, especially in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), liver and pancreatic inflammation. They also have analgesic effects.


    A study by Ulrike Lindequist and colleagues published in 2005 studied the medicinal benefits of several different types of mushrooms and found that chaga is particularly useful as an antiviral agent.

    The article notes that “in addition to immune stimulation, other effects of [fungal] polysaccharide-protein complexes contribute to antiviral activity”. While chaga mushrooms are being researched in HIV patients, they may also be useful components of antiviral drugs for dogs.

    Stomach problems

    Chaga mushrooms were used in the early days to treat ulcers, stomach pain and inflammatory bowel disease. Chaga’s immune-stimulating properties are believed to help balance gut bacteria and relieve ulcers and gastritis.


    Chaga mushrooms can help control blood sugar levels in diabetic animals. However, if your dog is diabetic, you should warn your vet that your dog is also taking this mushroom. This may affect treatment and it is worth checking blood sugar levels regularly.

    Hypothyroidism and Cholesterol

    A study from Jiangnan University in China showed that adding Chaga to the diet can significantly lower cholesterol levels and increase HDL, or “good cholesterol.”

    If your dog has an underactive thyroid, it may be more prone to high cholesterol, and chaga mushrooms can be a great addition to the diet to help with this.

    How much should be given?

    The recommended base dose for the preparation is 1ml + 1ml per 10kg per day (so if the dog weighs 25kg the dose is 3.5ml)

    Reports are that dogs and even cats generally like the taste.  It is also recommended to build up the recommended dose gradually. Try a lower dose to start with and increase by 0.5ml per week to reach or even exceed the base dose. Chaga mushrooms also have a cleansing effect and may even increase bowel movements, so.

    Other considerations:

    As the demand for medicinal mushrooms increases worldwide, it becomes increasingly important to choose the right source of supply.  Ethical” growers are also concerned about the health of the birch trees from which they collect these mushrooms and organic certification is a guarantee of chemical-free production.


    Chaga mushrooms may also interfere with and potentiate the effects of blood thinners, so increased caution is advised in such cases, and it is always advisable to consult the practitioner or holistic veterinarian beforehand.

    Fresh drinking water should always be kept in front of the animal to help get rid of toxins released during the cleaning process.

    Diarrhoea and increased activity may occur during the initial phase of the treatment, especially if started without gradual application, and may also result in sleep deprivation.