Chaga Mushrooms – A Potent Source of Antioxidants
Chaga mushrooms are a rich source of antioxidants, which are substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. In fact, chaga tea offers very high levels of antioxidants and delivers the health benefits in a convenient and pleasant-tasting herbal drink.
Antioxidants protect your body from damage caused by free radicals, which are a specific type of molecule. To understand how the antioxidants in chaga mushrooms work, it is helpful to know how free radicals form. All body cells contain atoms, which consist of a nucleus, protons, neutrons and electrons. Electrons orbit around the atom on “shells”; when one shell becomes full of electrons, electrons begin to fill another shell outside of the first one. Many atoms contain paired electrons, which mean they are more stable in pairs.
Atoms that have a full outer shelf are very stable. Atoms whose outer shells are not completely full try to stabilize themselves by gaining or losing electrons to create a full outer shell, or by sharing the electrons on its outer shell with other atoms. The bond created by sharing electrons helps all of the participating atoms become stable, healthy atoms.
Even strong bonds between atoms can break but normally they do not break in a way that leaves empty space in the outer shell, which means that healthy atoms break apart in a healthy way. The bond between unhealthy atoms can break in a way that creates empty spots on the outer shell.
The atoms react to empty shell space by actively seeking out electrons to ‘steal’ to fill out their outer shelves. Scientists refer to substances in this state as “free radicals,” referring to the way the atoms become unstable and begins to react quickly with other atoms in an effort to capture electrons. When a free radical steals an electron from another atom, the attacked atom becomes a free radical; this can begin a chain reaction that is difficult to stop. The action of stealing electrons can cascade to damage cells and eventually cause dysfunction of body tissues and organs.
There are many types of free radicals but those that come from oxygen atoms can be especially unstable. Oxygen has two unpaired electrons orbiting in its outer shell. This electronic structure makes oxygen especially susceptible to the formation of free radicals.
The Potent Antioxidant Powers of the Chaga Mushroom
Antioxidants, like those in chaga mushrooms, chaga tea and chaga extract, stop the cascading action of free radical damage by donating one or more of their own electrons to the unstable atom. This stabilizes the free radical and stops the ‘electron stealing’ that could eventually cause ill health. The antioxidants do not turn into free radicals because they are stable, no matter how many electrons they give away. Furthermore, the antioxidants in chaga mushrooms act as scavengers that clean up the mess left behind by free radicals.
Scientists use a special scale, known as ORAC, to measure the antioxidant levels in foods like chaga mushrooms. ORAC is an acronym that stands for “oxygen radical absorbance capacity.” This test determines how well an antioxidant stabilizes free radicals.
Depending on the location and conditions in which they were grown, the ORAC value of chaga mushrooms can range from 5200 to 146,000 units per gram. In comparison, the ORAC value of another antioxidant powerhouse – the mighty blueberry – is only 30 to 85. This means chaga mushrooms are dietary supplements with some of the highest antioxidant powers on the market today.