One of the more interesting mushrooms, the Chaga mushroom is not technically a mushroom in the conventional sense. More of a fungal growth the Chaga does not have the typical cap and stem that would categorize it so.
Containing nearly 90% plant fiber Chaga can be found growing out the sides of deeply wooded birch trees. Mushrooms have gained popularity over the last decade or so for their interesting compounds known as polysaccharides. These fiber particles greatly benefit the human gut microbiome. With Chaga being so rich in this plant matter one can see the purpose for growing interest.
Although research may be entering a new beginning, the ancient medicinal masters spanning continents have been observing Chaga and consuming Chaga tea for quite some time. Travel to just about any northern climate and you will find stories of this fungus being used to heal tumors increase stamina and fix common ailments. Whether you are following the folklore of Russian herbalists or scripture from Chinese traditional medicine these societies all saw something special in the Chaga Mushroom.
For many that study the mushroom world the “mycelium” or roots of the mushroom are an amazing point of interest. Connecting the forests of our world like roadmaps of a nation the mycelium paths are a great means to connect plants to water and fungus to nutrients. Working in a symbiotic relationship the fungus exchanges the water to plants for sugars or starches in return. But what about Chaga? Since it grows out the side of the tree it has no water to offer. What Chaga is able to do is pull a substance known as triterpenes or more commonly “sap” out of the birch tree as a source of energy. These triterpenes are able to repel insects and predators that might be looking to take a chunk out of this tree. The Chaga Mushroom gains food from the birch tree while the birch is able to set up a line of defense.
“the best Chaga is found on the weakest of birch trees”
So how does this benefit yourself?
Luckily you’re not a tree and can defend yourself, at least on the outside. These same triterpenes that deter insects and predators have a unique reaction when entering your body. It turns out the ancient medicinal masters of the past were on to something with their Chaga tea’s. Not only is this compound found in Chaga beneficial to the gut it also help modulate immune functions, cellular functions and is antibacterial and ani-cancer. That’s right ANTI-CANCER not a word I like to throw around lightly. Some recent studies have shown that the triterpenes found in Chaga and other plants force cancer cells into a self-destruct mode known as apoptosis. They have found this connection throughout various forms of tumors so the initial response is looking quite positive.
Sourcing Chaga Mushroom
For Chaga tea to be prepared properly the mushroom needs to be in powdered form. This is done to ensure the fibers (polysaccharides) are fully absorbed by your body.
With the growing rise of this “superfood” there are many suppliers out there looking to make a few bucks. “ron over at blank” found that some of these producers were calling their products Chaga simply because they grew some spoors on a bundle of wheat or grains of rice. It is for this reason that you should steer clear of pre-powdered or encapsulated Chaga. In your search look for the more desirable full form Chaga that comes in large chunks, this one is my favorite.
Chaga Tea Recipe:
Chaga mushroom tea can be prepared only with dried mushroom pieces or powder. For one gallon of water, you will need to use 80 grams of Chaga dried powder.
Put the power in the water and cover the pot with a lid, bringing it to the point of boiling. Then lower the heat on the pot and allow the mixture to simmer, for 1-2 hours if you used very fine powder and 3-4 hours if you use Chaga tea chunks.
You can leave it until the water level is with 25% up to 50% lower than its initial level. I opt to keep all the plant fibers intact and choose not to strain the liquid. This ensures I get all the benefits from the tea, for some this is not ideal. For a smoother drink you can strain the debris through a cheese cloth or simply let it settle to the bottom. Now that you have a potent batch of Chaga tea you can drink right away or store for later. You can store it in an airtight jar refrigerated for 48 hours. Enjoy, and try not to sweeten!