Updated: Jan 29, 2021
What is Chaga
Chaga* (scientific name: Inonotus obliquus) is a parasitic fungus that grows on birch trees producing a delicious, nutrient rich tea. It has become very popular in the last few years and is available in many stores. You can view our Canadian chaga product by clicking [here] It was scientifically identified in 1801 by German mycologist Christiaan Hendrik Persoon.
It resembles cracking charcoal on the outside, but inside it is orange to yellow with no woodgrain (unlike burls, which have a wooden interior). Chaga is actually not a "mushroom" but mycelium. Mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies of mycelium, like apples are the fruit of trees, but instead of seeds, mushrooms spread spores for reproduction.
Chaga does produce spores, but it's actually under the bark of the tree. The spores are spread to other birch trees and enter via injuries. So chaga is growing long before you see it.
Photo above sourced from here
Click image above to view our chaga product.
Studies are showing Chaga may have some amazing health benefits, and it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as well as in Russia, the Ukraine and by Indigenous people in North America for centuries.
-VITAMINS, MINERALS & NUTRIENTS such as B-complex vitamins, Vit D, zinc, magnesium and more.
-ANTIOXIDANTS Chaga contains the highest level of antioxidants in a food product. Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory, boost immunity, combats free radicals and prevent cellular damage. One of the antioxidants in chaga is superoxide dismutase (SOD) which is being studied for various healing properties.
-TRITERPENES Compounds found in chaga and other mushrooms which may shrink tumors according to some studies.
-POLYSACCHARIDES may boost the immune system and studies have been shown that polysaccharides inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells in vitro
-MELANIN protects chaga from the defence system of the tree. It is a pigment that determines the colour of chaga (and humans/animals) and protects you from burning. It may have anti-aging properties.
-OXALATES Chaga does contain oxalates, just like spinach, almonds, chocolate, green and black tea leaves and many other foods. In fact, the human body produces oxalates as well. Some people recommend avoiding oxalates if you have kidney stone problems. Interestingly there is a common microorganism called Oxalobacter formigenes, that is found in yogurt and kefir and other fermented foods that consumes oxalates as a form of energy and is being studied as a treatment for preventing kidney stone formation.
If you've never had chaga before, you should take in moderation to ensure you don't have an allergy, as with any new food or beverage you introduce into your diet.
To make chaga tea, simmer 75 grams of chaga chunks in 4-6 cups of water either on medium low on the stove for 15-30 min or in a crock pot after 2-3 hours. You can use less chaga but it may take longer to get a strong brew.
Add cream and sweeten as desired with sugar, maple syrup, honey or hot chocolate mix.
The used chaga chunks can be stored in the freezer reused up to 3x. Another option is to simmer 5-6 hrs until very concentrated and then keep in the fridge or freezer until ready to use and then dilute to preferred strength.
Pictured above: Chaga tea on left sweetened with honey, chaga tea on right with honey and cream, chaga chunks of various sizes.
Dual extracts are reported to have more potential medicinal benefits than just a hot water extraction.
First do a concentrated hot water extract on the stove for 2-4 hrs on low or in the crockpot for 6-12 hrs on low and then after cooled, strain chunks out (setting aside concentrated tea in freezer for now) and add chunks to vodka and let sit for a week or more, and then strain and combine vodka and previously extracted concentrated chaga tea. The ratio of alcohol to chaga tea should be 1:1 so 50 % chaga and 50% of the alcohol extract.
By Caitlin Beer
This is not intended to treat any health conditions, you should always consult your doctor if you are in need of medical treatment, have serious medical conditions or take medication.
Notes: *any font that is grey (or green on mobile) and underlined leads to related links, some of which are where I sourced information to write this post, if you click on them they will lead you to those websites to learn more.
Sources: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318527#Nine-potential-benefits https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/5305591?reload=true%E2%88%82%3D1 https://synapse.koreamed.org/articles/1051060 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19367670/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inonotus_obliquus