Let’s consider the Chaga mushroom! What it is, the benefits of Chaga mushrooms, how to forage it, 3 good ways to use it, and its side effects.
Chaga sounds like a dance. Or maybe a foreign dessert. It is actually a mushroom. The medicinal community highly regards Chaga as one of the most powerful mushrooms. Intrigued? So was I! Read on to find out more about this mysterious fungus.
What is Chaga?
Chaga, Inonotus obliquus, is a fungus that looks more like a pile of coffee grounds than a mushroom. It is a parasite, taking nutrients from the hardwood trees that are its host plant, primarily birch, beech, and alder, and making them into something wonderful.
You can find Chaga on trees at higher elevations, usually above 4,000 feet. It comes from the Ural Mountains in Russia but you can also find it in great numbers in the Appalachian Mountains, where I live. There are also reports of findings in other boreal forests at higher elevations.
Chaga is the actual mycelium of the mushroom, not the fruiting body that we more commonly see on mushrooms. It enters the tree via spores that find a way in through poorly healed branch breaks or other tree injuries. While it is a parasite, it rarely has enough power and size to kill a tree.
Chaga Mushroom Benefits
Chaga, like other fungi, contains polysaccharides. Reports show these carbohydrates can kill cancer cells or slow their progression.
Many studies point to the health benefits of Chaga mushrooms and there are more in the works.
Poor communities in Russia often drink it as a tea, instead of other teas, because it is more readily available. Further, many of these areas have no cancer reported.¹ That is not to say that it will cure all types of cancer in everyone, but it’s certainly a Chaga mushroom benefit worth trying!
Studies also show it can remove free radicals from the body. And free radicals are chief cancer-causing agents. It is also being studied as a treatment for Covid diseases. ¹
How to Prepare Chaga
As with any mushrooms, you can prepare Chaga in a number of ways. Below you will find the most common and useful preparations.
You can extract it using alcohol, oil, or glycerine as a menstruum (a substance that you extract nutrients into).
- Place clean Chaga in a glass jar and cover it with alcohol. I use 40% vodka so that when I add the liquid from the decoction at 50:50, I end up with 20% alcohol. This is enough to inhibit bacterial growth.
- Leave the tincture for at least 3 weeks to get the maximum extraction from the Chaga.
- Strain and store in a cool, dark location.
You can take the tincture as is or you can mix it as above for a dual extraction.
You can dry Chaga and grind it to make tea.
Use a teaspoon per cup, leaving it to steep for 10 minutes or so.
Drink the tea straight or mix it with something to make it more palatable. Some people enjoy the taste while some do not. I like to mix mine in hot chocolate to water down the fungal taste that comes with many mushrooms.
You can also extract it through a decoction, or hot water simmered for a time.
- Clean your Chaga by brushing off any dirt or other debris.
- Place in a nonreactive pan and cover with water.
- Simmer for at least 30 minutes, longer if you have the time.
- Place the top on the pan inverted, so that it forms a reverse dome.
- Cool to room temperature.
- Remove Chaga and freeze the fungus. You can get nutrients out of the fungus by decocting it up to three times.
To use the liquid, you can drink it straight, use it in soups or stews, or save it (refrigerated) for a double extraction (described next).
Possible Side Effects
Chaga does contain oxalates which can lead to kidney stones if you consume too much. Recommendations for avoiding this say to take it in small amounts and not for a long period of time.
Using it can also lower blood sugar so those with diabetes need to use caution and consult their direct care physician.
Whether you want to try Chaga for the health benefits or just as a tea, There are many ways to enjoy it. Give it a try today!
¹ “Used as a cheap substitute for tea by Russians living in forests, Chaga is believed there to help in the Covid disease. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his book Cancer Ward quotes a Russian doctor Maslennikov about Chaga: “He noticed that none of his patients had cancer. He explored that and found that all the peasants in that town drank not tea but Chaga, in order to save money.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inonotus_obliquus
Source: DIY Natural – Food