Chaga mushroom, also known as Inonotus Obliquus, is a polypore fungus that primarily grows on birch trees. It has a very distinct look similar to burnt wood, which makes it easy to recognize for wild mushroom hunters. Underneath the black outer layer lies a beautiful brownish-orange under layer and is where most of the important medicinal qualities are found. Unlike most mushroom fruiting bodies, which are designed to spread spores, chaga as found on trees is a dense mycelia mass.
Chaga has been used extensively for centuries throughout Russia and China, where it is known as the "King of Herbs" and "Mushroom of Immortality". Due to scientific confirmation of ancient knowledge on the benefits of chaga mushroom, its use is now worldwide and continually growing. Most of the research on chaga has been done on wood grown, wild strains, however, chaga mycelium studies are also showing powerful benefits. 1 My preference is the wood-grown wild version though, as it is much more adaptogenic.
Chaga Mushroom Health Benefits
- Beta Glucans: Like all medicinal mushrooms, chaga contains beta glucans, which are complex polysaccharides that offer potent immune modulating properties. This means that it has adaptogenic and dual-directional capabilities in terms of either increasing a weakened immune system or calming an overactive immune system.2
- Anti-oxidants: Chaga has been shown to have extremely high anti-oxidant properties. Most notably, it has shown substantial amounts of the rare amino acid ergothioneine, which has shown very promising free-radical scavenging properties.3,4
- Melanin: A rare source of melanin, wild chaga mushroom is a rich source for this compound, which helps protect our DNA, feed our pineal gland, and promote healthy skin.5
- Alkalinity: Chaga contains high amounts of three alkaline minerals - potassium, rubidium, and non-radioactive cesium. This makes it one, if not the top, alkaline foods/herbs thus far studied.
- Other Unique Health Benefits: Chaga extracts may also inhibit tumor growth, help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, have anti-inflammatory properties, and even balance the body's qi (energy) levels according to Chinese medicine.6
How to Properly Consume Chaga Mushroom
This is made through a hot water extraction, which is the traditional method and mainly isolates the polysaccharide beta glucans. To do this, break a golf ball sized chunk of wild chaga into pieces. Because this is a very hardy mushroom, it does take a cleaver to accomplish this. The smaller the size of the chaga pieces, the more surface area will be exposed for extraction.Next, place the pieces into a large pot with several quarts of spring or filtered water. Let boil for 4-8 hours (or longer) and keep an eye on it throughout the process to make sure there remains enough water in the pot so it doesn't burn. Once done, strain the tea into jars, store in the fridge and consume daily until finished. Chaga tea has a very mild and pleasant flavor reminiscent of coffee and vanilla. I like to use the tea as a base for a smoothie and it is great with coffee!
The other chaga extraction method is combining chaga in alcohol and letting the alcohol seep out the terpenes (adaptogenic qualities) and betulinic acids. To do this, cut up wild chaga pieces like mentioned above and then let sit in organic alcohol in a large glass jar for at least one month. Throughout the process shake the bottle to help with the extraction. Once done, strain into another glass jar and consume a dropper full or so a day until finished. As an alcohol extract it also has a very mild flavor and can be easily mixed with beverages such as orange juice or in chaga tea!
All Hail the King!
Years of historical use and reverence in China and Siberia, combined with solid scientific research on chaga mushroom benefits, have proven that this extraordinary substance is one of the most powerful medicinal compounds we can ingest. It is has become one of my favorite foods/herbs and I use it almost everyday.I hope that you will consider adding chaga mushroom extracts to your daily health regimen. You may even come to realize why ancient cultures revered chaga as the "King of Herbs" and "Mushroom of Immortality". Enjoy!