So, recently learning about Kombucha Tea, and found some infor about Chaga. I knew it was a fire-tinder mushroom, and see them all over, but never thought to eat/ drink it! I guess it makes a great tea and has SOME OF THE HIGHEST AND MOST VARIED #'S OF ANTIOXIDENTS USED BY MAN! pretty interesting, no wonder we haven't heard anything much about medical breakthrough.. like cannibis, can't patent them!
Kombucha thread going in grannies kitches, I was hoping to get the word out about this to a wider audience, being as how its so good for you and FREE this is valuable info!!
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The Chaga; Nature's Medicinal Mushroom
More Articles Related to Wilderness Medicine
Chaga Conk on a Yellow Birch
Note: Some Survival Topics readers have read this article and then harvested as much Chaga as they could find, up to several hundred pounds, in the hopes of selling it - only to be disappointed when the market did not materialize.
Rather than waste natural resources in an irresponsible manner, you are far better off to note the locations of any Chaga you find and harvest it only as needed. This eliminates waste, assures you of an always fresh supply, and limits your impact on the wild places you enjoy.
Raping the forest and other natural resources in hopes of great profit is known as the "Tradgedy of the Commons". We see this same problem occuring in the ocean fisheries, for example, where irresponsible overfishing in the quest for monetary wealth has caused great environmental damage to the earth resources we all share and need to survive.
Timeless Wisdom: "Take only what you need and leave the rest".
Yesterday while snowshoeing I came upon a fine chaga conk or tinder fungus, known scientifically as the chaga mushroom Inonotus obliquus.
The Chaga is such a valuable mushroom for wilderness survival and health I wanted to introduce Survival Topics readers to some of the ways in which it can be identified and used to help keep yourself in optimum health.
Where Chaga Grows
Siberians and other northern peoples in Asia, Europe, and North America for centuries have highly prized chaga for its great medicinal and curative powers. Those of us who know its value seek it out when traveling in the northern forest.
Chaga is a parasitic carpophore that enters a wound on a mature tree, usually birch. The chaga grows under the bark and erupts into a grotesque black charcoal-like conk on the tree trunk; hence the Latin term "Obliquus" in its scientific name.
The Chaga conk grows with the birch tree for five to seven years during which time it absorbs nutrients and phytochemicals from the wood. When the chaga conk flower ripens it falls to the forest floor. Usually the host tree then dies, completing a 20 year cycle.
It is estimated that only about 0.025% of trees, only a few of every ten thousand, will grow a chaga conk. This makes the chaga mushroom somewhat rare even in its prime northern range.
Identifying Chaga Mushrooms
The Chaga mushroom is a fungi that grows on the wounds of birches. Occasionally chaga is also found on ironwood, elm, alder and beeches but both paper birch and yellow birch seems to be its favorite.
This Chaga tinder fungus I found while snowshoeing yesterday is growing on a large yellow-birch tree that had been damaged years ago during logging operations. The outside of this easy to identify mushroom somewhat resembles the charred remains of burnt wood, being black and crumbly.
Of irregular shape, the inside of a chaga is the color of rusted iron or yellowish with white or cream colored veins. It is corky of texture and tends to become lighter in color closest to the tree. You can see the colors in third picture where I have pulled the chaga off the yellow birch tree using my tomahawk.
Chaga is known as a polypore fungus, which means it has pores instead of gills. The chaga mushroom does not hold a great deal of water as does other types of mushrooms. As the chaga conk grows its outside dries out, turns black, and cracks. I have seen large Chagas well over three feet (one meter) in length and one foot (.33 meter) thick.
The chaga mushroom is commonly known as the true “tinder fungus” for its use in building fires. In fact, chaga is the true tinder fungus, as opposed to the false tinder fungus which is shelf-like in shape and does not crumble.
Wilderness Medicinal Mushroom
Fire making aside, the chaga mushroom is also well known for its huge load of immune stimulating phytochemicals and betulin that can be consumed as a tea. Some of these compounds are derived from the birch tree and bark it consumes and concentrates in its flesh.
The chaga fungus has some of the highest amounts of anti-oxidants of any substance consumed by man. Siberian folk medicine and modern uses of a tea made from Chaga fungus include:
•boosting the immune system
•treating stomach diseases
•Liver and heart ailments
•Cancers including those of the breast, liver, uterine, and gastric
•The active compound inotodiol which works against influenza A and B viruses and cancer cells.
•Activity against HIV-1
•As an anti-inflammatory
Some experts claim the Chaga is the best anti-cancer mushroom of all.
Properties and Ingredients of Chaga include:
•Polysaccharides that enhance the immune system; treat cancer, live, HIV virus and other bacterial and viral infections.
•Betulinic acid to counter viral infections and tumors
•Triterpenes to lower cholesterol, improve circulation, detoxify the liver, treat hepatitis, bronchitis, asthma, and coughs.
•Germanium (a free-radical scavenger) to cleanse the blood, normalize blood pressure, and prevent tumors.
•Other nucleosides, phytonutrients, minerals, and amino acids including saponin, magnesium, chromium, iron, kalium, beta-glucan, inotodiol, isoprenoid, and others.
How to Make Chaga Tea
“He could not imagine any greater joy than to go away into the woods for months on end, to break off this chaga, crumble it, boil it up on a campfire, drink it and get well like an animal. To walk through the forest for months, to know no other care than to get better! Just as a dog goes to search for some mysterious grass that will save him…”
—From Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn”
Some northern peoples are said to drink Chaga tea on a regular basis as Westerners do coffee and suffer very low cancer rates because of it. Chaga is a bit on the bitter side, rather like coffee, and cork-like in texture.
When I come upon chaga in the forest I am apt to brake off a bit to chew on, and am sure to pack some away for use at home. With an item from nature’s free pharmacy that is this valuable to my health I make sure my chaga stocks are always full and take an extra hit when the opportunity presents itself. I don’t mind chewing on a bit of cork-like chaga conk since it is giving me a great boost of immune stimulating phytochemicals.
Russian Chaga Tea
This is perhaps the most written about method of making tea from chaga mushrooms:
1.Shred the inner part of the Chaga mushroom.
2.Soften in cold water for four hours.
3.Filter with a coffee filter and save the liquid and the softened Chaga separately.
4.Pour water heated to a temperature of about 50C (122F) over the softened chaga in a ratio of 5-parts water to 1-part fungus.
5.Let stand at room temperature for 48-hours.
6.Filter the new mixture and add this water to that prepared in step 3.
7.Use this batch within four days, drinking 3-glasses at eight hour intervals each day. After four days make a new batch of chaga tea.
Mushroom Hunters Chaga Method
Vladimir of Mushroom Hunter dot net uses this method, which also shows you how to store chaga for extended periods:
1.Remove the outer black part of the chaga using a chisel. It may help if you leave the chaga attached to the tree while you do this.
2.Cut the clean chaga into 1-inch cubes.
3.Dry the chaga cubes in a dehydrator at about 105 F.
4.When completely dry put the cubes in an air-tight container where they can be stored for years.
To use the chaga
1.Bring two gallons (8 liters) of water to a boil.
2.Let the water cool until you can touch the pot without it burning your hand.
3.Put 3 or 4 handfuls of the chaga into the water.
4.Cover the pot and let stand for 48-hours.
5.Strain the liquid and store in a refrigerator.
6.The cubes can be used at least two additional times.
According to the Mushroom Hunter some people say boiling the chaga releases additional cancer fighting ingredients so he as a last step he boils the cubes to obtain the last bit of goodness.
1.Put 3 tablespoons of milled chaga into .5 liter vodka.
2.Let sit for two weeks in a cool dark place.
Chaga liqueur dosage is 3-tablespoons three to six times per day.
Mushroom Hunters Lazy Man’s Chaga Tea
The mushroom hunter and I agree; why go through all the bother of breaking off the hard black coating from the chaga mushrooms. Simply throw that in the pot too!
1.Harvest chaga and allow to dry.
2.Bring two gallons of water to a boil and drop in several handfuls of unprocessed chaga, black parts and all.
3.Let steep for 48-hours.
4.Strain into bottles and store in refrigerator.
The Mushroom Hunter on Chaga
Survival Topics recently received an email from Vlad The Mushroom Hunter with more information about the Chaga mushroom. He writes:
"The specie name obliquus refers to way the pores of the fruiting body are positioned relative to the ground. In most of the polypores, the pores are positioned down to the ground. In the obliquus the pores are at an oblique angle to the ground; therefore the name.
Chaga is not the fruiting body of Inonotus obliquus. The true fruiting body is hard to find and I have not, as yet, seen one, even in pictures.
The scientists are not sure what the purpose of the Chaga is. Some people refer to it as a "Sterile Conch". This implies that there is a Fertile Conch, which is not true. The actual fruiting body is supposed to grow around where the Chaga grew when the tree was alive. It grows under the bark and slowly raises it until it cracks it. The oblique pores then release their spores and they fall out of the crack in the bark."
The Chaga mushroom remains somewhat mysterious even to those who have are familiar with its habits. For me, that is part of the allure of this special fungus that is so useful for survival.
If you are interested in more information about mushrooms and how you can use them be sure to visit the mushroom hunters website!
As with anything so good for your health, there is a great deal of hype about chaga. Exaggerated claims and expensive products manufactured from chaga are put out with the hope of luring your hard earned dollars in exhange for questionable products. For all you know, those chaga products hawked on the internet and elsewhere may be of dubious quality at best.
If you are interested in acquiring high quality true Chaga for use as tinder or tea let me know and we can make arrangements to get you some. I am in the Great Northwoods forest of northern New Hampshire nearly every day and occasionally come upon this most useful of mushrooms. I’ll harvest some for you.
Update: Survival Topics will harvest fresh mountain chaga for you - visit the Survival Shop for more information.
In another Survival Topic I will discuss the use of the Chaga tinder fungus as fire making aid.