What is chaga?
Chaga, scientifically called Inonotus obliquus, normally grows on birch trees in colder habitats of the northern hemisphere. This special mushroom is packed with nutrients and it has been used for centuries in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe as a medicinal herb. In fact, chaga’s high nutritional value has won it popularity across the world. There are numerous ways of adding chaga in one’s diet, but most people prefer to consume it in the form of tea primarily due to its taste. In fact, the flavor of Chaga tea is quite similar to that of coffee.
From the outside, Chaga looks nothing like the typical mushroom. It has a hard, cracked blackish or dark-brown colored exterior, which gives it the appearance of burnt charcoal. The mushroom’s interior on the other hand, is much softer with a rusty, yellow-brown color and grainy, corky texture.
How and Where Does Chaga Grow?
Geographically, the Chaga mushroom is largely found in colder climates of Russia, Northern Europe, Canada and Northern United States. This slow-growing fungus usually appears as a hard growth on the outside of yellow and white birch trees, and can grow to about 15 to 20 inches in size.
Just to mention, at Chaga.ca, we harvest our Chaga in the Canadian forests, where the abundance of healthy trees and the cold weather creates an environment that’s highly favorable for Chaga growth.
How Easy Is It To Find Chaga?
With its skyrocketing popularity, more and more people are now harvesting the Chaga mushroom by themselves for their home use. Unfortunately, many of these people unknowingly use poor harvesting habits, which in turn results in death of trees and ultimately the death of valuable Chaga conks. This as a result, makes finding good quality Chaga a very challenging task.
Ideally, the mushroom is supposed to be harvested when its size is larger than a grapefruit; and it typically takes between 3 and 10 years to achieve its proper harvest size.
How Does One Ensure Sustainable Chaga Harvesting?
Sustainable chaga harvesting requires that only the mushroom part of the plant be removed, not the entire conk. This ensures the continued growth of the fungus; while protecting the host tree from damage and susceptibility to harmful infections. In addition, harvesting should always be done in areas where the mushroom is growing in plenty; and only a small percentage of the available fungus should be taken at any single time.
Once done, the harvested Chaga should be dried to remove its moisture content and allow for higher mineral concentration in the mushroom. It can then be finely ground into powder or broken into smaller pieces.
At Chaga.ca we advocate for sustainable Chaga harvesting methods.
How Long Has Chaga Been In Use?
The Ainu people of Eastern Asia have been using Chaga for many generations. In fact, records suggest that this native tribe has been using the mushroom for at least 600 years, for its antioxidant properties. It’s therefore likely that the usage of Chaga spans for hundreds of prior to the first documented evidence of its use. It’s also believed to support (on overall) proper functioning of the body.
In most ancient writing, the Chaga mushroom is described as “gift of nature”, “diamond of the forest,” and “King of the herbs,” due to its healing ability, and high nutritional content.
How is Chaga Used Now?
Today, Chaga is popularly used as a strong tea or tincture. It’s loaded with minerals, vitamins, phenols, antioxidants, and enzymes from the birch trees, which combine nicely to form a powerful and healthful concoction.
However, while this special mushroom is a highly beneficial supplement to one’s diet, it’s usage for medicinal purposes should only be done under the careful supervision of a professional doctor.
At Chaga.ca, we do not recommend using Chaga products for any health conditions without consulting a qualified health care provider first.