Edible Mushrooms, Pacific Northwest
Unlike the soft bodies of mushrooms,, chaga is hard and dense, almost as hard as the wood it is growing in. It is a mushroom that normally grows on birch trees across the Northern Hemisphere. When you first see it, you would see a rough looking growth on the side of a tree, not looking like something you would like to ingest, but this mushroom is a hidden wonder of the natural world. It has been consumed for centuries in the far east countries like China and Japan and it has a well documented record of use in Russia. Over the last few years, It has begun to be used in the West, where its numerous health benefits are now being recognized by many health gurus.
It is a dense dark, almost black mass of mycelium that protrudes from birch trees infected with the fungus Inonotus Obliquus. It has a thick and rough exterior, which looks like burnt charcoal (the sclerotium), and the interior has a rusty yellow brown color. It has incredibly high amounts of a black pigment known as melanin, this melanin has high antioxidant levels. In fact, chaga has the highest measure of antioxidant potency of any of the super-foods.
It is hard to find and novice collectors can mistake other growths and even burnt patches as the fungus. You’ll find chaga growing predominantly on birch trees in cold habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including northern parts of Europe, Russia, Korea, Canada, and the U.S. On Vancouver Island, you can find it on cottonwood and alder trees as well.
Chaga tea’s exceptionally high antioxidant levels make it a great natural medicine for combating free radical damage. It is also an excellent source for vitamin D, vitamin K, multiple B vitamins, and minerals like iron, calcium, copper and zinc. Its various other constituents include betulin and betulinic acid, responsible for much of its positive effects, as well as flavonoids, polysaccharides and other phytonutrients.
This tea’s effects could be beneficial for cancer patients. The betulinic acid found in this mushroom can help to eliminate cancer cells, and the herbal tea can also help to overcome the unpleasant effects of chemotherapy. Its immune-boosting effects are especially useful, as cancer treatments can have a negative impact on the immune system.
To make into tea, break up or grind the mushroom up, then put about a 1/4 cup into 12 cups pot of almost but not boiling water, let steep like this over a low heat for 8 to 10 hours, strain off the bits and place the tea into jars and store in the fridge. If you are drinking 4 cups per day, this will provide enough for 3 days. You can brew another 12 cup pot immediately using the same Chaga or you can freeze that Chaga until you are ready to brew your second pot. I suggest that you only use chaga twice.
After use, don’t just throw out the Chaga Chunks, you can dry them out and use them as Incense, The aroma of burning Chaga is truly amazing. Chaga can be also be used as a tinder for fire starting.