Have you ever hear about Chaga?
It is a very special medicinal mushroom that is gaining popularity in the west for its health benefits and appealing taste in the form of chaga tea.
What we know as "Chaga" is actually the dense black mass of mycelia (roughly 10" to 15" in size) that appears on the outside of birch trees infected with the non-toxic parasitic fungus Inonotus Obliquus.
The hard & cracked black exterior, which looks like burnt charcoal, is called the sclerotium.
In general, Chaga Mushrooms are mostly found in very cold habitats and grow predominantly on birches.
More specifically, Chaga grows wild in the birch forests of Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, Northern areas of the United States and in Canada.
What are the Health Benefits?
Although research is ongoing, credible studies have shown that the Chaga Mushroom may provide several health benefits, including:
Stimulates and regulates the immune system
Nutritional support in the fight against cancer
Anti-aging & Skin care
Ulcers and Gastritis
Supports normal cholesterol levels & Blood pressure
How do you Consume it?
Chaga has a naturally occurring vanillin, the same as found in the vanilla bean. Therefore, it takes on a slight hint of vanilla flavor when consumed as a tea and doesn't taste anything like a regular mushroom.
There are several ways to consume Chaga, but hot water extraction (e.g. Chaga Tea) is the most common and simplest way to enjoy it.
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However, a quality dual extract is the only way to extract all of the healthy bioactive ingredients that are locked inside. This method typically combines both hot water and alcohol extraction methods, but can vary in sophistication.
Chaga Life Cycle
Most typically, well-formed sclerotia are found on birch trees older than 40 years, however, the fungus infection starts much earlier.
Once infected, it takes about 3 to 5 years until the Chaga can be harvested. During this time, the mushroom is actively drawing nutrients and vitality from its host and utilizing them for its own development.
Once harvested, Chaga can grow to a harvestable size again in about 3 to 10 years, and this cycle can be repeated until the tree dies.
The time from initial infection to tree death can vary with the number of infections and the tree's resistance, but is typically around 20 years.
It's important to remember that removing the Chaga does not stop the infection.
The Future of Chaga
As more & more respected institutions, such as the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, produce credible and detailed studies into the medicinal benefits, the more people will discover this special mushroom.
Furthermore, improvements in the extraction techniques from producers such as Oriveda will help consumers get the most out of it's numerous health benefits.