Termed by many as the "King of Medicinal Mushrooms" the Chaga mushroom is a potent medicinal mushroom that has been around for centuries. Native Russians, known as the Khanty people, living in the Western Siberian Mountains region smoked it, ingested it in powder form, applied it to skin, and brewed it to make tea.
Soon, Chaga spread around to the hunters and foragers of Russia to increase their capacity to work and to promote endurance. In the 12th century, Tzar Vladmir Monamakh attributed the disappearance of his lip tumors to Chaga.
During the 16th century, Chaga was dubbed the 'King of the Herbs' by Shen Nung Pen Ts'ao Ching, and is now widely used throughout Asia. In 1955, Chaga was intensely studied and recognized as a medical treatment in Russia by the Russian Medical Academy of Science. In 1968, A. Solzhenitsyn, a Russian novelist and historian was published in The Cancer Ward resulting in Chaga available to the West. Today, the Chaga mushroom is used in Europe, United States, Canada and Asia in teas, skin care, coffees, and medicinal purposes to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, enhance liver health, and fight viruses.
BOTANY & FORAGING
Photo by J.Love from Michigan
Found on the Birch tree as a parasite. The Chaga burls or the outer black surface is what is most noticeable of the Chaga sclerotium. Sticking out from the trunk of a birch tree is somewhat gnarly in appearance and has a very tough texture. The stem is buds that can elongate to become shoots, and each of these shoots similarly has buds that can become shoots themselves.
Cut open a burl and instead of straight grain you find waves and swirls of wood, marbled and feathered wood, perhaps some “eyes” staring back at you. The interior color is an amber or a rusty yellow-brown. Fully grown can reach up to 19 inches (50 cm) in width and height and is can have an overhang of about 30 cm.
Chaga can be found in the Northern hemisphere in very cold habitats in the birch forests of Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, Northern areas of the United States and in Canada. Harvest from living trees only. Chaga must be broken down into a powder form.