Chaga, Inonotus obliquus, is a polypore fungus which grows on birch trees. The fungus produces a black perennial woody growth called a “conk”. Chaga contains 215 phyto-nutrients including 29 polysaccharides or beta glucans (known to be immune activators), compounds such as betulinic acid, special pigments including melanins, amino acids and nucleosides.
Hundreds of modern scientific publications have indicated that these compounds could offer solutions to fight virus and fungal diseases, stimulate the central nervous system, delay growth of tumor and cancer cells, lower white blood cell counts, lower arterial and venous blood pressure, decrease sugar levels, improve skin color and elasticity, detoxify the liver, kidney, and spleen to name a few. Pharmaceutical uses include treatment for TB of bone, high blood pressure, HIV, herpes and other skin disorders, and as an anti-tumor agent. Traditional uses have been recorded for treatment of gastritis, ulcers, digestive complaints, urinary tract disorders, bronchitis, asthma, skin eczemas and of course, to control blood pressure and improve immunity and longevity.
Over 2000 years ago, in 100 B.C., the Chinese Monk Shen Nong in the book “The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing” called Chaga “The King of the Herbs”. According to Oriental medicine, chaga increases longevity and boosts life energy or “Chi.” In Chinese medicine, chaga has been revered for its life enhancing properties.
As with many herbs, natural medicines and foods, science has only been isolating the reasons why in recent years. Chaga, unlike the other medicinal mushrooms, contains over 35,000 units/gm of SOD (super oxide dismutase). This is exceptional for a medicinal mushroom and far surpasses what is found in known superfoods. SOD is one of the most important anti-oxidants in our body. SOD decreases as we age. Living well and exercising keep levels up. SOD’s are used in/for skin creams, burns, wounds and inflammation. SODs are enzymes that keep our cell membranes supple and healthy. Research indicates that super oxide dismutase can be used for arthritis and side effects of cancer treatment.
Chaga also has the highest reported ORAC score in natural foods or oils (Anti-oxidant levels are measured in ORAC, which stand for oxygen radical absorbent capacity).
For centuries, people in parts of Russia have drunk Chaga tea daily for promoting good health. Nobel Prize winner Russian novelist Alexandr Solzenitsyn introduced the amazing cancer treating properties of Chaga in his 1968 novel, “The Cancer Ward”. It’s the BETULINIC ACID that attacks the cancer cells.
In 1998 a study in Poland demonstrated Chaga’s inhibiting effects on tumor growth. The study found that betulin worked highly selectively on tumor cells because the interior pH of tumor tissues is generally lower than that of normal tissues, and betulinic acid is only active at those lower levels. Once inside the cells, betulinic acid destroys the tumors. In 2005, at Department of Medical Nutrition in South Korea, Chaga Mushroom was evaluated for its potential in protecting against oxidative damage to DNA in human lymphocytes.
David Wolfe’s recent book “CHAGA; The King of the Medicinal Mushrooms” is the most literarily accessible and most widely marketed source of english info I could find. He outlines the healing properties of chaga as follows:
“Adaptogenic (Combats Stress); a blood purifier; the most potent anti-oxidant source ever discovered on the face of the planet, with a remarkable potential for scavenging free-radicals; one of the most alkalizing aubstances known to Man 10; It is shown to be immune enhancing and balancing, anti-cancer, anti-viral & anti-inflammatory! These are thanks once again to polysaccharides. These essential nutrients for the immune-system enhance the body’s ability to produce NK (Natural Killer) cells and activates white blood cell (Macrophage) activity; rich source of the anti-oxidant pigment melanin, which is needed throughout the body. It is known to be geno-protective, protecting our DNA from damage due to oxidative-stress; rich source of the yellow polyphenol pigments, which give chaga its deep orange colour inside. These are known to be anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet aggregation, anti-diabetic and anti-dementia; rich source of selenium, iron, zinc, chromium, manganese, copper and magnesium. (zinc being essential to the production of the body’s own anti-oxidant SOD as well as required for cell growth, differentiation and survival, not to mention male reproductive health!)”
To steep your chaga and get the most benefit from it you can pour boiling water over it and let it sit for at least 20 minutes. But the longer you steep it the more value is imbued into the water. You can steep it overnight. This chaga can be infused at least 3 times and still have benefits. The flavour is mild. If you have a large chunk you can simmer it in a pot as you would a stock and sip on it all day long. This form can sit there for up to two weeks, I’ve read, like a forever soup. I personally prefer the smaller granules in Take Charge Tea’s chaga and after a 3rd infusion, I dry the granules on a piece of towel and store in the freezer steeping in a jar of vodka. You see some of the medicine from chaga is water soluble and some is alcohol soluble (specifically the betulinic acid). I don’t want to miss a single bit of it. It can be taken as you would a tincture from a dropper or as an occasional chaga “martini”. We have added vanilla and cacao to our Chaga and it’s now available where you find Take Charge Tea
Chaga is recorded as being used by North American indigenous nomads as an eternal flame…that is to say that the chaga was carried around in a pot as a burning ember to start fires because it has incredible capacity and value as tinder and smoulders as a coal for an extraordinarily long time. Being mostly found on the mighty birch tree it has been a revered Boreal medicine ally since before recorded time. OUR chaga is being sourced and harvested ethically and intentionally with respect to the trees and the integrity of the delicate symbiotic ecosystem.