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What is Chaga? Fungus or Burnt Wood?
Chaga is a fungus found on birch trees throughout the northern hemisphere. While it sometimes gets mistaken for a wood burl, it actually has the highest antioxidant content of any superfood in the world.
It is a parasitic fungus that helps regulate ecosystems by killing off trees that can no longer be supported. After Chaga has killed a birch tree and caused it to fall to the forest floor, other saprophytic mushrooms like Turkey Tail and Lion's mane will recycle the dead tree back into new soil.
Chaga has a lifespan that can vary depending on various factors such as environmental conditions and the health of the birch tree it grows on. However, chaga typically lives a lot longer compared to many other fungi.
The lifespan of an individual chaga growth can range from 5 to 20 years or more, depending on the circumstances. Some sources suggest that exceptionally old chaga specimens could potentially live for 50 years or longer.
If you encounter chaga in the wild, it's essential to practice responsible harvesting, ensuring the survival of the fungus and the health of the host tree.
The Medicinal Properties
Chaga has a long history throughout folk medicine as a natural anti-inflammatory, gut soother, and immune enhancer. Today, science confirms that the anti-inflammatory terpenes, antioxidants, and immunomodulating polysaccharides contained in Chaga can help people overcome conditions like leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammation caused by autoimmune disorders. While the health benefits of Chaga range far and wide, here are its top medicinal properties.
1. Chaga Antioxidant Activity (Chaga is a mushroom antioxidant powerhouse)
You've probably heard about the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric, blueberries, and acai as they've been celebrated for their ability to reduce inflammation. That's because they are rich in antioxidants which help fight against free radicals. They also help the body recover from the effects of oxidative stress.
While they may be categorized as potent anti-inflammatories, Chaga is up to five times more concentrated in antioxidants than any of these foods. It is particularly rich in the antioxidant known as Superoxide Dismutase (SOD).
SOD is super beneficial to the skin as it has been shown to reduce free radical damage and ultimately prevents wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. More impressively, it has also been shown to play a huge role in the minimizing of cancer cells throughout the body (H. Younus, 2018).2. Terpenes
Another set of nutrients that gives Chaga its anti-inflammatory effects are terpenes. It extracts them from the bark of its host tree and concentrates them in its tissues. While they aid in the reduction of inflammation throughout the body, they also play a huge role in the antimicrobial properties of Chaga.
One terpene known as Betulinic Acid, shows great activity in reducing the threat of viruses, fungi, and bacteria. One study on the biological activity of betulinic acid showed it having an inhibitory effect on the HIV virus and other less threatening viruses like Influenza and Hepatitis-C (Mansour Ghaffari Moghaddam, Faujan Bin H. Ahmad, Alireza Samzadeh-Kermani, 2012).3. Immune Modulating Polysaccharides
Alongside its anti-inflammatory properties, Chaga also contains unique polysaccharides that play a huge role in supporting our body's immune system.
Polysaccharides are long chain sugar molecules that are found in the bark of Chaga's host trees. They act as immune modulators in our bodies. This means it has the ability to increase or slow down our body's immune response.
To fully understand how this works, I like to think of our immune system as an AM/FM radio.
Tuning the dial up and down to find a clear signal is much like modulating the immune system. The clear radio signal is equivalent to a properly functioning immune system. If the immune system is tuned too far down, our health is compromised and illness can set in. Alternatively, if it is tuned too far up, we can experience a state of autoimmunity where our immune system is attacking our own body.
No matter where your immune system is functioning on the frequency spectrum, Chaga's immune modulating polysaccharides help modulate your immune system back to the desired clear signal.
Wild Chaga vs. Cultivated Chaga Mycelium
Out of the 2 million+ mushroom species that have been discovered today, less than 100 of them have been successfully cultivated by mushroom farmers around the world. Chaga is one of those mushrooms that cannot be cultivated. However, mycologists have found a way to grow Chaga mycelium (roots of a mushroom) on grain which companies can grow on a commercial scale and market as Chaga Mushroom.
The only problem with this is that many mushrooms like Chaga extract their medicinal compounds from the wood they grow on in the wild. In the case of betulinic acid, which is extracted by Chaga from birch trees, grain grown Chaga mycelium is absent in this important nutrient because grains do not contain betulinic acid in them at all.
Knowing this critical information, we at Forager's Kingdom use only 100% wild-harvested Chaga Mushrooms in our products and use the dual extraction method to ensure we have fully captured all the medicinal qualities of Chaga.
To learn more about our Wild Harvested Chaga Mushroom Extract, click here.
Forager's Kingdom- Chaga Mushroom Extract
The Dual Extraction Method
Most of the medicinal compounds discussed in the article would not be obtained if one simply made a hot cup of Chaga tea every day. That is because all medicinal mushrooms have two sets of nutrients: alcohol soluble nutrients, and water soluble nutrients.
The anti-inflammatory terpenes we discussed earlier are alcohol soluble and the antioxidants and polysaccharides are water soluble. The dual extraction method simply entails performing two separate extracts of alcohol first, then water, and combining them together at the end. The alcohol we use is organic cane alcohol which is free of allergens, and helps deliver the mushroom's medicinal compounds through the salivary glands. For the water extraction we use mineral rich purified spring water.
Forager's Kingdom Chaga Tea Recipe
You may have seen mushroom enthusiasts throughout social media sipping on Chaga Tea. It's a great way to enjoy the benefits. It is made simply by boiling chaga chunks (whole chaga) in water for 15 minutes or more. While the method is simple, the upkeep is quite the headache.
Many people find that Chaga ruins their pots and pans over time. The potent dark material in chaga known as chitin, leaves a dark residue that is almost impossible to remove. Plus, keeping your chaga chunks fresh can also be a nightmare.
Here's a simple recipe that uses our Chaga extract to make a beneficial tea that is easy and headache free.
- Forager's Kingdom Chaga Extract
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Hot water
Fill your favorite mug with hot water and add ⅓ of a dropper full of our chaga extract to the water. Next, add in one teaspoon of lemon juice from a fresh lemon and one tablespoon of maple syrup. Feel free to adjust the lemon juice or maple syrup to taste.
More Reasons To Try Forager's Kingdom's Chaga Extract
We at Forager's Kingdom are not only invested in creating quality mushroom products for our customers, but we also are passionate about sustainability and ensuring that our planet is habitable for the next generations to come. That is why we donate a portion of every sale from our online store to One Tree Planted, an organization that plants trees worldwide. When you buy one of our extracts, you are also supporting reforestation and helping heal our planet.
1. H. Younus,Therapeutic potentials of superoxide dismutase
2. Mansour Ghaffari Moghaddam, Faujan Bin H. Ahmad, Alireza Samzadeh-Kermani, Biological Activity of Betulinic Acid: A Review