Chaga Mushroom The King of Medicinal Mushrooms Benefits of Chaga

The Chaga Mushroom - King of Medicinal Mushrooms

More than ever before people are looking toward the forest instead of the pharmacy when it comes to their personal health and well-being. The Chaga Mushroom is an example of how a relatively unknown medicinal mushroom, traditionally found in the forests of Russia and used by First Nations has become so well known throughout the health and wellness community in Canada and North America.    

The Chaga mushroom, Inonotus obliquus is an ancient folk remedy that has been valued for its health benefits for centuries. Chaga mushrooms are often compared to similar fungi like the Reishi, Shitake, Maitake and Oyster mushrooms. Chaga is a unique polypore fungi that grows on living trees. A symbiotic relationship is formed between the Chaga mushroom and its host that can sustain one another during their entire lifespan of up to 20 years. 

chaga mushrooms on birch treeChaga Mushrooms may be found on wounded or dying white birch trees in temperate forests around the northern hemisphere. Chaga looks like encrusted black formations; the sterile conk or mycelium grows out of wounds sustained after storms and other impacts that break branches.  Chaga covers the tree's wound and protects it from invading micro organisms.  The host tree and the Chaga can co-exist for many years and the mushroom can be harvested up to three times over the course of its lifetime.     

The Chaga Mushrooms is known as the "King of Medicinal Mushrooms."  Considered by many cultures as one of the most powerful healing plants on Earth and used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  After it as been harvested, the Chaga needs to be air dried and broken into chunks or ground into a course or fine powder.  The outer cell walls of Chaga are protected by chitin and need to be broken down or extracted.  Over the centuries chaga has been extracted by steeping it in hot water to make a medicinal Chaga Mushroom Tea or matured into a potent Chaga Extract by soaking it in alcohol.  Both the hot water and alcohol methods over long periods of time help to dissolve the chitin protecting the valuable nutritional contents inside the Chaga.  Chaga can be consumed directly as a Chaga Mushroom Powder.  Chaga powder mushroom can be added to soups, stews, smoothies etc. to add nutritional value to everyday meals, and still maintain high concentrations of mushroom polysaccharides.  It is still advisable to use some means of extraction however to achieve the most benefit from the mushroom.

Chaga Mushrooms have been known to improve the immune response, lower blood sugar levels and combat abnormal cell growth.  Chaga is also anti-inflammatory, relieves pain and purifies the blood and the liver.  Chaga has also been used to prevent cancer.  Read more about Chaga and Cancer.  Chaga Mushrooms are a powerful adaptogen for the body helping to aid in the immune system's ability to heal and multitask on so many levels. The Chaga Mushroom is an amazing fungus that supports our health and well being.  Learn more about the Health Benefits of The Chaga Mushroom.    

Chaga the amazing tree rot fungi

Polypore fungi like Inonotus Obliquus (chaga) are a unique type of fungi unlike fleshy mushrooms, most of these fungi can be found even during dry weather or in the winter.  Polypores can be easily distinguished from the other fungi by their typically hard exterior, usual "non-mushroom" shape and they usually grow on wood acting as wood decomposers.

Polypore fungi decompose wood, recycling the nutrients and minerals in the wood and releasing them over a long period of time often several hundred years from a single large downed tree.  Many species can also act as a pathogen to living trees like Laetiporus sulphureus, the sulfur shelf or chicken of the woods, Grifola frondosa, hen of the woods, sheepshead or maitake.  

Several polypores are used in oriental herbal medicine as tea-like extracts, including Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom), Polyporus umbellatus, and Grifola frondosa (maitake) and Inonotus Obliquus (chaga).  The polypores wood-degrading and especially lignin-degrading ability are how they can aid in the availability of nutrition to other insects, animals and even humans.

white and brown rot fungiAs a wood decaying fungi polypores can utilize two different ways in which to rot or breakdown their host tree.   Wood is composed mostly of cellulose (white) and lignin (brown). Cellulose makes up the primary wall of all plant cells.  Many plants have a secondary wall of lignin inside the primary one, especially in wood. Brown rot fungi degrade the white cellulose leaving the brown lignin behind.  White rot fungi degrade the lignin and leave the white cellulose behind.  Brown rot fungi degrade the primary walls and leaving the secondary lignin behind. Thus brown rotted wood crumbles to dust since there is no primary wall structure.  White rot fungi leave the cellulose of the primary walls behind.  Inonotus Obliquus (chaga), is a white rot fungi.  The lignin-degrading enzymes of white rot fungi will also degrade toxic wastes that have the same general chemical configuration, such as PCB's and PCP's.  Chaga is generally known as non-toxic fungi because of this fact. 

How to Choose the right grind of Chaga 

Chaga Chunks...Tea...Powder....?  Confused as to the difference and what 'grind' of Chaga to choose?

Yes, choosing between the different grinds of Chaga Mushroom can be very confusing to those new to brewing Chaga as a medicinal tea or tonic.  But don't worry, Annanda Chaga offers this helpful guide to help you choose the 'grind' that's right for you and how you wish to extract your Chaga.  Read our informative guide on how to choose the grind of chaga that is right for you.