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First Nations Use of Chaga Mushroom

Chaga Mushroom, Inonotus Obliquus is a living sterile conk that grows on birch and other trees in the temperate forests throughout the Northern hemisphere.  It can live up to twenty years on the host tree until the tree eventually topples over and dies; both the chaga and the host live and die together.  Once dead the chaga fungus will then have the opportunity to produce fruiting bodies for up to six years.  A mysterious process to say the least and the fruiting body is considered the holy grail of mycology as it can be even more elusive than the chaga conk itself.

Chaga has been used by many cultures all around the world for centuries and used for prevention and cures for many types of diseases.  Widely used in Russia, Poland and other Baltic country’s as folk medicine for gastric problems, cancer, tuberculosis and heart and liver issues.

Khanty People use of Chaga MushroomChaga has been used in Russia as far back as the 16th Century for various cancers, especially tumors associated with angiogenesis (buildup of blood vessels that feed cancerous growths).  In Siberia, chaga has been widely known to help treat tuberculosis, liver conditions and stomach problems including gastritis and ulcers.  The Khanty people of Western Siberia put the chaga into fire and put the smoldering conk into hot water for use to clean and purify women's genital region after menstruation and birthing.

Also used in Canadian aboriginal culture First Nations people have been using Chaga for Centuries as well.  Cree healers call chaga Poashkan or Wiskakecakomikih.  Wisakecak is a mythological being who threw a scab mistaken for a piece of dried meat against a birch tree and tried to ingest it.  Chaga produces a sweet smelling incense and is often used in smoking pipe ceremony.   Used by the Cree and other native nations as a form of Moxibustion treatment to stimulate the body’s energy meridians.

Chipewyan First NationsChipewyan and Ojibway Nations name for chaga is Cha’a’ihtthi.  They too used chaga simmering it for hours to make tea to treat viral related conditions.

The Denesuliné peoples of Northern Saskatchewan used two long lines of powdered chaga to represent two related events.  Once both lines were lit at opposite sides, whichever side completed burning first would signify which event would become true.  This is known to the Dene people as ETSEN DEK “it smells when it’s burning.”

Alaskan Native peopleThe Gitksan of British Columbia know chaga as DIDIHUXW OR DI DIYHUH.  Also known by Gitksan elders as MLL’HLW AND TLLUXW.  Using chaga’s black coals to relieve rheumatic pain.  ‘Take a sliver of the black coal from the crack of the birch tree and burn it for pain in joint.’  The Wet’suwet’en of Northwestern British Columbia uses chaga for similar purposes calling chaga by two different names DIDIC’AH CI’ISTS’O AND TL’EYHTSE.  

The Tenaina of South – Central Alaska used chaga to help with toothaches.