Chaga, known by some as the king of herbs, is a medicinal mushroom with an exceptional reputation. Boasting a long history of traditional use in various cultures across the globe, and known for its immune-boosting properties.
Scientifically known as Inonotus obliquus, Chaga is a parasitic fungus that eats its host tree from the inside out over a long period of up to eighty years. Predominantly growing on birch trees in cold climates, specifically regions such as Siberia, Scandinavia, and North America. It appears as big black growths on their host trees, rough and bumpy with cracked and irregular surfaces. Underneath this exterior a rich golden orangey-brown interior can be found, and this is where the health benefits can be discovered.
A brief history of Chaga’s use
Chaga’s medicinal benefits have been known for so long, no one can clearly say who the first people to use it were. But in 1991 a well-preserved mummy was discovered in the Austrian Alps; named Otzi the Iceman and over 5,300 years old, he was found to be carrying Chaga in his pouch.
Nearly 4,000 years ago, as far back as 2696 BC, Shen Nung - said to be the father of Chinese Medicine - is thought to have dubbed the mushroom with its title as “the king of herbs.”
In Siberian folklore, it was named as a “Gift from God” or “The Mushroom of Immortality” and its most well-recorded initial historical usage can be found with the Khanty people of Western Siberia. As far back as the 12th century, they were known to have made tea out of the mushroom, using it to boost energy and stave off hunger during wild moose hunts. They then drank the tea again upon feasting, aiding digestion afterwards.
But their use of the mushroom did not end there: as well as using it internally, they also found external uses for the mushroom too. These methods ranged from putting the conks through fire, then placing the heated mass into hot water before using the water to purify and clean the vagina after menstruation and birth-giving; to mixing the mushroom with lard and ash in order to create a soap with which to clean wounds. They even went as far as to smoke the mushroom in an attempt to improve their lung health - a method which is not recommended!
In more recent times, the acclaimed Russian author and Nobel Laureate, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, wrote about his desire to find the mushroom in his famous 1966 novel. Not expected to survive his prognosis of disease, he sought further aid in his treatment and, having heard about it in a letter from his doctor, turned to the old folklore of his country. The doctor told him that he had noticed his peasant patients avoided coming down with certain maladies and looked into what might be separating them from others - the answer seemed to be Chaga. So managing to get his hands on some, the protagonist of the novel takes the fungus studiously alongside his hospital treatment and does indeed make a “miraculous” recovery by the end of the story.
Chaga is rich in fibre and many essential nutrients such as iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, calcium, and vitamin D. It is also high in antioxidants, including melanin, phenol, and flavonoids - which aid in combating oxidative stress and protect against damage caused to cells by free radicals. Due to these high levels of antioxidants, it also works as a great anti-inflammatory.
As you’re sure to have gleaned from the article, Chaga can be consumed and used in a variety of different ways. We find the most economical and effective way of consuming it is inextract form - just half a teaspoon is needed to create a brilliant coffee alternative.
A full list of Raw Living’s Chaga products can be foundhere.
By Reuben Wood