The chaga mushroom, also known as Inonotus obliquus, which grows mainly on yellow and white birch trees, is a strange looking, but uniquely valuable natural phenomenon.
What makes this black beauty such a phenomenon is its abundant stores of polysaccharides (a specialized type of carbohydrate) which are thought to be chaga’s primary active constituents. Research suggests that chaga, traditionally used in Russian and Northern European folk medicine, possesses a powerful anticancer effect.
As a potent immune strengthener, chaga can help us ward off harmful pathogens, thanks to its significant antiviral activity, without toxic side effects. It can also help reduce inflammation in the body.
How to use it
Chaga can be consumed in various ways. The most common forms are powders (including capsules), chunks, and extracts.
The most popular way to consume chaga is probably as a tea. For some people, it’s part of their culture, similar to drinking green tea or coffee.
Chaga tea provides benefits from its compounds that are water soluble, but unfortunately, not all of chaga’s beneficial compounds are known to be water soluble. An alternate way to get the most of chaga’s health benefits is to use a dual extract—one that is made using water and alcohol. The alcohol helps extract those compounds that can’t be extracted using water alone.
When purchasing a chaga extract, look for the concentration ratio found on the extract bottle: a ratio of 1:1 means it has 1,000 mg of chaga per 1 mL of extract; a 1:5 ratio has only 200 mg of chaga per 1 mL.
Some people wonder if certified organic means anything in the world of chaga, since most chaga is harvested wild. When you think of it, at first glance, you would expect wild plants or mushrooms to be pure and free from environmental pollutants and chemicals.
That’s not necessarily the case. Unfortunately, many forests are exposed to aerial spraying of pesticides and/or herbicides, even in Canada. Pesticides may be used to control pests such as the spruce budworm, while herbicides may be used, for example, to favour conifer dominance.
Buying certified organic has extra value because it means the chaga was harvested outside these zones and is free from aerial spraying of chemicals.
Spice it up
If you drink chaga tea or use an extract, try making it your own by adding some herbs or spices to add flavour. Chaga by itself tastes fairly neutral and a little woody, but you can spice it up, like a chai, by adding cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.
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