Chaga mushroom is a fruitless form of tinder fungus. It is called fruitless because the conk itself doesn't have any seeds whereas the source of spores is located under the birch bark, on the stem. And when the tree is getting old and its bark starts to fall off, the spores being picked by wind are spreading around through the air. These seeds get into the damaged parts of other birch trees, gets under the bark and develop mycelium. Over time the mycelium grows outwards and by damaging the bark from inside appears on the outer side of the bark. It continues to grow in size and in about 3-4 years turns into chaga mushroom. The size of chaga depends on its age, and sometimes may reach more than 1 meter in diameter. Chaga of such size is a very rare cite now due to high demand for chaga. Chaga hunters virtually don't allow chaga to grow bigger and cut it off a tree at the first sight.
Only chaga mushroom grown on live birch trees can be used for prevention or treatment usage.
|Chaga spores diffused though the air penetrate deep into the heartwood of a live birch tree and make a mycelium.||Threads of mycelium penetrate the wood and gradually destroying it produce white rot. At the same time in the heartwood a fruuiting body starts to develop.||Three-four years later the spawn comes outside and fruitless conk is beginning to develop and grow. These are the first signs of what is called chaga.||Amassive conk of chaga has appeared on the stem of a tree. It will be growing as long as the tree is alive or until it is cut off by people.|
Chaga is a parasitic fungus, it lives by drawing nutrients from a birch tree rather than from the ground, and wihtin several years it aquires incredible amount of biologically active substances.
The main biologically active substances of chaga fungus are the intensely colored water-soluble polyphenol pigments (chromogens) being synthesized from the complex phenolic aldehydes, polyphenols, oxiphenolic acids and its quinones. The fruiting bodies of other mushrooms which often are mistaken for chaga do not posess such chromogens. High content of the chromogenic complex of pigments is the main feature of chaga fungus, as compared to other polypore fungi (AN Shivrina, 1959).
In other words, chromogenic complex is a set of chaga acids and melanins - substances which contain high amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential in fighting free radicals. These are the adverse molecules which in high concentration can cause damage to our body cells and not only become a reason for premature aging but also can cause such serious diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Along with multitude of positive feedbacks about chaga, there are some sceptical messages on the internet too. But from occasional conversations with such people, it turned out that 90% of so called "sceptics" either didn't know a thing about chaga or didn't even try to drink chaga themselves. They just "thought" that all the positive information about chaga on internet was just a hype. The rest of interviewed "sceptics" had either mistakingly collected wrong fungus or didn't dry the chaga properly or prepared their chaga tea in the wrong way. Of course such "chaga" would be of little help.
Therefore, for those who is going to the forest for chaga hunting, we are giving some recommendations what they should expect and what should they avoid during their enterprise.
Despite the fact that chaga can be easily distinguished from other fungus, inexperienced chaga harvester would probably encounter with chaga identification problem. Becasue once you are in the forest, you will notice the multitude of various fungus and conks sitting on trees. On the birch tree alone you can find the following conks:
This is false tinder fungus (Phellinus igniarius).
|This is Birch bracket fungus. It resembles a hoof and has a pleasant mushroomy smell.||This is "suvel" - a conk that grows on a trunk with deformation of the wood fibre. Most often is mistaken for chaga.||This is "cap". From a distance is very similar to chaga in appearnce, but closer look will reveal just a bunch of small branches.|
One may think that it is not a big deal. You go to the forest, find chaga, cut it off a tree, crash it, put in a cup, add some hot water and Bob's your uncle.
However it is not so simple, especially if you want to get the maximum benefits from chaga tea.
Before setting off to the forest it is essential to remember that the harvesting area should be ecologically clean. Resembling a sponge chaga mushroom is sucking in all the contamination from surrounding air (heavy metals, fumes, radiation) and these contaminants are being constantly accumulated in chaga. Therefore, you should be absolutely confident that the forest is located not closer than 100km from the nearest city, highway or industry of any kind.
The specially trained teams of chaga collectors from our company are picking up chaga mushrooms from wild forests in Tomsk region, Irkutsk region, Altai area and Khakassia (Siberia). All chaga is being checked for sanitary and ecologically cleannes including radiation control.
You can collect chaga mushroom all year round but it is much easier to do in early spring or in late fall. In summer the harvesting can be a bit more complicated because at this season our Siberian forests for example are very rich in dense vegetation and it is not easy even just to simply walk through, let alone to search for chaga with your head thrown back all the time. Leaves are concealling chaga conks which usually sit high up a tree trunk. Moreover, in spring and summer one should be carefull about the ticks (dangerous bugs), the taiga is full of them.
In most cases chaga grows very high and is difficult to find let alone to cut it off. Healing chaga grows only on aged and alive birch trees. This makes one to remember that the tree should not be younger than 20 years old and chaga should sit not lower than 1,5 meters from the ground. Chaga which grows at the foot of a tree is not to be collected because such chaga has poorly expressed health supportive properties.
So, you have managed to find and collect an ecologically clean chaga mushroom and happily returned home with your trophy. What to be done next before using it for a chaga tea?
First of all chaga should be thoroughly cleaned from the remains of wood and bark, then it should be cut to smaller chunks to the size about 10-15 cm each. Why it would be a bad idea to dry chaga in a whole big chunk? Because in a big chunk chaga would not get properly dried through and eventually it will rot. Use an axe.
How to dry chaga? In fact very simple. You can do it in the oven at temperature not higher than 50-60 degrees celcious or simply place the chaga on a sheet of paper and expose it to the sunlight or place it near a bonfire or a fireplace (not too close).
In doing so please remember that dry chaga should not be oberheated. There are two reasons for that:
1. Chaga is highly inflammable and if it is placed very close to open fire it may burst in flames like a gun powder. Chaga is often being used by hunters as a tinder material for making a bonfire.
2. Heat will destroy healthy substances of chaga.
Ideally chaga should be dried until it has a moisture content of 14%. This a standard specified for chaga in Russian Pharmacopea book. Of course it is impossible to guess precisely the chaga moisture content without any indicators. Actually this is one of a few drawbacks of home processed chaga and chaga tea.
Chaga mushroom used for production of our chaga extract powder is dried under temperature of 40 degrees Celcius in vacuum. This ensures total preservation of health supportive chaga substances.
However if you are set to carry on with the drying, you sholud be prepared to see kind of not a very pleasant scene. If you had collected chaga mushroom in the spring time, its outer layer (the cracked black one) is most likely to be populated with larva, small spiders and bugs. And all these "residents" will rush out of their shelter once you start the drying process. It is nothing serious. Just rather unpleasant look which may influence your desire to continue with the chaga tea.
We at Baikal Herbs Ltd clean chaga mushroom chunks with a hot steam. It is safe for chaga and at the same time guarantees its sanitary cleannes.
Next stage - the crushing of chaga chunks. You want them to be about the tea - like size pieces (3-5 mm). You can do it with manual meat grinder. But owing to the rather large chunks of chaga (10-15 cm) and its stone hard state you will have to somehow crush the chaga to smaller pieces before putting them into the grinder. Probably you will have to use an axe again which is not totally safe task for your fingers. Be carefull!
Instead of manual meat grinder you can use an electric chopper, a powerful one. In this case you should be prepared to say "good bye" to your chopper because after chopping chaga it won't be good for anything else. Stone hard chaga chunks will damage the blades and inner plastic walls of the chopper. However, probably it depends on chopper quality.
The procedure of grinding will be accompanied by clouds of the fine brown dust, so make sure you have a good access of fresh air.
Baikal Herbs Ltd uses industrial grinding machines where one can set any required size of chunks, for example for tea it is set for 5 mm.
Chaga mushroom may be considered high quality and be used as a natural remedy only if it conforms to the following requirements (we do not mention chemical composition here):
Chaga has three primary layers clearly distinguished by its density and color.
Outer layer of real chaga is called sclerotium. This is the hardest layer. The most of biologically active substances (melanin) are concentrated in this particular layer. Next layer is called fruiting body, it is less hard but also is a solid dark brown layer highly saturated with healthy substances. The third layer which is porous, soft and yellow is basically useless.
It is well known that more than 80% of all active substances are contained in the sclerotium and fruiting body.
Chaga extract and chaga tea of Baikal Herbs Ltd are made exclusively from these two layers. We cut off the third soft layer and throw it away. This is why concentration of chromogenic complex (melanin) and antioxidants in our freeze-dried chaga extract is so high. This is a very significant point because many manufacturers use all three layers in their products, which surely makes the cost less but eventually less quality too.
Picture on the right (clickable) illustrates two chunks of chaga : one contains soft layer (left) and the other doesn't. The top picture shows all three layers in the cross section of chaga chunk.
The longstanding interrelated processess between chaga and a birch tree result in formation and accumulation of biologically active sustances in chaga body. The combined complex of these substances calls forth the unique therapeutical properties of chaga mushroom.
Additionally, chaga is abound in melanin. Melanin helps to stimulate metabolism in the body, has anti-inflammatory, regenerating effect. As you can see, almost all organic substances contained in a birch mushroom, have beneficial properties for humans.
In addition to the organic active substances Chaga also contains the balanced mix of natural minerals and trace elements. Below are the most important minerals:
There is a well-known substance in nature, which has been known to cause the iron to rust and the oil to become rancid. In human body this substance damages DNA, impairs memory and accelerates aging. This destroyer is none other than the most common chemical element in the world known as oxygen. We cannot live without oxygen, but at the same time sometimes the oxygen can turn into a terrible danger to our health. Every day we breathe polluted air, eat food with chemicals, drinking water containing dozens of harmful substances; We lead a life which is full of stress. Scientists have found that due to influence of the above mentioned factors the formation of the so-called "free radicals" is taking place. These free radicals are responsible for accelerated destruction and deformation of your body's cells.
The problem is related to the structure of the atoms of this gas. Normally, the oxygen nucleus is surrounded by 8 electrons, which are combined in pairs to form a stable and not dangerous molecule. But sometimes, under the influence of external factors, an electron is being taken away or on the contrary, an additional electron is being added. In this case an extremely active structure is being formed which is known as free radicals.
What are these external factors that turn oxygen from our friend to our enemy? Most known of them are the cigarette smoke, urban smog and ultraviolet radiation. Free radicals, like a "molecular terrorists", "roam" on the living cells of the body, plunging everything into chaos. In an effort to gain a normal (balanced) amount of electrons, they are ready to "tear off" the missing particle from any other molecule causing a chain reaction of destruction. This process is known as "oxidative stress", it is considered to be responsible for a lot of diseases - from cataract and loss of muscles bulk to cancer.
It is impossible to get fully protected from free radicals. But you can keep them at small numbers by neutralizing as much of them as possible. This can be done with chaga antioxidants.
Content of antioxidants in raw chaga or chaga tea is uncomparably lower than in chaga extract. This is why it is much more sensible to use chaga extract for prevention or treatment. Chaga tea would be great as accompanying drink.