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 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. Now the Chaga of such size is almost impossible to find due to the high demand for Chaga. Chaga hunters virtually don't allow Chaga to grow bigger and tend to 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.
The making and development of Chaga mushroom.
Chaga spores diffused though the air penetrates deep into the heartwood of a live birch tree and make a mycelium.
Threads of mycelium penetrate the wood and gradually destroying it produces white rot. At the same time in the heartwood, a fruiting 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.
A massive 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 within several years it acquires an 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 possess such chromogens. The 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, the chromogenic complex is a set of Chaga acids and melanins - substances that 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 a multitude of positive feedbacks about Chaga, there are some skeptical messages on the internet too. But from occasional conversations with such people, it turned out that 90% of so-called "skeptics" 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 the internet was just a hype. The rest of interviewed "skeptics" had either mistakingly collected the 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 are going to the forest for Chaga hunting, we are giving some recommendations about what they should expect and what should they avoid during their enterprise.
Despite the fact that Chaga can be easily distinguished from other fungi, inexperienced Chaga harvester would probably encounter with Chaga identification problem. Because 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 a 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 fiber. Most often is mistaken for Chaga.
This is "cap". From a distance is very similar to chaga in appearance, but a 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 the Tomsk region, Irkutsk region, Altai area and Khakassia (Siberia). All chaga is being checked for sanitary and ecologically cleanness 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 walkthrough, let alone to search for Chaga with your head thrown back all the time. Leaves are concealing Chaga conks which usually sit high up a tree trunk. Moreover, in spring and summer, one should be careful 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 remember that the tree should not be younger than 20 years old and Chaga should sit no 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.
DEHYDRATION PROCESS OF CHAGA MUSHROOM
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 of 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 a temperature not higher than 50-60 degrees Celcius 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 overheated. 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 gun powder. Chaga is often being used by hunters as a tinder material for making a bonfire.
2. The heat will destroy the 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 Pharmacopeia 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 the production of our Chaga extract powder is dried under a temperature of 40 degrees Celcius in a vacuum. This ensures the total preservation of health-supportive chaga substances.
However if you are set to carry on with the drying, you should be prepared to see kind of not a very pleasant scene. If you had collected Chaga mushroom in the springtime, 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 hot steam. It is safe for Chaga and at the same time guarantees its sanitary cleanness.
Crushing of Chaga
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 a 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 careful!
Instead of a manual meat grinder, you can use an electric chopper, a powerful one. In this case, you should be prepared to say "goodbye" to your chopper because after chopping chaga it won't be good for anything else. Stonehard 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 fine brown dust, so make sure you have good access to 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 should be only wildcrafted, on a birch tree, in an extremely harsh climate with frost reaching -40 degrees Celcius.
The birch tree should be older than 15-20 years and age of Chaga should be not less than 5 years old.
Harvesting area should be located far from cities and industries and free of any contaminants in the air.
Chaga should not be used if it was growing at the foot of the tree trunk.
High-quality Chaga should have a very black and cracked sclerotium (outer layer). The more black color in this layer the more melanin and antioxidants it contains.
Chaga should be hard - you cannot break it without using an axe.
Drying should be done in special ovens with temperature control sensors in order to secure biologically active substances remained undamaged by heat.
Chaga should be odorless, except for some slight foresty smell.
Storage place: a cool, dry place with room temperature not higher than 25 degrees Celcius.
CHAGA MUSHROOM STRUCTURE.
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. The next layer is called a 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 the 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.
The picture on the right (clickable) illustrates two chunks of Chaga: one contains a soft layer (left) and the other doesn't. The top picture shows all three layers in the cross-section of the Chaga chunk.
This is a video in the Korean language filmed at our company. You can see the manufacturing process of Chaga FD extract:
Chemical composition of Chaga mushroom
The longstanding interrelated processes between Chaga and a birch tree result in the formation and accumulation of biologically active substances in the Chaga body. The combined complex of these substances calls forth the unique therapeutical properties of Chaga mushroom.
Principal active substances of Chaga mushroom
Water-soluble polyphenolic pigments (chromogens): antioxidants that kill free radicals. In all the other mushrooms such chromogens have not been found.
Flavonoids: organic plant substances providing anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, diuretic and choleretic actions.
Alkaloids: biologically active substance of selective action, on the cardiac muscle, for example.
Phenol compounds (tannins): these are tanning agents able to partially coagulate proteins. As a result, a protective film on mucous coats and skin of the body is being formed. These compounds are widely used in medicine owing to its expressed anti-inflammatory and styptic effects.
Complex of organic acids. Thank to the content of organic acids Chaga mushroom possesses the ability to regulate and normalize the acid-base balance in the human body.
Additionally, Chaga abounds 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 a balanced mix of natural minerals and trace elements. Below are the most important minerals:
Potassium - 41.7 mg / g. Potassium is essential for normal body growth. It is adjusting the base balance of the body, skin health, stimulates kidneys and cleanse the body from poisonous toxins. Presence of potassium in Chaga mushroom, as well as magnesium and iron, ensures a good therapeutic effect in the treatment of the circulatory system.
Magnesium - 1.90 mg / g. Magnesium is playing a key role in the regulation of blood sugar level, insulin release from the pancreas and protects its fragile cells. Magnesium found in birch Chaga is the best ally of the coenzyme in energy production. Having taken chaga even during the first 5-10 days you will already feel yourself more active and fresh.
Iron - 0.02 mg / g. The main structural component of hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells supplying each cell with oxygen.
Calcium - 3,50mg / g. The main role of calcium in your body is the organization of integrity of the skeletal system. People over 50 years of age often experience pain in their back which is usually associated with a calcium deficiency. Lack of calcium, potassium, and chromium in the body leads to cancer. Therefore, it is important to take preventive measures by consuming Chaga products which contain all the macro and microelements.
Manganese - 53.4 mg / g. Manganese deficiency can lead to diabetes.
Zinc - 28,40mg / g. Zinc is necessary for us to maintain a healthy immune system. Even a small deficiency of zinc is reducing the ability of the immune system to defend the body against tumor cells.
Chaga antioxidants and free radicals.
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 the 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 the 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 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 muscle bulk to cancer.
Factors that cause an excessive amount of free radicals in the human body.
Chemicals in food
Environmental factors such as air pollution.
Weak immune system
UV sun rays.
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 an accompanying drink.