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Chaga mushroom (lat. Inonotus Obliquus).

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 becoming old and its bark starts to fall off, the spores being picked by wind spreads 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 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 becasue of the high demand for chaga. Chaga hunters practically 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.

The making and development of chaga mushroom.

Chaga spores gets into heartwood ch2 ch3 ch4
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.

Chaga identification

Along with multitude of positive feedback about chaga, there are some small quantity of sceptical messages on the internet too. When we encounter with such information we try to get in touch with the authors for explanations. And what we found out was, that 90% of so called "sceptics" either didn't know a thing about chaga or didn't even try to drink chaga, they just "had 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 not dried the chaga correctly or wrongly prepared chaga tea. Of course such "chaga" will be of little help.

Therefore, for those who is going to the forest for single handed chaga hunt, 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 structures:

ложный трутовик gubka-2 suvel kap

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.

CHAGA HUNTING

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 from benefits from chaga tea.

Before setting off to the forest it is essential to remember that the harvesting area should be ecologically clean. As a sponge is sucking in water, 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 ensure the forest is located not closer than 100km-200km 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 time of year, 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 not forget about the ticks (dangerous bugs), the taiga is full of them.

Чага растущая у основания ствола не пригодна для употребления. Такую чагу не собирают.In most cases chaga grows very high and is not only difficult to find but also to cut it off. Healing chaha grows only on aged and alive birch trees. This makes one to remember that the tree should be not younger than 20 years old and chaga should grow not lower than 1,5 meters from the ground. Chaga which grows at the foot of a tree is not to be collected because it has  very little expressed health supportive properties.

DRYING PROCESS OF CHAGA MUSHROOM

So, you have managed to find and collect an ecologically clean chaga mushroom   and happily returned with your trophy back home. What do you need to do 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 began the drying of chaga in a whole big chunk? Because in a big chunk chaga may not get properly dried inside and eventually it will began to 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.

In doing so please remember that dry chaga should not be oberheated. There are two reasins 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 drieduntil it has a moisture content 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 "Ecozvet-Bio" is dried under temperature 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.

Crushing of chaga

Next stage - crushing of chaga chunks becasue you want them to be the tea - like 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 grinded 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 may 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 a lot of fine brown and dirty 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.

HIGH QUALITY CHAGA

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):

  1. Chaga shoild be only wild grown, on a birch tree, in extremely harsh climate with frost reaching -40 degrees Celcius.
  2. THe birch tree should be older than 15 years and age of chaga should be not less than 5 years.
  3. Harvesting area should be located far from cities and industries and free of any contaminants in the air.
  4. Chaga should not be used if it was growing at the foot of the tree trunk.
  5. High quality chaga should have a very black and cracked sklerotium (outer layer). The more black color in thit layer the more melanin and antioxidants it contains.
  6. Chaga should be hard - you cannot brake it without using an axe.
  7. Drying should be done in special ovens with temperature control sensor in order to secure biologically active substances to stay untouched by heat.
  8. Chaga should be odorless, except some slight foresty smell.
  9. Storage place: cool, dry place with room temperature not higher than 25 degrees Celcius.

CHAGA MUSHROOM STRUCTURE.

Структура чаги

Chaga has three primary layers distinguishing by its density and color.

Outer layer of real chaga is called sclerotium. This is the hardest layer. The most of biologically active substances are concentrated in this particular layer. Next layer is called fruiting body, it is less hard but 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 concluded 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 and antioxidants in our 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 illustrates two chunks of chaga : one contains soft layer (left) and the other don't. The top picture shows all  three layers in the cross section of chaga.

Chemical composition of chaga mushroom

The longstanding interrelated processess between chaga and 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.

Principal active substances of chaga mushroom

  • Water-soluble polyphenolic pigments (chromogens): antioxidants which kill free radicals. In all the other mushrooms such chromogens has not been found.
  • Flavonoids: organic plant substances providing anti-inflamatory, spasmolitic, diuretic and choleretic actions.
  • Alcaloids: biologically active substance of selective action, on cardiac muscle, for example. 
  • Phenol compounds (tannines): 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-inflamatory and styptic effects.
  • Complex of organic acides. Thank to content of organic acids chaga mushroom possessess ability to regulate and normalize the acid-base balance in human body.

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:

  • Potassium - 41.7 mg / g. Potassium is essential for normal body growth. It is adjusting 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 treatment of the circulatory system.
  • Magnesium - 1.90 mg / g. Magnesium is playing a key role in 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 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 micro elements.
  • 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 in nature a well-known substance, which is 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 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 tis case a 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 "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 bulck to cancer.

 Factors that cause the excessive amount of free radicals in human body.

  • Chemicals in food
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Aging
  • Smoking
  • Eviromental 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 accompanying drink. Chaga tea has a pleasant foresty smell whereas chaga extract is odorless.