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Chaga

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Guest Vlad

About January 2006 I read on the Internet about a medicinal mushrooms which the Russians called Chaga. They claimed it has the highest amount of antioxidant of any source and that it had all kinds of medical applications and supposedly even cured cancer. The American mushroom guides called it a Clinker Polypore or Inonotus obliquus. The interesting thing is that it is neither a clinker nor a polypore. The best explanation I read is that it is the mycelium of the Inonotus obliquus that burst from the inside of the tree. Winter is the best time to find it since it is easier to spot when all the leaves are gone. The American mushroom guides report it on birch, elm and alder. The Russian name Chaga is for the Inonotus obliquus that grows on birch. Only when found on birch does it have the claimed medicinal properties.

After finding the first Chaga they were easy to find. I usually find them on Black and Yellow Birch. I read that when harvested off Black Birch it has the highest concentration of beneficial chemicals. I have been drinking Chaga tea ever since. I find that it relieves my arthritic pain and is the best remedy for an upset stomach. It is a better antacid than anything I can find in a drugstore. I feel overall better when I drink Chaga.

Another surprising thing about this fungus is no mushroom guide shows the actual fruiting body of this mushroom, instead they show the canker which is an indicator that the tree is infected with Inonotus obliquus. I asked, on a forum, why the fruiting body was not shown for this particular mushroom in the mushroom guides. I was told that it was very hard to find. I decide to find one and photograph it. The hardest part was to find someone who could confirm my find. I outline my quest on my web site here:

http://www.mushroomhunter.net/fbquest.htm

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Vlad, where may one find the your photo of the Chaga fungal organism from amongst the links provided? I have found interesting that what gets called Chaga seems to represent the aftermath of some tree infection by a fungus.

One of ourt members here at this site has given me some Chaga to sample. So this is like a reminder for me to try out the Chaga tea. I'm more in the habit of preparing Reishi out of Ganoderma tsugae. Note, the classic Reishi mushroom is probably G. lucidum --a close realtive of tsugae-- but as for taste/color/effects, as far as I can tell these two Ganodermas are the same.

One thing I've noticed about the Reishi. If it's prepared too strong (concentrated) it's bitter and a bit hard on the stomach. But when only an ounce or so is used to make a half gallon or so, then it's easy on the taste buds and the stomach.

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Guest Vlad

Dave,

On the link I gave, at the bottom, are links to the days I went looking for it. I found the true fruiting body on the 5th day. If you follow that link to the following pages you will see the pictures of the fruiting body and the spores. If you go back to the link I gave and click on “History of Confirmation” you will see the correspondence I had with Leon Shernoff and Daniel L. Lindner who works at US Forest Service, Northern Research Station, and teaches at University of Wisconsin at Madison. Leon did not think it was the fruiting body of Inonotus obliquus but Dan thought it was.

Yes that is the way I understand it also as far as G. tsugae and G. lucidum are concerned, that the medical benefits are about the same. Some sources call both Reishi others consider only G. lucidum as being Reishi I have never found a source of G. lucidum but G. tsugae is plentiful around here. I have a bunch of it dried and stored but prefer to drink Chaga. Chaga can be made very strong, that is how I prefer to drink it. I find G. tsugae tea too bitter since I like to drink it dark.

I introduced Chaga to John Plischke III and he found it once on a foray in Eastern Pennsylvania. If there are birch in your area, there should be Chaga on some of them. I usually find it on birch growing by streams.

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That is a nice looking small Chaga. It looks like it is on a Yellow Birch. In what state was that?

Pennsylvania

Vlad, Do you trim off all the black stuff on the outside before making your tea? How do you make your tea? I have some chaga I need to use.

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Vlad, your site was one of the first I read when I started drinking Chaga a few years ago. I drink it everyday. I don't get sick either. Recently my other half was very sick for a few weeks and I never caught what he had. He now has started drinking it. I tried Reishi this year and it made me a little sick to the stomach. I did not like the taste either. I too prefer mine dark. When I was first told about how to cook Chaga, I ground it up and put it through my coffee maker. What a mistake. It was a mess to deal with. Now what I do is get the loose black stuff off, I don't worry about that as much as I used too either, break it up into small chucks, throw a couple of handfuls into a big pot of water, bring to a boil and turn it off and let it sit for 24 hours. I then strain it into a container and stick it in the fridge. Easy and always available. Here are a few more pictures. Why is it the really big ones are way at the top of the tree! Drives me crazy!

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Guest Vlad

Mary,

I do not bother removing all the black from the Chaga. I cut up the Chaga into about ½ inch cubes or there about, in the process throwing out pieces which are mostly black. Dry it in a food dryer and store it sealed containers. The Chaga is easiest to cut when it is fresh and relatively soft. It is more work if you procrastinate like I do. I use a wood chisel and a small hammer to chop the big chunks up. When the Chaga chunks are air dried they tend to fly all over the place when I use the chisel and hammer on them so I like to do it outdoors. I wish I could afford that $400 blender that chops up just about anything. Oh, well I can use the exercise.

As far as how much to use per quart of water it is really up to your own taste. Experiment and see how you like it. There is no bitter taste even when you brew it so that it comes out black. The best I can do to describe the taste is that it “earthy” or tasteless. In the summer I add ginger ale for some taste. It can be mixed with any drink you like, including alcohol. I do not use alcohol so I can not recommend any drinks. It has no side effects of any kind. I have consumed up to 3 liters of it per day, in the summer, without any ill effect. I usually brew about 5 liters at a time, put it in plastic soda bottles and stick it in the refrigerator.

If you like to follow recipes here is my page where I have gathered some:

http://www.mushroomhunter.net/chaga_recipes.htm

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Guest Vlad

Zora,

You have a picture of every shape I have run into. Nice Chaga, nice pictures. I see that you find most of yours on yellow birch and black birch too. I knew one fellow in Maine who found all his on White Birch.

Yes, when I made Chaga the first time I too used a coffee grinder to make a powder but then I had to use a coffee filter to remove the grounds. Also the coffee grinder shapes the Chaga into balls and then they just roll around in there. When I switched to chunks I just let it stand to cool and then drain it off into bottles. Much less messy.

I hear from people every so often thanking me for introducing them to Chaga through my web site. Last winter I heard from an old timer in Alaska. He has a wife with dementia. He says that he wished he learned about Chaga before his wife got ill, it might have helped her. He too said that he gets colds less often then he used to. Another story is of a young man of about 45 who had enlarged knuckles on his hands, due to arthritis and he has not been able to take off his wedding ring in years. After drinking Chaga for about a week the inflammation went down and he could take the ring off when he needed to. He also noticed less colds.

Yes I too tried to figure how to get at those 20’ or more up the tree. All the ideas I got or were recommended required too much work or were dangerous. When I see one now I just say; that one got away. Thank goodness most of them grow within easy reach.

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... Yes I too tried to figure how to get at those 20’ or more up the tree. All the ideas I got or were recommended required too much work or were dangerous. When I see one now I just say; that one got away. Thank goodness most of them grow within easy reach.

If you got serious about harvesting, this might do it:

http://www.pole-saws-r-us.com/

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Guest Vlad

I made a tool out of an 11 foot telescoping painting pole which usually has a roller handle attached at the end. I cut off the part that holds the roller cartridge and attached a 1 foot cold chisel, with copper wire and epoxy cement, which I sharpened with a grinding wheel. The base of the roller handle snaps into the end of the pole. The painting pole collapses to about 5’. I use the pole as a walking stick till I get to the tree with the Chaga that is out of reach. I then snap on the cold chisel and extend the pole to its full length. I am 5’ 9” so I am able to reach Chaga up to about 17’ off the ground. I position the chisel at the base of the Chaga and tap the painting pole with a handy stone lying around. It does not take many taps before the Chaga comes tumbling down. The chisel is positioned in such a way that it directs the Chaga to fall away from the tree while I get out of the way. With this tool I got all the Chaga I found except one. I go with a backpack in which is the chisel assembly. The Chaga goes in the backpack with Chisel assembly on the way out of the woods.

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Vlad, just now got around to viewing your Chaga photos (fruit body and spores of I. obliquus). What you have also fits a description found in Phillips book, "Tubes... deep, brittle, usually split in front. Pores... whitish becoming dark brown." Phillips gives the size of the pores as 6-8 per mm. That's minute! Can't tell from you nice closeup shots just how many of the pores occur in one mm. I think the dark circles that appear in the scope shots are bubbles in the mounting liquid.

Zora, going downstairs in a minute to put on my first pot of Chaga.... Later!

....

Okay, the Chaga has been boiled. Didn't take it to a real hard-rolling boil. Just past simmer, with a modest amount of upward movement in the water. Let it cook like this for about 5 minutes. Man that stuff gets dark! I added a couple cups of boiling water out of the teapot after I took it off the boil. I used two handfuls (dry) for about 1/2 gallon of liquid product.

And one last thing (for now)... I read a little while back about a group of folks in Minnesota (I think?) who go out every winter on a cross-country ski foray for Chaga. I love to xx-ski! Some of my favorite skiing areas have birch trees. Mushroom hunting in the snow on a 20 degree day. I'll probably need to wait for the deep late-season snow to be able to get off-trail and into the woods.

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Guest Vlad

Dave,

Dr. Daniel L. Lindner examined a sample I sent him and his initial conclusion was that it was the fruiting body of Inonotus Obliquus. I do not have a low power telescope that would enable me to measure the number of pores per mm. My pictures were taken with the camera set at super macro so the pores are highly enlarged. They are hard to see with a naked eye. He asked for permission to store the sample in their herbarium and I agreed. They did not have a sample of that fruiting body in their collection. He was going to run more tests on the sample but could not find lab time to do it. I did not want to be a nag so I dropped it. He travels all over the world collecting and identifying new species of fungus so I am sure that my specimen was not of primary interest to him.

I bought the new Canon camera in part to be able get better pictures of the fruiting body next time I find it. This past year was too dry so I did not even go out looking for it.

If you go out looking for Chaga this winter keep an eye out for the fruiting body also. Look for dead birch which have vertical split bark (2 feet or more) that is separated from the tree, like a partly open door. Remove the bark and look under there for the fruiting body. The yellow birch that I found mine on also had a Chaga but not all trees infected by Inonotus obliquus produce a Chaga. The fruiting body is not as temporary as the mushroom guides say. There are still signs of the fruiting body a year later.

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So Dave, how did it turn out? I usually use a gallon of water for 2 hand fulls. I also use mine over a least one more time leaving it boil a minute longer or letting it sit longer. I store it in the fridge in water until I use it the second time.

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It came out really well. Took some to a mushroom club meeting for members to taste, and it was a hit! The taste is pretty good. I'll remember the "use again" suggestion for next time.

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Guest Vlad

I keep reusing the Chaga pieces until they yield a tea that is too weak for my taste. This means that I use the same Chaga 3 to 5 times. I have kept the pieces in a container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. It never went moldy. It must have a strong anti fungal chemical.

I read one story about a man who was using Chaga to kill the fungus that infects and kills the American Chestnut sprouts. He ground up some Chaga and mixed with something to make a paste. He than applied this paste on lesions on the chestnut sprouts and wound a bandage on to hold it in place. After a time the lesions healed and the sprout was disease free.

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I have yet to try the chaga that Zora gave me. It got lost in the move and we found it a couple weeks ago. I will give it a try.

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I brewed up the last of mine this summer while fishing over an open fire. I placed a small handfull into a mini-percolator coffee pot and did an extended hard boil on it. Basically, I forgot to tend while after a big fish. It turned out extremely dark and rich. I added a small amount of sugar and it was excellent.

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Harvested some Chaga today. This is the first time I've picked it. I used an axe to chop off small chunks. One large chunk included layers... dark brown underneath the black crusty stuff, and yellow stuff --I think the birch wood-- underneath the brown. Where does the Chaga end and the wood begin? Also, there were some whitish tips on some of the black crusty stff. Is this a type of mold that should be discarded?

The Chaga I brought home was damp and somewhat crumbly. Is there a preferred way to dry it?

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Guest Vlad

Dave,

I have never seen mold on Chaga. Chaga does not allow it, as far as I know. The yellow strands indicate fresh Chaga or that which was extruded last. This is the best for medicinal use. Since mold does not attack it, it can be dried any way you want. It should not be crumply except for the outer black part. If it is crumply it might be that you picked it off a dead birch, and the Chaga is dead also. You want to pick it off live birch for medical properties to be most potent.

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First photo shows whitish stuff on one piece seen to the right. Second and third photos are the same large piece. Axe cut shows brown beneath the black exterior, and last one shows mottled yellow on reverse side... from interior of the tree.

post-20-0-01125400-1294105095_thumb.jpg

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Guest Vlad

Dave,

In the first, and second, photo it looks like there is more black part than the inner brown part, which usually indicates that the birch was dead and so is the Chaga. That white thing might be part of the birch bark that stuck to the Chaga as it grew out from under the bark. Did you get get the Chaga off a White Birch?

The third piece shows good medicinal Chaga.

This page shows Chaga removed from a living Black Birch.

http://www.mushroomhunter.net/chaga5.htm

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Hello everybody...

I agree with Vlad... never pick a Chaga from a dead tree... even if it still standing... I have often see mold on dead Chaga... and even a small bit of that dead Chaga give a very moldy taste to the tea...

For the praparation of the tea... As sone as I find a piece I freeze it... when I got enought I soak it in water for 12h... then in a meat grinder to obtain a fine powder( to maximize extraction) (black part and brown part... both part contains differents substances...)... I boil it for 3h (again to seem to maximize extraction... and the main componant of the tea are not heat-sensitive)... 2 cup of chaga for 10 cup of water... cover it or you wont obtain a lot of water... filter it... drink 2-3 cup a day... very very dark tea... very strong taste

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Guest Vlad

Welcome Guill!

It is good to hear another point of view about Chaga and the way to prepare the tea. Hope to see Eastern Canada mushroom pictures this coming season.

I went out yesterday to a Black Birch from which I harvested Chaga about 5 years ago. The tree is still alive; I can see the buds at the end of the branches. I was able to get 3# of Chaga.

When I photographed the pieces they appeared dark similar to what Dave had. To get sharper pictures I put the piece out in the sun and then the Chaga pictures came out brighter and sharper.

http://www.mushroomhunter.net/010411.htm

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Hi Vlad...

me and my familly are chaga tea drinker for 3 years... we harvest it mainly from white birch... the yellow birch are only present in the south of my region... I came to heard about chaga when I was doing research on the native use of mushrooms in the Cree communities medical practice... my recipe for the tea is a mix of traditional recipes, modern data from the litterature and my knowledge and discussion a had on organic substance extraction...

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