Written by: Rick Benson
There are many Chaga related questions online, and interestingly, many of them are left unanswered! We searched the web for questions in order to provide you with answers. If you have more questions, feel free to ask them below. We will try to answer them.
What Is Chaga (Mushroom)?
Chaga mushroom is a fungus that grows on birch trees. It is proven to be a very healthy superfood, full of antioxidants. It is also known as Chaga mushroom, Chaga mushroom fungus, Siberian Chaga, wild Chaga, Russian Chaga, Canada Chaga, Cinder conk, Birch conk, Clinker polypore and more.
What Is Chaga (Mushroom) Good For?
Chaga is good for preventing cancer and other diseases, caused by free radicals. There are other studies that cover the effects on different diseases. Chaga is also good for maintaining good health. To read more about the benefits of Chaga, click here.
What Does Chaga Do?
Chaga loaded with healthy anti-oxidants that neutralize harmful free radicals. Free radicals are produced in our body during normal metabolism, but they are highly reactive chemicals that cause damage to DNA, and accelerate aging. Free radicals can be neutralized with antioxidants. That’s why it’s important to eat fruits and other foods full of anti-oxidants. Antioxidant levels are measured on the Oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) scale. Chaga measures very high on this scale.
Is Chaga Safe?
Chaga is safe and has no narcotic effect. However, to be on the safe side, especially if you are frail, or have an autoimmune disease, you should check into side-effects to make sure it’s right for you. It may interact with certain drugs, especially blood thinners and insulin.
What is Chaga used for
Chaga has been used for centuries for preventing and treating diseases. The most popular is the ability to prevent cancer. Chaga kills cancer cells in studies with mice, and in tissue cultures. Today, Chaga is used in tea, coffee, and in other different recipes. Chaga is used to improve your body’s health and vitality.
What does Chaga look like / how to identify Chaga
Chaga vs Birch Gnarl
Chaga is black on the outside with a very hard and crispy shell, and golden-yellow-brown on the. It is hard both inside and out. The cell walls are made of very hard chitin.
The shapes can vary widely from cone to horn or heart. It is often confused with birch gnarl, which isn’t actually a virus. Chaga is fairly easy to remove.
You can do it by hand, with a knife, ax or club. The cut edge should be golden-yellow-brown. Birch gnarl, on the other hand, requires a saw to remove woody part of the tree.
However, they are clearly distinguishable. Chaga mushroom is the only thing growing on birch trees and always has it’s hard, crusty, black exterior, and a golden-yellow-brown inner structure.
Chaga’s flavor and smell might be slightly earthly but some people detect no flavor or smell.
If you’ve seen Chaga mushroom pictures, you quickly realize that there aren’t similar species to it. The most similar looking thing that might be confused with Chaga is birch gnarl. But birch gnarl is pretty different and from the inside; it doesn’t have Chaga’s colors, and it is a wooden section of the tree.
See more on Chaga harvesting.
How To Find Chaga
You can find Chaga during any hike in a northern deciduous forest. Look for birch trees. If you want to find Chaga, keep in mind that it’s neither rare nor common. It will take some time as you walk through different forests.
What Trees Does Chaga Grow On
Chaga grows typically on birch trees (all species), but it is also found on elm, beech and hornbeam. It typically grows between 2 and 10 feet from the ground. Chaga is parasitic on birch and eventually kills the host tree.
What Color Is Chaga?
There aren’t color differences in Chaga. It is always black on the outside with a crispy and extra hard structure. From the inside, it is golden–brown–yellow–orange. If you remove the Chaga fungus from tree, you’ll see the same color at the cut edge. The colors remain the same when dried.
How Big Can Chaga Get?
Chaga can be from 1″ as it starts to grow to huge – over 1ft in diameter. The growth rate depends on conditions, but generally, it takes about 5 years to get to 10″ in diameter, so growth is rather slow. If you find Chaga fungus smaller than an apple, let it grow – come back and pick it later when it’s ready.
What Does Chaga Taste Like?
The Chaga taste depends on the person, how it has been prepared, how dry it is, and the recipe you use. The taste varies from neutral to an earthy taste. If used in coffee, the coffee will overpower Chaga’s neutral taste. When using on tea, it gives a woody or earthy – mushroom taste. The tincture extract, on the other hand, gives a much stronger alcohol taste.
This flavor is one of the reasons that it’s a much-loved superfood – it doesn’t dominate other flavors. Most people find the taste mild, interesting and pleasant.
What Does Chaga Consist Of?
Chaga consist of
- Water 13.2%
- Proteins 2.40%
- Lipids 2.40%
- Ash 1%
- Carbohydrates 71.9 % (lignin 32.6%; beta-glucans 12.0%)
- K 2.98%
- Na 0.02%
- Ca 0.06%
- Mn* (Percentage wasn’t specified, but estimated to be around 110ppm)
The total energy is 159.4 kcal/100 g
Keep in mind, the carbohydrates make the Chaga the real superfood. In combination, you’ll get a very powerful anti-oxidant – the Chaga.
Chaga Harvesting Questions
Where Can I Get Chaga? / Where To Find Chaga (Mushroom)
There are two main ways – harvesting it yourself or buying online. Chaga is a fungus that typically grows on birches. However, some online sites sell Chaga, that isn’t naturally grown. That’s a reason to harvest it yourself so that you be absolutely sure of its quality.
When To Harvest Chaga
There is some information on the internet that specifies a very strict time of year for the harvest. That just isn’t correct, because you can do it all year round. The Chaga mushroom removal doesn’t affect the tree regardless of the time of the year.
Related: More about harvesting and gardening on Gardening Channel
How To Harvest Chaga
Anyone can harvest Chaga. It grows on birches all over the world. The shape of Chaga can be any shape that you can imagine, from cone to horns or forming the shape of a heart, a ball etc…
You can use an ax, knife, or your hands or whatever is convenient to force the mushroom from the tree.
Chaga Preparing & Storing Questions
How To Use Chaga
Chaga can be used in many different ways. The most popular way is to use it in tea. To wrap it up – you need to dry it so that you can grind it into a powder. Powdered Chaga is the most versatile form, and can be used any way you prefer – from tinctures to ice-teas. See the Chaga recipes here.
How To Prepare / Process Chaga For Consumption
There are many ways to prepare Chaga for consumption. Keep in mind that heat is needed to crack the strong chitin cell walls, to release the healthy ingredients. The most popular way to process Chaga for consumption is with a double extraction. This means that simmer it in hot water several times.
You can use Chaga in either chunks or powder. More on recipes here.
How To Dry Chaga
Before you can use Chaga, you need to dry it. The best way is to cut it into pieces 1″ – 2″ in diameter. Lay the Chaga chunks on newspaper, somewhere where they can dry. The drying process should take from 1-2 months.
There is also a faster method when you put them overnight in an oven at 60o C. Then the water comes out and your Chaga is ready to use for the next process.
How To Store Chaga (Chunks)
Chaga isn’t fussy – once it’s ready, you can use it however you want. However, if you don’t want to store it in a damp place, because you don’t want humidity to get back into the Chaga. So you might want to store your Chaga in glass or in a cardboard box in a dry place, away from sunlight.
If you want Chaga to be ready for quick consumption, you need to prepare either a tincture extract or powder. These formulations are always ready to use.
Chaga isn’t fussy – once it’s ready, you can use it however you want.
Chaga Recipe Questions
What Are The Best Chaga Recipes
The Chaga recipes are up to you – go ahead and practice. There are some on the internet, and we have covered our favorites here. However, you can add it to almost anything – it doesn’t dominate other flavors, but makes any food or drink more healthy.
How To Make Chaga Skin Cream
To be honest – We don’t know. We haven’t done it and don’t want to just copy recipes online, because our work comes from our experience. The recipes we have seen simply put some Chaga into skin cream. If you know, how to make it, let us know!
How To Make Chaga Extract
Chaga extract is the most popular thing one can do with Chaga. The difference between a tincture and an extract is that tincture is typically made from double extraction and therefore it has a higher concentration of ingredients. Making a tincture requires some patience.
Other Chaga Related Questions
How Can I Grow Chaga Mushroom?
The short answer is – you cant! Unless you have a laboratory with lots of money to invest, and enough time to grow trees. Chaga grows wild on trees, especially on birch. There are factories where Chaga is grown, but the ingredients from this lab-grown Chagas are not the same as wildly grown Chaga.
So, the best thing you can do is spot small Chagas, make note of them and watch them grow. This way you can grow Chaga mushrooms – and when ready, you can pick them yourself.
How Long Does It Take To Feel The Effects Of Chaga?
Unlike the instant effects of caffeine in coffee, you don’t feel any immediate effects from Chaga, other than the warm pleasant feeling you get from a cup of tea. The benefits accumulate slowly, with long-term use. There are no good studies that tell us how long it takes to see an effect. It’s hard to measure the exact time you didn’t get sick!
How Much Is Chaga Worth?
Chaga can sell for anywhere for $20 to $2,000 a pound. The price of Chaga fluctuates and depends on the processing and the quality. Raw Chaga is the cheapest, while tinctures, extracts and other formulations are more expensive because of the extra labor in processing, as well as the marketing of special formulations. You can read the Chaga buying guide with prices here.
Can You Eat Chaga?
Yes, you can. There are no bad side-effects from eating raw Chaga. Small pieces of fresh raw Chaga found in the forest are good to chew. The taste of raw Chaga isn’t extraordinary. It’s got an interesting earthy-gummy structure.
Should I Consume Chaga?
Of course! Start today if you can, and you’ll never go back to the days without it. Your body needs the benefits of Chaga to fight and prevent serious diseases including different cancers. There are several ways to consume it, but the easiest is to start drinking Chaga tea.
Do You Have a Question Not Listed Here?
Write us through the contact form and we’ll try to answer any questions. Also, if you found additional information on what we’ve discussed here, please write to us. We will check into it, and report back! And thanks!