Chaga Head

I tried chaga for the first time this weekend. I’m so sold. Much is being said about chaga’s health benefits; my opinion on that will come after I’ve tried it for a while. I love the earthy, mushroomy flavor and rich color. Since it’s brewed at a low simmer for at least an hour, its fragrance really blossoms and fills the house with its loamy goodness.

Never mind that chaga is actually a gross-looking fungus that grows on trees – specifically, birch trees – and looks more like a canker on a tree that anything good to make a tea with. Living in the Northeast is an advantage for chaga heads: it’s here, as well as Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, and Canada, that chaga grows in the wild.

I already asked my husband if he would join me in a chaga-searching expedition in Southern Maine. It’s reportedly not hard to find wild chaga, especially with all the leaves off the birch trees.

Chaga’s reported health benefits include:

  • Anti-neoplastic medicines (used as treatment for various cancers), found specifically in the outer bark of chaga
  • Anti-inflammatory and immunotherapy properties
  • Chaga contains Beta Glucans, a type of water-soluble polysaccharide. These help boost immunity through modulation of the immune system
  • And chaga reportedly contains more antioxidants than any other food, fungi or wild plant. (I want to quickly add that as far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on antioxidants and the benefits that many people attribute to them. I’m not sure about that just yet.)
I found that the inner portion of chaga brews a less bitter tea. The outer ‘bark’ has bitterness that some may need getting used to. I sweetened my chaga with maple syrup, and added some raw cream. It was delicious.

Making chaga is super easy, and makes the house smell amazing. Take a knob of chaga about the size of your thumb knuckle, and add it to one liter of fresh water (not municipal water, please!) in a pot. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and simmer, covered, for an hour. (If you forget about the chaga on the stove and it simmer for two hours, no worries.) Strain and drink.


Peace on Earth

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