Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chaga: medicinal mushrooms don't have to be exotic

When I originally wrote this post I never imagined that Chaga would become trendy. PLEASE - there are many good medicinal mushrooms out there that, unlike Chaga, are easily grown for use. Chaga's natural life has very limited parameters which put it at risk for overharvesting. Use Chaga mindfully and specifically, and please use commercially-grown medicinal mushrooms whenever possible.  --Margarat, Nov 17, 2013.

Medicinal mushrooms are a topic of interest to me as I continue herb studies and keeping Vida's cancer at bay.

We usually think of Asian mushrooms as the medicinal ones, but I think this is just because our culture has become "denatured" and we just don't know what's in our own backyard.

"Backyard" can vary, of course. Chaga mushrooms grow on Birch trees, which definitely aren't part of my Southern California backyard (natural habitat). Birch trees are part of my New Hampshire habitat.

The ground Chaga that I used today was purchased from
Woodland Essence, which harvests from their area in New York. (They have a nice little info page on Chaga, which is also the source of the above photo).

I decocted the Chaga for 20 minutes (that means starting with cold water, bringing to a boil, and them simmering covered), using 1 tablespoon Chaga for a cup of water. Decoction is recommended by Christopher Hobbs in his book on Medicinal Mushrooms, as the best way to get the full medicinal effects (based on chemical studies), even though the bag it came in only suggested infusing for 5-10 minutes.

The result looked like coffee (grounds and all) - here's a teaspoonful (strained) on a saucer:
It tastes bitter, like coffee, but it has no lingering aftertaste. While my mom thought it tasted "like biting into a tree," Vida didn't seem to care at all lapping it up.

I'm beginning to suspect that bitter/dirt tastes are inconsequential to dogs. Either that or the trust you wh
en they see you take a sip first.

There isn't really information about how much of this one should consume every day, except to say that overdoing it doesn't seem to come up at all. Dogs certainly don't have the luxury of a dosage guide, so it seems to me that a sensible dose would be a tablespoon for a medium dog.

Most of the studies on Chaga come from Russia and other nearby areas - obviously because of the birch forests of the region where one would find Chaga.

It's got anti-tumor properties, and has shown to be especially helpful for cancers of the digestive system, as well as digestive issues related to cancer treatments. It's of course an immune booster, and helps balance the endocrine system and blood sugar, and has some anti-inflammatory properties as well.

The taste and feel of it to me seems very slightly astringent, not drying the mouth, but cleansing it. I choose to interpret this as Phlegm Resolving, Bitter, and Neutral.

While the polysaccharides are the primary immune boosters, it's thought that the strongest anti-tumor properties are due to the fact that Chaga feeds off Birch trees, absorbing specific chemicals that may be the core chemicals for attacking tumors.

Wouldn't it be something if Vida's little lipoma got littler? That would be a nice visible success to be able to point to.

All-in-all this sounds like a great drink not only for Vida, but for me! Finally, I'm gonna do something for myself too
(besides just the liver tonic tea we've been taking together).

I'd love to hear from anyone about their experiences or knowledge about Chaga, or their questions about my opinions here.

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