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.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Plan of Action

Vida visited her holistic vet, Keith Weingardt, today. We discussed the subtle changes I'd been seeing since her last visit in November, what she's eating, supplements, etc.

He marveled (if I may say so) at her good condition, great pulses, beautiful tongue, and "puppy" eyes. I described how she'd looked at the first of the year - like the pre-C dog I remember - in even better condition.

What I see now is a lack of tone to the abdomen, a subtle stickiness to the coat, reverse sneezing, a little eye crust, the spine a little out (which I've been using the photonic torch on with great success) - all things that most people would overlook as "aging" or even normal. But you see, I've seen it go away, just a couple of months ago, so I know it's symptomatic of something that can be shifted.

Of course I hadn't written notes on my calendar about those good days (or a couple of vomit episodes in the last week one water, one breakfast), so I was a little vague on dates. But the changes flow, so it's not as though there are specific dates for the overall picture. I may have to run her down there and show her off when her "ultrafit" physique returns.

So we've developed a plan of herb action to take for the next months (who knows how many), in this order:
  1. One month on Max's Formula (chinese herbs for phlegm resolving)
  2. One month on Quantum Herbal's AT/BC formula
  3. A "pulse" pattern for Max's Formula: 2 weeks on, 1 week off, repeat (#3).
I'm figuring on doing Quantum Quarterly. The two formulas are not given at the same time.
Diet (raw!) and other supplements will continue, with the usual seasonal adjustments.

I feel like I'm entering uncharted territory because there aren't "directions" for this. But I don't feel trepidation about it. I feel confident that we'll prove that what we're doing will work, and that Vida will be a shining example of the kind of care that is possible.