Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chaga Redux - for pets and their people

I originally wrote about Chaga in March of 2009. I've continued to use it off and on, and have refined my preparation and learned more about its effect on Vida and me. From my experience this is the easiest way to get the most effective medicine. 

I get my Chaga from Woodland Essence. It come ground up and ready to use. They are wonderful folks and I have full confidence in their product and that they wildcraft ethically.

I don't usually measure, but I estimate that I use twice what Woodland Essences recommends on their packaging (1 T per cup). 

I measured today - since I was writing it up for you I thought I owed some effort toward organization.  I used 3 cups of water and a scant one-third cup of chaga. I think it was a little more than I usually use, judging by how it looked in the water - covering the surface a little more thickly than usual.

 It does sit up on the surface at first. I don't bother trying to stir it in because it just sticks to your spoon and the side of the pan, it will make you crazy if you overthink it.

Heat over high (or medium high if you're the inattentive type) just until it starts to boil. Then cover it will a well fitting lid and put it on the lowest heat. Check your stove, you might find as we did that it's designed to have a burner that allows for especially low heat. You want it hot but not bubbling because you're going to leave it there for a few hours.

Yes, I decoct it gently for 3-6 hours (depending on my schedule or attention to the clock), I aim for 4 hours. Keep it covered with a fitted lid. 

Then turn off the heat and let it cool off to make it easier to work with. You want to strain this tea. I usually use my fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheese cloth on top, but just using the mesh is fine if you don't mind a little sediment (your dog won't). Give yourself plenty of room to pour.

Your tea will look like coffee. 

If using cheesecloth you can squeeze out every last bit. It doesn't expand a lot like you'll see when using dried plant ingredients so you'll not lose a lot if you skip this step.

When it's cooled a bit I pour some in a pint mason jar to store in the refrigerator. I only refrigerate as much as I can use up in 3-4 days.

The rest of it gets frozen in ice cube trays. I've found this to be the easiest way to store and dispense teas because the ice cube size thaws much more quickly than, say, a small tupperware container would, and I don't know about you, but I don't think ahead when restocking from the freezer. The cubes will go easily into a wide mouth mason jar for thawing and use.

If I'm making a big batch or can't spare the trays for long I put them into a ziplock bag once they're frozen. Be sure to label it! Nothing like looking at frosty chunks later and trying to figure out what it is.

So how do I use this?

You can easily read-up on Chaga's immune enhancement properties. On a hunch I recently restarted this for both Vida and I because we were both suffering from what seems like seasonal allergies. She was waking up with reverse sneezing and I was waking up with post-nasal drip... basically we had the same symptoms. My hunch was based on the fact that the tea is somewhat astringent in nature, like coffee. That's why its important to use natural remedies you want to give your pet - it's truly the best way to learn how they act.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well and how quickly it's worked. Within a day or so we were both relieved, and I can tell when I've forgotten it - just one missing dose and the symptoms begin to come back, but will quickly disappear again at the next dose.


["Dose" sounds too much like medicine. How 'bout "Serving?"]

Vida weighs about 40 pounds and I give her about 2 tablespoons each meal (so that's a quarter cup a day). I don't measure, I just tip it in from the mason jar. Then I drink about the same amount before returning it to the fridge.

I'm giving this daily, and am not concerned about using it long term with this type of preparation and modest amount. I can easily test whether she needs it by stopping for a few days, and expect that her needs will change over time (as will mine).

I've never had her mind the taste at all, but I am mixing it into raw food, so keep that in mind dry food feeders.

An extra tip for people-drinkers of Chaga:
During the Winter I like to add fresh ginger and a toss of cinnamon to warm it up and make a tasty "chai." I add them at the beginning, the ginger will get much more sweet with long cooking. It was an important food to avoid the flu/cold/bronchitis that was wracking my friends.
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