Also known as|
Inonotus obliquus, Cinder conk, Chaga, Clinker polypore, Birch mushroom, Black Birch Touchwood, Crooked Schiller-porling
Chaga is a mushroom, a parasitic carpophore that looks like the charred remains of burned wood on the side of a birch tree (sometimes growing on Elm and Alder, but Birch is its favorite). The parasite enters the tree through a 'wound' in the bark of a mature tree. It then grows under the bark until it erupts in a deeply cracked, black charcoal like extension. It usually takes another 5-7 years for it to fully mature, at which point it falls to the forest floor, most times killing the host tree in the process. Chaga has been a part of folk medicine in Russia, Poland, China and numerous Baltic countries for many centuries. It was documented by Chinese herbalist Shen Nong in his herbal texts as early as the first century B.C.E. Traditional Chinese medicine reports that it is helpful in maintaining a healthy balance, preserving ones youth, and promoting longevity. Russian folk medicine used it for ailments of the stomach, liver, and heart, as well as a general tonic. It is still used in Russia as a tonic, blood purifier, and pain reliever. In Siberia it is still used as a tea to treat tuberculosis.
The entire mushroom is used in all preparations noted.
Chaga is typically and historically ingested as a tea, but it also has been made into a tincture, and less commonly into powder that is then used as a tea; Encapsulation seems to be rare. There have been reports of it being the base for liqueurs and as a substitute for hops in beer. In Russia, it can be found as a syrup, a tablet, an aerosol, and even as a suppository.
Chaga is predominantly found in Poland, Western Siberia, and throughout North America. Even in the most prime Northern regions, Chaga conks are somewhat rare. Recent studies in China and Korea have shown that that Chaga is extremely high in anti-oxidants, but the studies have yet been able to pinpoint why this is. It has been sold in Russia since the 1960's as Befunigin, as a cancer cure, and is commonly found in many Russian households where it used as a tonic.
None have been historically noted, but caution should be used when pregnant or breast feeding, and before giving to children. Discontinue use if allergic reactions occur.