Research & Resources
What is Chaga? Where is it found?
History & Origins
Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus): is a medicinal fungus that grows on birch trees in cooler climates. Our Chaga is hand forged in the Algoma Highlands of Northern Ontario (Treaty #61).
Chaga is a super herb. It is very high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. We call Chaga the “monarch of all herbs” as it provides a collective variety of health benefits for human beings.
Chaga Mushrooms have the appearance of looking burnt on the outside with a soft orange centre. We harvest the Chaga in large chunks & grind it up so that it can be consumed as a herbal tea or in supplement form.
Chaga has been harvested by Indigenous peoples for centuries. It has been used as a traditional medicine by a wide vast range of different cultures native to the territories. This varies all across the globe from Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Northern Korea, Northern Canada and Alaska. We respect and honour the origins of Chaga along with sustainable harvesting practises on appropriate choice of land.
Chaga was used as a coffee alternative in WW2 while coffee beans were being rationed.
Here in North America, most folks consume Chaga in supplement or tea form to help boost natural immunity, reduce chronic inflammation, balance blood sugar levels, cholesterol and below are more examples of the Chaga mushroom health benefits:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Anti-aging properties
- Anti Inflammatory
- Balances blood sugar levels
- Boots immunity
- Chronic fatigue
- Conquer stomach pain
- Heals ulcers
How can Chaga help? Who can it help?Chaga can help all walks of life, from protecting birch trees as they mature in the forests to within our own human bodies.
Let’s Dive into some of the Health Benefits & Chaga’s Functions:
Packed with nutrients, one of Chaga’s most famous attributes is known as being “Brain Food”... We chose the Raven to represent our Chaga as the Raven is known for being intellectually advanced. Raven’s are also found on tree tops, just like our Chaga.
There are a few similarities linked to how Chaga mushroom looks like brain material. Chaga mushroom is a growth on the side of Birch Tree’s.
Brain foods are considered to be substances that are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats. They help the brain by boosting energy levels without the use of stimulants, such as coffee for example. The very best of brain foods will help create natural hormones that can increase brain functioning abilities. An example of this is our levels of focus or increasing longevity of the mind's function.
Chaga is a great source of Phytonutrients.
For the people & the planet
Phytonutrients not only help humans, but also help strengthen the immune system of plants. Phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants. Aiding plants by protecting them from threats in their natural environments, an example of this could be excessive sun damage and diseases that spread among plants through bacterial infection.
Increasing the health of one's immunity will prevent sickness which will detoxify disease and carcinogens for both the plants and the people. This is important for our brain’s health and entire holistic well being.
Our human brains are prone to oxidative stress which is associated with decline in cognition and increased risk of suffering Alzheimer’s disease (very common in today’s day in age). Chaga helps by protecting the brain from neurodegeneration by balancing the antioxidant system, increasing the production of cell communication, response and regeneration. Phytonutriens have potent anti-cancer, and anti-heart disease effects for humans.
Chaga contains plentiful amounts of beta-glucans. Beta glucans are soluble fibres that come from the cell wall of bacteria, fungi, yeast and other plants. This compound can help lower heart disease by absorbing cholesterol. Research is still being explored to find other supporting health benefits resulting from beta-glucans.
Chaga also contains betulinic acid, an alcohol soluble triterpenoid. Triterpenes are a class of chemical compounds composed of three terpene units with the molecular formula C₃₀H₄₈. Animals, plants and fungi all produce triterpenes, including squalene, which occurs in human sebum. Sebum is an oily, waxy substance produced by your body's sebaceous glands. It coats, moisturizes, and protects your skin. Squalene is a metabolic precursor of sterols. Sterols are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in plant cell membranes. They are naturally occurring unsaturated steroid alcohols, typically with the appearance of waxy solids.
Chaga is high in pheolic compounds, attributing to Chags incredible antioxidant.
Phenolic compounds are molecules with great potential from both the nutritional and therapeutic standpoints attributing to Chaga’s antioxidant credibility. Studies have shown that the phenolic compounds can increase bioactivity and their role in human health.
These examples are part of the compounds of chaga’s makeup that supports our immune health by exemplifying anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and potential anti-cancer properties.
Water & Alcohol Soluble
Some of these compounds are water-soluble; an example of this would be a hot Chaga tea. Some are soluble in alcohol; an example of this is a Chaga extract/ tincture. These are some methods and important for Chaga to be dual extracted in order to make all the beneficial compounds bio-available and obtain the most benefit.
In a dual extract, the material is first extracted with either hot water (tea) or alcohol (tinctures) and then the remaining plant material is extracted again with the other method. Next, the liquid from the first extraction is combined with the liquid from the second extraction, forming what is now called a dual extract.
*This supports why boiling water and making your own chaga tea is one of the best ways to ingest Chaga to activate its greatest health benefits. (view “Consumption Methods”)
Research has shown that Chaga mushroom is a potent immune system modulator, due to the potentiation of the host immune system through regulation of cytokines.
Cytokines are small proteins that are an important part of cell signalling. Cytokines are peptides and cannot cross the lipid bilayer of cells to enter the cytoplasm. Cytokines have been shown to be involved in autocrine, paracrine and endocrine signalling as immunomodulating agents which are secreted by certain cells of the immune system and have an effect on your other cells.
By way of explanation; if your immune system is over-responding, Chaga is able to neutralize and attune the response, resulting in balancing and calming the immune system. Chaga is intelligent and is also able to have the opposite effect when required. If your immune system is struggling to perform, Chaga can help to activate and strengthen the immune system to help fight bacteria, viruses and free radicals.
Chaga acts as a great cell communication tool.
A strong immune system that is well-operating, functioning, and effective is the essential foundation of our health.
Chaga contains high concentrations of Melanin.
For our largest organ & endocrine system:
Chaga contains high concentrations of Melanin.
Melanin is a dark brown to black pigment occurring in the hair, skin, and iris of the eye in people, animals and in this case, plants/fungi. It is responsible for the reaction of skin changing colour exposed to sunlight, and acts as a protective layer that also helps preserve the mushroom while developing and laying dormant.
The dark pigmented outer layer of the Chaga’s sclerotium (the hard dark resting body of certain fungi, consisting of a mass of hyphal threads) contains an incredibly high concentration of melanin.
Because of this, extracts which include this part of the mushroom are powerful antioxidants, helping to protect the cells of the body from harmful free-radicals
These extracts may also help protect the body from oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. These reactions are called oxidation. They can be both beneficial or harmful depending) In this case, the oxidation of Chaga’s outer layer containing melanin is extremely beneficial. This is how Chaga has been used for anti-aging and acts as enhancing a protective layer for both the mushroom and our endocrine system.
How is it harvested? How long does it take Chaga to form?
- Our Chaga is sourced from wild birch trees located within the lush Canadian Boreal forests. Specifically hand harvested Chaga Mushroom sourced from the Algoma Highlands of Northern Ontario.
Birch trees take 15-20 years to reach maturity. During that time, something incredible happens. The chaga mushroom begins to take form. It is slow growing, taking 3-5 years to fully form.
Foraged with Love
We strive to have the lowest impact possible while foraging wild Chaga within our local forests. Sustainable harvesting & being environmentally responsible is incredibly important to us here at Black Bird Mushrooms. This is the heart of our core values. We never want to exploit or harm the environments crucial for supporting the growth of Chaga mushrooms.
We hand harvest our Chaga that is located on the Bouchers family property, and surrounding area; lush where wild birch trees are plentiful. We are a small batch and proud of our ethical practices.
Our foraging practises involve the use of ladders, gloves, knives, clean sacks, hiking gear & binoculars.
We monitor the Chaga’s various growth stages, ensuring not to take from the tree in Chaga’s early development stages.
We only take what looks to be naturally separating from the tree & always leave left over Chaga to ensure there are more than enough Chaga to continue to regenerate.
With each harvesting, we give thanks to the land and the Birch Trees for nurturing and providing our favourite fungi.
Our relationship with the trees
Trees and people have an interdependent relationship. One example is we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Trees, on the other hand, take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere. The role trees play in the ecosystem is vital for human and other life on earth.
Trees connect us to where we live. Our eyes are often drawn to them when we go outdoors and they can serve as landmarks and help us find our way. Many people consciously or subconsciously remember a place they visited by what trees were present and can have a feeling or memory come to mind when they see a tree. For example, home for the Bouchers is surrounded by Birch Trees and a great sense of place and belonging.
“My favourite thing about foraging Chaga is soaking in nature. I start by walking into the woods. It's peaceful with the sounds of the leaves in the wind. If you listen, sometimes the trees will communicate with you. Being present, scanning the forest, being close to the birch trees.. finding angles and ways to identify the Chaga - or is it a possible branch? It’s like a treasure hunt. Noticing subtle changes, learning the anatomy of a tree. Taking mental notes of knowing where particular trees are, investigating & monitoring them.. I became curious. Climbing the tree & hand harvesting.. Being fortunate to have a relationship with the forests and the trees. Honouring the fungi for it’s similarities, nutrients and healing properties for human beings in versatile ways” - Joel Boucher, Founder of Black Bird Mushrooms.
Awaken your Third Eye
Our third eye chakra, or Ajna chakra in Sanskrit, is known as “the point of intuition”. Located in the centre of the forehead, it acts as the individual’s centre of wisdom, conscience, and higher consciousness.
Packed with Melanin, studies have shown that Chaga can help decalcify your pineal gland (third eye), restorying clarity to your mind, awakening your intuition and deepening your connection to source.
Connecting with Chaga
We can incorporate Chaga into our spiritual practice by just simply being present.
Find a quiet space either inside or outdoors, we can meditate with our Chaga tea. By sitting upright, focus on your breathing. Take several deep breaths in between sips of your tea. Let your mind naturally calm, and note the earthy comforting taste of your tea. Give gratitude for the chaga tea and water nourishing your mind, body & spirit.
Holding your hands on a warm mug will also release dopamine, this is the brain chemical that corresponds with happiness.
- Boil 500ml water, add 1 cinnamon stick, 2-3 lemon slices with 1 teaspoons of ground Chaga, let steep & strain before drinking
Earthy & Grounding
Chaga on it’s own has an earthy flavour with a grounding effect. Chaga naturally contains an occurring form of vanillin. Vanillin is an organic compound along with being a phenolic aldehyde which is an aromatic compound found as the most common antioxidants in wines. Vanillin It is the primary component of the extract of the vanilla bean. Chaga is a great base note to balance other herbal blends.
Supplementing into Food & Drink:
- Add ground Chaga to coffee grinds in drip coffee or french press
- Add Chaga to you favorite tea bomb and let steap
- Add Chaga into your smoothies
- Sprinkle Chaga onto your hot/cold food dishes
*1 teaspoon to every 2 cups (500mls)*
Flavour suggestions: Mix in Chaga while cooking with other types of mushrooms for supper or perhaps mix into your oatmeal for breakfast. The earthy flavour is complementary with ginger, turmeric, lemon, cinnamon & cardamom.
Capsules & Tinctures:
Q: How long is it good for?
A: Our Chaga is good for 5 years after it's purchase. Ensure to store correctly in a cool dark space in original packaging. Perfect to store in most pantry's.
Q: Is Chaga pregnancy safe?
A: Chaga is generally safe though we recommend to consult a health care practitioner or physician prior to use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Q: Child safe?
A: Please consult your child's physician before introducing to children. Generally not administered to children under 10 years of age.
Q: Can I consume Chaga if I am allergic to Birch trees?
A: Do not consume & always consult with your health care practitioner or physician if you are allergic to birch trees.
Q: Is Chaga compatible with other herbal products or medication?
A: Chaga is generally safe to pair with other herbal remedies though we always recommend to consult with your health care practitioner/physician before consuming, pairing with herbal supplements or if you are using blood thinners.
Research gathered by Brittany MacLachlan