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Chaga Mushroom Identification and the Benefits of Chaga Mushroom Powder

Chaga Mushroom Identification

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Chaga is one of the most famous fungi that are considered to have beneficial medicinal effects. If you come across a birch tree, you stand a good chance of finding Chaga, as it is commonly found on both white and yellow birch trees.

While Chaga is a fungus and is of the same family as mushrooms, it does not have a typical mushroom appearance.  Rather it is a parasitical growth, and it occurs mostly on the trunks of birch trees.

Despite the unappetizing description, research has indicated that this fungus may fight inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and support the immune system.

Read on to learn how to identify this miraculous fungus.

What Does Chaga Look Like?

Chaga is best described as unremarkable and unsightly. If you see it you might think it’s just rot, because they look like a burnt blister on a birch tree.

Chaga Growing on a Tree

Chaga clumps tend to have a coal-black exterior crust that is brittle.  But the interior is golden brown and is sometimes described as cork-like.

Inonotus Obliquus Golden Interior

Regardless of its appearance, Chaga has an incredible array of health benefits, which is why it has been crowned with the title – the king of medicinal mushrooms. You’ll learn more about Chaga mushroom identification below – how to identify it, what its benefits are, and how to make the famous Chaga tea.

How to Identify Chaga

First and foremost, you’re looking in the right place. Chaga most commonly grows on birch trees. You can find birch trees in the northern climatic zones, including the Northern United States, Canada, Russia, and Northern China.

Once you find a stand of birch trees, identifying Chaga is not that difficult. The main source of confusion is with tree burls, which are simply a woody outgrowth of the tree.

So, how do you distinguish between a Chaga and a tree burl? The answer is simple – check the color.  Chaga mushrooms have a darker shade – almost black like charcoal. And beneath this black outer layer, the Chaga will be light orange when fresh, with the consistency of cork.

The checklist below will show you whether the picked mushrooms are Chaga or not:

  • You picked your mushroom from a birch tree in the northern climatic zone
  • You found something that is charcoal-black in color on the tree.
  • The interior is orange-yellow in color. It should feel like a cork.

If it fulfills these conditions, you have likely found Chaga.

How to Clean and Store Chaga

Once you have harvested Chaga, the next step is to break them up and dry them. Follow these steps to ensure you’re doing it right.

  1. Start with wiping off your fresh Chaga. Make sure that there is no debris or bugs hiding in them.
  2. Breaking the Chaga into small chunks, a quarter-inch across.  This must be done quickly, as your Chaga will be as hard as a rock 24 hours after picking it.  Breaking them into chunks will speed up the drying process and even prevent mold from growing.  It will also be easier to make Chaga tea.
  3. After breaking the Chaga down, find a cool, dry location to store your Chaga chunks. Drying will take around a month.
  4. Once dried, you may consider grinding them.
  5. Store the Chaga powder or small chunks in airtight jars. It will last for several months to a year.

Take Chaga from your airtight jars as needed to make the famous Chaga tea. Consuming Chaga this way has some great health benefits. What are they? Let’s find out.

Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms

Research has sown that Chaga may provide many health benefits, as well as providing overall balance in the body. These benefits include:

Supporting the Immune System

The chemical messengers of the immune system, known as cytokines, are proteins that play a crucial role in stimulating white blood cells. Research has shown that Chaga may help in regulating cytokine production. This could further help in fighting infections ranging from a minor cold to severe life-threatening diseases.

Fighting Inflammation

By regulating cytokine production, Chaga may also help control inflammation. This, in turn, may help fight autoimmune diseases.

Preventing and Fighting Cancer

Chaga extracts have been conventionally used as a medicine to treat diseases like cancer. Lab studies reveal that Chaga extracts can prove effective against both human and animal cancer cells.

Lowering Cholesterol

Antioxidants present in Chaga have the potential to reduce LDL or bad cholesterol. This can benefit health by lowering the risk of heart disease.

Lowering Blood Sugar

Yes, Chaga also has the potential to fight against diabetes. A study conducted in 2006 shows that Chaga can lower blood sugar levels.

Research hasn’t yet moved to human trials yet. But Chaga extracts could well contribute as an alternative treatment for diabetes in the future once more thorough research is undertaken.

With so many lucrative benefits to offer, it’s no wonder that Chaga is considered to be the king of medicinal mushrooms.

Process of Making Homemade Chaga Tea

Now, let’s cover the last but the most interesting part of this informational guide on Chaga – how to make Chaga tea. Ready to explore some recipes? Read on.

Chaga Tea

Making Chaga tea is quite similar to making any other kind of tea. Note that if you don’t have your own harvested Chaga powder, you can buy powdered Chaga extract and use it in the place of Chaga powder.

Note that Chaga powder that you grind from Chaga chunks should not be consumed directly.  Always make tea with it using a tea infuser. 

Chaga extract, on the other hand, can be added to food.

I recommend the following extract:

Micro Ingredients Organic Chaga Mushroom Powder — Sustainably harvested in Maine, this is the real deal.  This extract powder is concentrated 100:1, so has even more benefits per teaspoon than ground Chaga powder.  And since it is an extract, you can even add it to your food.

Normal Chaga Tea:

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 cups of water
  • Chaga powder
  • A mesh tea ball
  • A kettle
  • A teapot
  • A cup

Method:

  1. Boil water
  2. Take your mesh tea ball and fill it with Chaga powder (note that if you are using extract powder, you can add it directly to a mug and pour hot water over it)
  3. Once the water is boiled, pour it into the teapot along with your tea ball
  4. Allow it to seep in for around 10 to 15 minutes
  5. Pour into your teacup
  6. Add honey or syrup as per your preference
  7. Enjoy your Chaga tea

Chaga Chai Latte Recipe

What You’ll Need:

  • 1-2 cups of milk
  • 1 tbsp of ground Chaga extract
  • Black pepper
  • 3 cups of water
  • Spice mixture (cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves)

Method:

  1. Boil water and milk together in a pan
  2. Add Chaga extract and spices
  3. Cover the pan and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes
  4. Create froth with the help of a hand blender
  5. Last, strain your tea, pour in the cup, and your Chaga chai latte is ready

Iced Coconut Chaga Tea

If you’re not a fan of Chaga flavor, try mixing it with few ingredients. For instance, add vanilla extract. Additionally, you can also try this iced coconut Chaga recipe that is sure going to be a sweet treat on a hot summer day.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 cups of water
  • Chaga mushroom powder
  • A mesh tea ball
  • A kettle
  • A teapot
  • A cup
  • Vanilla extract
  • Coconut milk

Method:

  1. Follow the recipe of a normal Chaga tea. You may even consider storing some extra tea. Do this by freezing them in the form of ice cubes
  2. Cool your tea by placing it in the fridge
  3. Now, add Chaga cubes to your tea
  4. Add vanilla extract
  5. Add coconut milk
  6. Stir the mixture and enjoy your iced coconut Chaga tea

Conclusion

There are many other recipes where you can use Chaga powder or extract. The internet is an ocean of delectable recipes that are worth giving a try. If you don’t like the Chaga flavor, adding some coffee will probably do the trick.

Above all, remember that Chaga is extremely beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing, and with an endless supply of different recipes, don’t you think it’s worth giving a try? Share your views in the comments.

jay

jay

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