Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
From the Our Common Roots Field Guide
Parts Used: The middle portion of the mushroom (inner conk) has the most polysaccharides.
Main Actions: Tonic, Alterative, Anodyne, and Restorative
There are many amazing medicinal mushrooms found in nature, but the chaga mushroom is very near the top of the list. It has been used in Herbal Folk Medicine for types of stomach complaints from gastritis, pain in the stomach, ulcers, cancer, as well as tuberculosis of the bones and glandular organs where operations were not possible due to the network of blood vessels. Most research into chaga has taken place in Russia. Since 1955 the Medical Academy of Science in Moscow has promoted chaga for clinical and domestic medicine, encouraged it commercially, and collected it for medical use. Chaga cannot stop all advanced forms of cancer, but chaga will reduce pain, give comfort, and slow or stop growths. In the swelling of the lower bowel, chaga can be prepared as a colonic in addition to oral medication. Chaga is also considered a blood purifier and tonic to regenerate deteriorated organs and glands.
Although the chaga mushroom may be found growing on some other trees like alder, it is only the birch chaga that we seek. This is due to the betulinic acid, which is converted by the chaga from the betulin in the birch bark. The chaga mushroom that grows on birch trees concentrate the betulinic acid into SOD (superoxide dismutases) that is an enzyme that helps the body shed toxins. Studies have shown that betulinic acid is more effective and less toxic than any other cytotoxic therapy presently being used to treat melanoma. It is believed to down regulate the mutant p53 suppressor gene responsible for allowing the proliferation of oncogenes. More research is needed to ensure that the human body is benefiting from the SOD found in the chaga. Chaga should be harvested in the summer months in northern climates where it gets very cold and the conks get quite large (up to 1 foot in diameter or more).
Preparation & Dosage: To prepare the chaga mushroom we must remember that it is a living fungus! We do not want to boil it, nor do we want to use water that is really hot (less than 50 degrees). The inner part of the conk must be scraped out into a powder and soaked in the warm water. For 1 part of crushed chaga pour over five parts of boiled (not boiling) water - or about twice as much. Let it soak for 1-4 hours (some say up to 24 or more hrs). Drink up to 3 cups per day about 30 minutes before a meal and 90 minutes after. It is good to start with a lower dosage and work up slowly. Some suggested dosages have higher water content at 1-ounce chaga to 12 ounces of water. Chaga may take time to work (from 3-5 months). Luckily it makes a pleasant tasting tea. It is common to hear that some people boil chaga, and many people re-soak the powder over and over before finally boiling.
Safety: Not to be used in large dosages especially during breastfeeding. Not to be used during pregnancy.