(NaturalNews) The chaga mushroom, or inonotus obliquus, is a medicinal mushroom that grows in northern Europe, Siberia, Asia and North America. It grows for seven years inside the bark of wounded or mature birch trees, and it expresses itself outside the bark in the form of a blossom that looks like burnt coal and feels like cork. Not very sexy, but what chaga can do for you is certainly attractive. Chaga mushroom can be used as a remedy for chronic inflammation, diabetes, hypertension, cancers, stomach illnesses and improving the immune system.
The chaga mushroom is a polypore, which puts it in a category of mushrooms that are mostly edible and always non-poisonous. Chaga is wild-crated and not cultivated which means you will only find the actual mushroom in a forest area. It is important to know your mushrooms when picking them because some mushrooms are not safe or legal to eat. Chaga is both. It is available in the form of capsules, as an extract and in cut, dried pieces at health food stores and natural marts. The extracts and capsules are usually added into a beverage and the cut, dried pieces are brewed to make a tea.
Brewed into a tea, it can be sipped three times a day for ailments such as chronic inflammation. As a tea it is also useful for eliminating stomach ailments. There is a protein in mushrooms called chitin that breaks down cholesterol thereby cleaning the arteries and improving heart health. Chaga is rich in this protein and in super oxide dismutase (SOD). SOD is a powerful enzyme; it works as an anti-oxidant that repairs cell damage from free radicals. SOD is an extremely important enzyme in that it keeps the body`s cells young and supple. Chaga has more SOD than fish oils, barley grass and vitamins E and C. This ingredient has been claimed as an aid in eliminating immune system diseases like cancer.
Chaga has a bitter flavor, and some creative ways have been used to get it down. Some people soak dried pieces in vodka as a stomach soother. Others soak it for 6-8 hours, dry it, grind it into powder and use small amounts in a cup of hot liquid. Some recipes call for simmering the chaga for several hours, straining it and adding ginger ale, to taste, to it for flavor. With the mushroom extract, ten drops to a cup of water can be sufficient as a tonic. Capsules and extracts offer instructions on the bottle. The choices make this rare mushroom easily accessible.
However, for the purist, nothing but the cap of the raw mushroom, as opposed to extracts or capsules, will do. The cap is the exposed corky exterior that protrudes from the hide of the birch tree. Within the cap there is a softer yellowish fungal substance and with it more usefulness for chaga is found. This substance often needs to be drilled to separate it from the dry, hard cork. But, the Siberians and Russians have accomplished the separation by first soaking pieces of the cap for up to 4 hours in boiled then cooled water. Afterwards, the fungus is scraped. Sterilized water is poured over the scrapings and they are soaked for another 48 hours. Finally, this mixture is also filtered and it is combined with the water from the first boiling. This infusion can be kept for several days and is used as a tonic for various ailments.
Try making some Chaga tea or putting some Chaga in your next elixir to see what it does for your health.
Alex Malinsky aka RawGuru is an award winning chef and one of the leading experts in the field of raw food. He started to learn about raw foods at the early at of 15. After 10 years on the raw food diet he continues to be on the cutting edge of nutritional research and product development. Visit Alex's website at: www.RawGuru.com for more information.