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Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus.)

Other Names:

Birch canker polypore, Black mass, Cinder conk, Clinker polypore, and Tinder fungus

Range:

Family:

Hymenochaetaceae Polypore family

Identifying characteristics:

Growth Type:

Typically the part of the mushroom we see and call a mushroom is in fact the fruit of the mushroom. The actual mushroom, or mycelium is located below the ground, or surface of the tree or stump. In the instance of Inonotus obliquus the hard black charcoal looking growth you see on the side of the birch tree is in fact the sterile mycelium. There is small fertile fruiting body called a resupinate fungus growing near the mushroom.

Cap:

Does not possess a true cap

Stem:

Stalkless

Gills:

Pores (3-5 per mm) angular to elongate;

Spores:

7.5-10 x 5-7.5 ; broadly elliptical;

Spore Print:

Colorless, becoming light yellow.

Height:

10-16" (25-45 cm ) wide

Miscellaneous characteristics:

This mushroom is called the Clinker because its canker resembles something which has been burned and fused together.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms Description:

Large, Black, Stalkless, cracked canker, mushroom: sterile core 10-16" (25-45 cm )wide; black, very hard, deeply cracked; fertile portion up to 5 mm thick, crust-like, thin, dark brown.

Tubes: 5-10 mm long; oblique, usually split in front.

Pores: (3-5 per mm) angular to elongate; whitish, becoming dark brown.

Spores: 7.5-10 x 5-7.5 ; broadly elliptical; smooth; colorless, becoming light yellow. Setae present.

Season:

All Year

Habitat:

Moist fertile areas throughout Canada and the northern United States

Parts Used:

Entire mycelium

Cautions:

None Known

Uses:

Wild Food Uses:

This mushroom makes an excellent tea, and is used in parts of Asia as a coffee substitute. My favorite use for Chaga is as an all natural energy booster. The constituents of this mushroom increase energy and stamina without any of the side effect of OTC energy drinks. For an energy boost, simply break off a small piece of the mushroom and boil it in a couple of cups of water for about 10 minutes. Strain this tea, sweeten with honey or sugar to taste, and sip to enjoy. The tincture described below will also give the energy boost of the tea, but it is not as easy to prepare in the field.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:

Medicinally is where this mushroom comes into its own. Siberians call chaga the "Gift from God", or the "Mushroom of Immortality". The Japanese call it the "Diamond of the Forest". While the Chinese call it the "King of Plants'. Knowing that the Chinese have a rich history with medicinal plants, this says quite a lot. It is an excellent Adaptogen. It has also been shown to be highly effective at treating cancer. The Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote about how he cured his own cancer using Inonotus obliquus. I have read an account of a Russian study where Psoriasis patients were treated with Chaga, and it cured their Psoriasis. This may mean it will also be effective at treating psoriatic arthritis, and other immune related arthritises. Chaga has an immune-modulating effect. Meaning that it normalizes the response of your immune system. If you have an overactive immune system it actually begins attacking your body. Examples of this are Rheumatoid and Psoriatic Arthritis, and Crohn's Disease. I read a published abstract from a clinical trial performed on 20 IBD patients and a control group of 20 healthy individuals. The results were amazing. Chaga extract was shown to reduce Lymphocytes by 54.9% in the IBD patients and 34.9% in the control group. If you have an under-active immune system, Chaga will build your immune system so that you can fight off the bugs each of us comes into contact with on a daily basis.

 

This mushroom must be studied in greater depth by this country. I believe however, that the studies must be conducted using complete extracts rather than attempting to identify individual phytochemicals which can then by synthesized by drug manufacturers.

 

Making Chaga Tincture:

In a pinch I like to decoct this mushroom into a healthful drink. However, in order to extract all of the medicinal qualities, it is necessary to complete a two part extraction method. I say two step because Chaga's betulinic acid, and phytosterols are only soluble in alcohol, while the water soluble polyphenols and betaglucans are locked inside the cells walls by chitin, an extremely hard substance which is only broken down by prolonged heat. I begin by filling a mason jar with powdered dried Chaga mushroom to within about 2" from the top of the jar. I then fill the jar with 151.5 proof Everclear (75% alcohol). In order to ensure complete saturation, it will be necessary to work a butter knife down into the powdered mushroom as you are pouring in the alcohol. Fill to the top of the jar with alcohol, and then wipe the rim, and cap the jar. Place it in a dark cupboard for about 3-4 weeks. Take it out twice a day to shake the contents. After 3-4 weeks have elapsed, making sure to catch the alcohol in a container, strain the contents of the jar through cheesecloth; squeeze as much alcohol as you can from the cheesecloth. Measure the captured alcohol, you should have approximately 2 cups, or slightly more. Now pour the alcohol into a jar, cap it, and set it aside. Next place the contents of the cheesecloth into a large sauce pan, and add about 6 cups of purified water to the pan. Simmer uncovered over low heat until mixture reduces by two thirds, this should give you approximately 8 oz of chaga decoction. Allow the contents of the pan to cool, and then strain through cheese cloth. Mix the captured decoction with the reserved alcohol. The resulting tincture should be approximately 50% alcohol and should keep for years. A typical dosage is 1 tsp twice a day. Pour 1 oz of the tincture into your favorite beverage as a wonderful energy boost.

Medicinal Actions:

Adaptogen, Alterative, Anti-Inflammatory, Antimutagenic, Antineoplastic, Antioxidant, Antipsoriatic, Immunostimulant, Tonic

Photo courtesy of: Tomas Čekanavičius

Photo courtesy of: Allen Ballard

 

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Revised: 05/02/17 Living Afield