WRITTEN BY NATHALIE | ACADEMY OF LIONS NUTRITIONIST | TORONTO
Chaga Tea has been around for centuries in Russia and the Baltics but in the last several years it has been breaking into the mainstream as one of many medicinal mushrooms that are being studied for some pretty interesting health benefits.
Chaga is a fungus that grows on live birch trees concentrating nutrients that can then be extracted in various ways to make them bioavailable to humans. Take a walk through a birch tree forest in Northern Ontario and look for a black lumpy mass and you have found your very own private stash of Chaga!
The easiest way to consume Chaga is as a tea - you place about a quarter cup of dried chaga in a litre of water and simmer it for 20 minutes or so - I like to add star anis, a cinnamon stick and a piece of a vanilla pod for a subtle and delicious flavour. You can add it to your coffee in the morning or drink it on it’s own instead of coffee - either way it is subtle and delicious.
In terms of health benefits - Chaga is considered to be at the top of the ladder of anti oxidant foods, it is an adaptogen (meaning it supports the body to attain balance), it is alkalizing, and is being studied extensively for showing significant anti tumour activity. Having said that, if what you are after are it’s therapeutic effects you will need to source concentrates or tinctures made from Chaga as this is the only way to make many of the beneficial compounds bioavailable and present in high enough concentrations to really make a difference. The best medicinal tinctures will combine high pressure, some heat and alcohol extraction methods to extract the maximum amount of water soluble and insoluble compounds with the least amount of damage.
Where to buy it: Chaga is increasingly available at Farmer’s Markets and health food stores. The last batch I purchased was from Fiddlehead Heaven an online supplier from Northern Ontario http://www.fiddleheadheaven.co.