Mushrooms don’t get the respect they deserve.
They have typically been seen as a garnish or minor ingredient mostly used for some added flavour. I’ve written about the health promoting properties of mushrooms before in my post here.
There’s a lot more than meets the eye however. Mushrooms have a unique type of antioxidant called l-ergothioneine and contain more l-ergothioneine than the two dietary sources that were believed to be the best sources in the diet: chicken liver and wheat germ.
In fact mushrooms contain 40x more of this powerful antioxidant than wheat germ does.
There’s no denying it, mushrooms are nutritious and offer more than just vitamins and minerals. They have several phytonutrients that move them into the realm of functionally nutritious; helping to support health by reducing inflammation and by positively modulating the immune system.
What the heck is chaga?
Chaga is a mushroom. It’s a very slow growing mushroom that primarily grows on birch trees. As it grows, it gets it’s nutrients from its host, the birch tree and because it’s slow-growing, it has lots of time to concentrate those nutrients into its flesh.
Because it looks like burnt wood or charcoal, chaga is often referred to as ‘tinder mushroom’ – who knew?!
At a recent appointment with my naturopathic doctor, during our usual shop talk about nutrition, healthy eating and living, she asked if I had heard of chaga. I had not. I had heard of the medicinal properties of reishi, and maitake mushrooms but not chaga.
I was intrigued. She referred me to Giddy YoYo’s product and said to check it out.
Giddy YoYo gets their chaga from the boreal forest of Ontario and Quebec using only mature chaga from mature birch trees ensuring the preservation of both the beauty of the forest and helping to restore the health of the ecosystem.
The tea comes in a resealable bag and because it’s a dried product, will keep for almost indefinitely in the cupboard or pantry. No worries about it spoiling.
Making chaga tea couldn’t be easier. I use 1/3 cup of the dried chunks in 1 litre of water and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Chaga is described as having a woodsy vanilla flavour and has been consumed as a naturally caffeine-free ‘tea’ or infusion.
I found it to taste more like strong coffee. It did have a slightly bitter taste but nothing I couldn’t handle nor would it stop me from using this product.
Looking at Giddy YoYo’s website, they recommend 4 tablespoons, or 1/4 cup, instead of the 1/3 cup that I used. This would make for a less bitter-tasting tea and this is exactly what I found with subsequent brews.
The chaga can be reused/rebrewed 3 or 4 times before discarding. As long as the mushroom continues to turn the water a dark brown colour, there’s tea to be made.
The instructions suggest brewing it from between 15 minutes to 2 hours to make a more concentrated brew (note, if you’re going to do a long brew, remember to keep adding water).
I think I would find a 2 hour brew too strong but that’s the beauty of it, you can brew it to taste. Simply keep the used chaga in the freezer between batches.
I added some maple syrup for a little sweetness and flavour but will try the flavouring suggestions on Giddy YoYo’s website: vanilla bean powder, cinnamon, fresh ginger, or maybe even a little nutmeg or cloves [just a pinch].
I’ll definitely try their suggestion for a teaspoon of coconut oil; use extra virgin coconut oil for an intense coconut flavour!
I really love this product and have added it to my toolbox of health habits along with other whole food and nutritional supplements.
What are the health benefits of chaga?
All mushrooms contain polysaccharides, another word for carbohydrate. Their unique form of polysaccharides has been shown to support the immune system by increasing the activity of the white blood cells including natural killer cells; these cells have anti-mutagenic and anti-tumour compounds supporting what research has found; mushrooms possess anti-cancer properties.
Mushrooms also contain an innumerable amount of phytonutrients that support the liver’s detoxification process, via both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 pathways. Chaga is also high in antioxidants and may support the following:
- protect cells and DNA from oxidative damage
- inhibit mutations and reduce the risk for cancer
- reduce inflammation and bring relief to inflammatory diseases
- reduce the risk for colds and the flu via it’s immune supportive properties
- help the liver to do it’s job of detoxification