CHAGA: A TEA THAT DOES MORE
Words / Carrie Hambach
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a naturally occurring fungus commonly found on birch trees in Canada, Europe, Korea and North America. Referred to by many as the “King of Herbs”ª or the “Gift of God,” chaga tea can boost and modulate your immune system, relieve inflammation of your GI tract and has shown properties that prevent cancer. Typically found on trees 40+ years old, chaga requires approximately three to five years to mature before it can be harvested. Once the chaga is cut from the tree, it can regrow to be harvested again in three to ten years.
Chaga: A Latinisation of the Russian Term '4ara'
The blackened exterior of chaga (which is a rusty brown on the inside) is the result of the tree attempting to eradicate the fungus. This black outer layer, sclerotium, is high in melanin which can improve skin and hair and is the primary source of antioxidants. Uncontrolled oxidation in the human body can produce free radicals that can lead to many diseases, including cancer, and accelerate the aging process. Antioxidants acquired through chaga can moderate cellular oxidation as well as interact with and stabilize free radicals.
Betulinic acid, a byproduct of betulin, which naturally occurs in birch bark, is a unique property of chaga that has demonstrated properties that inhibit HIV, cancer and inflammation. Additionally, consuming chaga can compensate for side effects caused by chemotherapy by improving the body’s immune system and preventing metastasis. Betulinic acid is also being studied for its capabilities in breaking down “bad cholesterol” in the bloodstream.
Chaga has been harvested for its health benefits for many years, but is still relatively new in the research and mass production world. Therefore, the chaga that you personally harvest compared to the chaga that distributors harvest might have varying levels of potency. Nevertheless, ingesting chaga tea will improve your overall health and has no evidence of side effects, making chaga an ideal diet supplement.
ª Although “King of Herbs” is a common name for Chaga, it is in fact, not an herb, but a fungus.