Northern Canadian winters are harsh. The cold weather wreaks havoc on our bodies and Vitamin D is scarce. We wait for the day when the sun warms the earth and we can finally begin to thaw. In the meantime, braving the outside is a necessity. I bundle up head-to-toe to do a little foraging. But this isn’t the kind of foraging you would see in the summer months—collecting wild mint, rose hips, and blueberries.
Today, I’m foraging for the king of mushrooms: Chaga.
It’s always an adventure because you never know where it may be. When you do find it, though, it is quite remarkable.
Chaga grows on living birch trees and is a healing medicinal mushroom. It has a very high source of antioxidants, as well as numerous B vitamins, flavonoids, amino acids; sterols, phenols, minerals, melanin & enzymes. It is the most potent know adaptogen, which helps your body fight the effects of stress and disease.
Not all birch grows Chaga and not all Chaga is easily accessible. The elusiveness of our quarry makes both the search and the harvest an exciting journey. After cutting it from the tree, the mushroom is dried, preferably by the sun (however, during winter months, inside near a window will do just fine), and ground into a fine powder; now, we are presented with two choices: to make a tincture or to make a tea.
Directions: Add 1-teaspoon of chaga to a pot of tea. Let steep for 12-15 minutes. Strain. Enjoy.
↠ I recommend the tea to be cooled and steeped for 5 days in the refrigerator. It can be reheated if you desire a warm tea.
↠ I find the tea is a great substitute for coffee, and some chai spice provides additional flavor.
Tincture: Double Extraction Method
I. Take 1 TBSP of Chaga grounds and add to 12 ounces of vodka (preferably glass bottle)
II. Let sit for a minimum of one month in a warm area of the house. Every few days give the bottle a shake.
III. When the time has come, strain the grounds from the vodka, and set infusion aside*.
*Do not discard the Chaga grounds, you will need them for the next step!
I. Take the grounds (from alcohol extraction) and add 24 ounces of water to a saucepan.
II. Simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes.
III. Strain grounds, and repeat steps 1+2
IV. Combine alcohol + water extractions in a glass jar, store in a cool place.
Directions: Drink one dropper-full of tincture 2x per day with a full glass of water.
Generally, I prefer the tea, but the tincture is so powerful, I can’t resist making it, too!
(Disclaimer: Use your head. Know your mushrooms. Consult a certified guidebook before cutting strange fungi off trees and putting them in your body. Mushrooms have a way of getting weird on you, or worse. You’ve been warned… Drink in good health!)
Andy Skye is a naturalist at heart. She finds inspiration by surrounding herself in the energy of Mother Nature. Her designs, photography, art, and lifestyle are reflective of the lessons she's learnt through meditation and living consciously. Andy is currently exploring the boreal forest of northern Canada. Find her on instagram @andyskye