Canada’s own Chinese-Superfood can cure cancer. Or not. It depends on whom you ask.
Chaga is a parasitic fungus that grows from under the bark of birch trees. It looks like a lump of sponge that has been coated in charcoal.
Indigenous tribes in Russia and North America have been using it to make curative teas for hundreds of years.
It may-or-may-not be a holistic answer to many modern ailments like depression, cancer, diabetes, and types of coronary heart disease.
The off-putting black colour of the fungus is due to Melanin, the same pigment that colours human skin, eyes, and hair, along with squid ink. It is a crazy-powerful antioxidant.
The fungus’ extreme hardness comes from its very dry matrix of Chitin – a polysaccharide – that, unlucky for us, is indigestible, and also contains most of the medically useful compounds.
The fungus grows under the bark of birch trees, which it enters through open wounds or breaks in branches. There, it cultivates for 5 to 7 years before growing into a Sclerotia (large fruiting mass of exposed mycelium) on the tree’s surface. There, it sits like a conk, slowly draining the life from the tree. (Or helping said tree … the jury is still out on the relationship.)
The problem with Chaga to a capitalist pig like myself is its inability to be reliably grown. The fungus can take decades to reproduce. It can be grown on artificial media, but it will lack the medicinal properties that are unique to the birch bark, from which it draws botulin and converts it into the bio-available betulinic acid.
Because it cannot be commercially produced, it cannot be standardized into consumer products in a reliable manner. Without standardization and ownership, the reliability of products online can be questionable.
Buying bulk, raw chaga puts the extraction process in the hands of consumers, who may not have access to pressure cookers or the knowledge to create alcohol extracted tinctures which are required to get the greatest benefits.
If you decide against buying chaga online, you are in luck, because it grows indiscriminately on birch trees all over the island. However there are frig-all birch trees on the Avalon, so everyone reading this is out of luck.
If you do get your hands on some, this is the method I use to brew Chaga Tea:
The finished product is very, very dark and smells like cork.
A handful of websites tout a handful of benefits to drinking the tea. Reduced insulin sensitivity, weight-loss, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor benefits are just a shortlist of the claimed benefits.
I strongly recommend giving it a try, but all I can say conclusively is that I do not have cancer to the best of my knowledge (knocks on wood).