A Gift from the Boreal Forest
In Japan, chaga is referred to as the “Diamond of the Forest,” in China as “A Gift from God” or the “King of Herbs.” Another term for chaga found in my collection of books on Alaska, is cinder conk. The Russians/Siberians have been using chaga as a common health aid since the 1100s AD, when it is said to have gone mainstream. The Medical Academy of Science in Moscow in 1955 approved chaga and in fact recommended it for public use against cancer. The Russian conclusion based on extensive research on the Siberian chaga mushroom shows it is beneficial for overall health.
Chaga, also known as a clinker polypore, which is a fungus, i.e. mushroom, is found in boreal forests. In Alaska it is mostly found on white birch. The mushroom can occasionally be found near the ground, but primarily it’s found shoulder height or high enough to require a ladder to harvest it. Most research indicates softball size or smaller is not fully mature, and the healthful ingredients are not at their maximum strength. Harvest the larger mature growths only.
I find the best time to harvest is in the winter or spring when you can ride your snowmachine up to the base of the tree and easily stand on the snow crust, providing good footing to use your harvesting tools safely. I have tried different tools but find that a hammer and wide blade wood chisel works best. You can drive the chisel in at an angle and pry outward and pop it right off in large chunks. Using a hatchet in the winter when the chaga is frozen shatters the mushroom and sends it flying off into the snow. Carry a bag to gather the chunks and when you get the chaga home, dry it slowly. I put mine in the boiler room to dry for a month or more, then cut it into cubes and add it to a teapot of water. I keep mine going, adding more cubes as the color lightens.
My habit is to drink 20 ounces daily, hot or cold. I have been doing this for more than six years. There are many things to learn about chaga and multiple ways to prepare it. You can look up chaga online and find a lot of information on the beneficial uses and preparations. Mushroom–collecting.com is a great place to start.
“Otzi the Iceman,” a mummy discovered in the Alps in 1991, was found to be carrying chunks of chaga in his possibles bag. This mummy was dated back to 3300 BC. History has shown a widespread use of chaga throughout Asia.
Have fun learning, improving your health, strengthening your immune system, and sharing with others this “Gift from God.”
Note: You may want to read The Cure is in the Forest, by Dr. Case Ingram.
Yukon Don came to Chugiak Alaska with pioneer parents in 1959 and graduated from Chugiak High School in 1968. He served in the US Navy from 1969-1972, touring 13 countries in Africa on a Navy Destroyer while deployed to the Middle East. Until recently he owned and operated Tanner & Sons Electric, Yukon Don’s B&B Inn, and Tanner’s Trading Post with his wife Beverly. He is a certified pilot, diver, naturalist, chaplain, loss control professional, and investigator currently employed with Matanuska Electric Association, Inc. He has hunted, fished, and adventured all around Alaska for 50 years including a 2000 mile trip down the Yukon River in 1980.