Chaga – An Arctic Treasure
If you visit any Finnish health food store, you’re sure to find lots of Finnish chaga products for sale. Chaga has a long history in the folk medicine of Siberia and Scandinavia, but today it has become a trendy new superfood product.
The first confirmed use of the chaga mushroom dates back 5,300 years, to when Ötzi the Iceman (a Chalcolithic European man, and the oldest known natural mummy) carried some Chaga in bag, presumably for medicinal purposes. Chaga has long been known as potent cancer treatment. In fact, it is said that Tsar Vladimir Monomakh, who ruled in 12th-century Russia, cured a lip cancer using chaga. Its use in North European folk medicine dates to at least the 16th and 17th centuries.
In Norwegian, chaga is called kreftkjuke, meaning “cancer fungus.” During WWII, Finns substituted chaga for coffee; there was a serious scarcity of real coffee, and there just happened to be plenty of chaga growing wild in Finland’s forests. There are actually estimated to be between 2 and 4.5 million kilograms of chaga now growing in Finnish woodlands.
Russian author and Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn reports being amazed at chaga’s effectiveness as a cancer treatment. He encountered the fungus in the mid-1950s, while doing research for his novel Cancer Ward (published in 1968). From the book:
“He could not imagine any greater joy than to go away into the woods for months on end, to break off this chaga, crumble it, boil it up on a campfire, drink it and get well like an animal. To walk through the forest for months, to know no other care that to get better! Just as a dog goes to search for some mysterious grass that will save him…” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward, 1968
The chaga mushroom is a parasitic fungus, living primarily on birch trees, but also on a few other hardwood species. It grows exclusively in Taiga biomes, which can be found in Canada, parts of Scandinavia (Finland, Sweden and Norway), Russia, Korea, and some northern areas of China and Japan. It is one of the easiest medicinal mushrooms to use: simply go to the forest, tear the fungus from a tree (make sure you have a permission to do so) break it up, boil it, and drink the resulting tea.
Over the past 40 years, more than 1,600 scientific research studies have been conducted to investigate chaga. Some of the most recent such work – and the most definitive analysis of research results – has been done by Dr. Kirsti Kahlos, of Finland’s University of Helsinki.
Chaga is classified as a tonic herb, which means it can be used in large quantities and for long periods, without concern over side effects or overdosing. It is a powerful immunostimulant, assisting the body to combat almost any type of viral or bacterial infection. It also happens to be easy to use, and it even tastes good! A great many scientific studies have found it to be a useful, possibly even necessary adjunct to a modern healthy diet.
Since words don’t quite do chaga justice, I’ll give you some statistics about it here:
This has been just a brief introduction to the chaga mushroom. If you would like to know more about this miraculous fungus and the benefits it may hold for you, stay tuned – Chaga, Part Two will be coming your way soon!
Have a chagalicious day!