Chaga

Well, I’ve been a bad blogger. I meant to blog every single thing I did with plants all summer. But summer was so busy! Then the sun went down and so did the electricity.

Meanwhile there’ve been a ton of changes in my life. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to live and learn with Howard Luke (for those of you who aren’t from here: a respected Athabaskan elder. My high school was named after him!). I started a website to gather some of his teachings, mostly in the form of video and audio recording. It’s way easier to update, when I go to town I just upload the recordings. I hardly have to think! Tho I do have quite a backlog of audio files.

Here it is: http://learningfromhowardluke.wordpress.com

Anyways, on to the plants! Fungus, in this case.

Perhaps you’ve heard some of the buzz about chaga? It’s the newest anti-cancer miracle cure. No, really. Some scientists noticed that no one in a particular region of Siberia had stomach cancer, and they figured out that it was because they all drank strong brews of chaga all the time. Laboratory tests show that some of the stuff in chaga does indeed destroy tumor cells, and stories of cancer remission abound.

This website has a great summary of research and constituents.

Chaga has many benefits besides fighting cancer.

Mostly, it’s an amazing anti-inflammatory, working to sooth chronic and many other kinds of pain. It’s especially amazing for people with rheumatoid arthritis and long term skeletal pain (even if it doesn’t *seem* to be related to inflammation) or carpal tunnel.

But it’s also jam packed with anti-oxidants, immune boosters, and maybe even pain blockers and mood boosters.

Traditional people in Siberia report using it to successfully treat cancers, heart disease, liver disease, digestive problems, depression, and more. I’ve seen it work wonders for a couple people with chronic health issues related to inflammation and heart disease. One person reported a dramatic increase in happiness, even.

Harvesting chaga.

If you see a black burnt looking fungus that doesn’t stick out from the birch tree, that’s chaga. There aren’t any look alikes in interior Alaska. Getting it off the tree is another matter.

You might as well cut the tree for firewood. Then tackle the piece with the chaga with a hatchet. On the inside the chaga is yellow-orange and spongy looking (yet hard). You’ll want to separate the birch wood from the chaga. It’ll take a while. Apply yourself.

If you’re in Nenana, Mike has some for a very reasonable price. In Fairbanks, Sunshine Health is getting it from Mike.

How to get the good stuff out of it?

Most of the anti-tumor constituents are extracted with alcohol. Most of the anti-inflammatory and other constituents are extracted with water.

Traditionally it’s prepared by dropping a few small chunks (take a hatchet, bandsaw, or coffee grinder to a big piece) into a small pan of water and simmering for several hours. Have a cup or two a day to treat chronic problems or have a cup a couple times a week as a tonic.

In modern herbalism it’s usually prepared as a double extraction to get all the good stuff out of it and put it in a form that most people find palatable, or can disguise.

To make a double extraction break your chaga into small pieces, fill a jar, and cover with alcohol (one part chaga by weight to two parts alcohol by volume, if you’d like to be scientific). Leave that for six weeks and then strain and press the alcohol out of the fungus.

Towards the end, break up some more chaga into very small pieces. Put it in a pot and cover it thoroughly with water, cover with a tight lid, and leave on the woodstove for 3-5 days.

Combine the two liquids, half and half, and you have a double extraction.

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