REAL AND ARTIFICIAL CHAGA.
by Victor Smirnov
In my opinion, anyone involved in the chaga business, or taking chaga for their own health, should educate themselves about chaga and not be fooled by dishonest vendors and smooth-talking gurus.
The first thing to understand about chaga mushrooms and chaga extract is whether we are talking about a wild chaga mushroom that has been picked from a wild birch tree, or a fermented or cultivated artificial mushroom called 'chaga'. The difference is so important that it cannot be ignored. They are completely different things. Why is that?
Well, to answer that question, you just have to imagine how real chaga grows. It grows in a forest, on a living birch tree. And let me remind you what a birch tree is good for.
In Russia, birch is considered one of the most giving and healing trees. All parts of the tree have healing powers and it generously offers us its benefits.
- Birch buds: should be harvested in early spring. Used as an alcoholic tincture. Helpful for stomach cramps, asthma, cardiovascular problems, is used for hydropsy and rheumatism. Also used as a strong antibacterial agent when decocted in water.
- Birch sap: In Russia, birch sap is known to cure scurvy because of its high vitamin content. Birch sap is also very helpful in treating urolithiasis. Birch sap contains vitamin C, vitamin PP, apple acid, proteins, amino acids, phytohormones, trace elements... It is a strong diuretic.
- Birch leaves: a wonderful gift from nature! Unique source of vitamin C (up to 3 000 mg%); more vitamin C is contained in rose hip and blackcurrant berries. Birch leaves are used to treat nephrosis, nephritis and to improve kidney function. Alcoholic tincture of birch leaves is an excellent remedy for scurvy all year round.
- Chaga mushroom (antioxidant used against cancer, diabetes and many other problems),
- Birch wood is used to make activated charcoal.
As you can see, a birch tree has a lot of healthy stuff to share with chaga. In addition, it takes several years for the chaga mushroom to grow to the point where it can be used for healing purposes, because the chaga needs time to accumulate enough of the biologically active substances extracted from the birch. All birch sap circulates inside a birch tree, passing through the chaga conk and saturating it with these hundreds of trace elements, acids, vitamins and antioxidants.
The older the chaga, the more healing substances it acquires. So 5-7 year old chaga is quite good to pick and use for healthy chaga tea. If you can find 15-20 year old chaga, it should be wonderfully potent. But nowadays such chaga is very hard to find, even in Siberia.
Now we know that a real chaga mushroom gets all its nutrients and biologically active substances from a living birch tree.
On the other hand, do we know where artificial chaga gets its nutrients from? I don't know, to be honest. The very idea of artificially growing chaga seems strange to me. I don't understand how people can use it at all...it's not natural (not organic)...so what's the point in growing it and especially using it?
Wait... it seems I have found a reason: MONEY of course! You grow cheap and useless chaga, find lots of substances like polysaharides in it (or just grind the "chaga" to a powder, add as much polysaharides and beta-glucans as you want from other sources), advertise it well as a Siberian chaga mushroom and Bob is your uncle.
By the way, has anyone seen fermented chaga in chunks or in one piece? I haven't... if anyone has, please send me a picture and we can compare how it differs from real chaga. I'm sure that almost all the chaga available on the Chinese market today is artificially grown, there is no Siberian chaga, at least not from Russia. I can explain my point: it is almost impossible to import raw chaga from Russia due to very strict Chinese quarantine requirements.
I have just found something on Alibaba.com that is called "chaga" in China. Please have a look at it and compare it to our real Siberian chaga. I suspect the difference is stunning...
Real chaga mushroom in cross section
Chinese cultivated chaga