Applications: Decoction - long and slow is best here to properly break down the tough cell walls of shelf fungi. I like to use a crockpot, or it could be done on the stove top or a wood stove, on a low setting for anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours. Then I turn it off and let it sit for 24-48 hours. This final step, where it's sitting at room temperature, for at least 24 hours is a traditional method that encourages a degree of fermentation which increases the bioavailability of Chaga's medicine. You can, and should, reuse the mushrooms at least two or three times in the decoction method. The first round will produce the darkest tea, but there is more medicine to be had so don't be afraid to reuse it! This is the method that resonates the most for me personally, as it really feels the most ancestral, in a long slow simmering in a cauldron over the fire kind-of-way.
Dual extraction tincture - for directions, see here. This is an awesome way to ingest Chaga as it contains both the water-soluble and alcohol-soluble constituents and medicines.
Powdered extract - for directions on how to make your own, see my friend and colleague's blog post here. A powdered mushroom extract - NOT JUST POWDERED RAW MUSHROOMS - is a convenient way to ingest these medicines regularly. Powdered raw medicinal mushrooms are not well-digested or assimilated by the human body, like, at all. Which is why so many of the supplements and superfood powders and whatnot out there that contain Chaga or Reishi or another medicinal fungi, are useless unless they contain a powdered extract - not just powdered mushroom or mycelium. Sourcing and integrity of the producer/company is important here, as is raising awareness about the differences in language, process, and thus in efficacy.
Syrup - I love to make a Chaga infused maple syrup! Seriously... it's exquisite, and such a beautiful collaboration between two beings who inhabit the depths of the Northern forests. I will write another blog post with directions on how to make your own medicinal mushroom syrups, so stay tuned. It would also be yummy with honey, brown sugar, coconut sugar or another sweetener of your choice.
Infused vinegar - this is a good way to utilize Chaga you've boiled once or twice.
Fermented into ale, wine, or mead - another nice way to utilize "used" grounds as above.
Poultice - historically after Chaga was boiled, the mushroom was pounded into a poultice that was used to prevent infection and repair cellular damage.
Dosage: Up to a quart of the long slow cooked decoction a day when in need. The Russian folk usage of Chaga tincture calls for the dose of one drop of tincture for each year of the patient's age. Tincture: 60-100 drops 3x/day.
Esoteric + Spiritual Energies: Chaga was used by Indigenous peoples for divination and decision-making. The Dene people of Saskatchewan would lay out two long lines of crumbled Chaga, each representing a distinct event. They were then ignited and whichever line burned first, would be the first event to take place.
I feel in Chaga deep roots connecting us back to the void, to Ginnungagap, the primordial blackness from whence life came in the Norse cosmological tradition. Ginnungagap is the yawning void between the northern expanse of Niflheim, the realm of heavy ice, drizzling rain and frigid gusts, and the southern expanse of Muspelheim, realm of blazing heat, lit by sparks and fiery masses.
In a sense, this reflects some aspects of the Chaga and its existence - in that it thrives in places with very cold winters, and its golden inner body is traditionally used as a coal extender, and if smoldering will stay lit for days. Chaga is an ally of the far North and contains profound physiological and energetic wisdom about how to survive, and thrive, in lands with a long cold winter.
Fire and Ice. From conflict comes creation.
As an ally for serious, life-threatening illness such as cancer, Chaga holds great wisdom about the testing, the challenge, and how we recover from adversity and the struggle that is life. Chaga reminds us about the incredible resolve and strength that lies in our core.
Leave a comment below if you enjoy or work with Chaga!
"Indian Herbology of North America," Alma Hutchens
"Mycomedicinals," Paul Stamets
"Herbal Therapeutics," David Winston