Here in Canada, chaga grows wild in our boreal forests and has been used as part of indigenous medicine for centuries, perhaps millennia. Chaga was the first medicinal mushroom we experimented with when we started brewing our botanical tonics, before expanding into cordyceps, lions mane and of course reishi.
Chaga has many names around the world. In Eastern Europe, it is known as tschaga, the Germans call it the Tschagapilz, in Norwegian it is called the kreftjulce, in Finland tikkatee. Closer to home, Cree healers call it posahkan or wiskakecak omikih.
According to Cree lore, Wisekakecak is a mythological character who threw a scab, which he had mistaken for a piece of dried meat and tried to eat, against a birch tree. To its day, it remains on the tree to benefit humanity.
The Dene of Saskatchewan use the finely crumbled inner fungus for a divination ritual. Two long lines of chaga tinder, representing two related events, are laid out end to end and ignited at opposite sides. Whichever pile burns through first will signify which activity takes place first.
There are a number of questions that turn up time after time, so here are the top five, answered.
What’s so special about chaga?
As we’ve said above, chaga has been a part of indigenous health care for a very long time – in fact, it’s been used by most people living in the northern hemisphere, from Scandinavia to Siberia all the way to Canada. In parts of Russia, chaga is considered part of mainstream healthcare.
Chaga has fantastic antioxidant properties. It carries the highest antioxidant load of any superfood, up to 100 times as much as blueberries. Antioxidants support the immune system and overall wellbeing. When we first starting drinking chaga, we also noticed that our hair and skin felt better after a couple of weeks.
Think of chaga as your daily holistic body defence.
Do make sure to talk to a health professional if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on any kind of regular medication before consuming chaga regularly.
Where do chaga mushrooms grow?
Here in Canada, chaga grows in our boreal forests, typically on birch trees. Chaga has long been considered parasitic, although the latest research is questioning this. It grows for 10–20 years on a birch tree, hard and woody on the outside, a burnt orange colour on the inside.
All of the chaga we use in our drinks is sustainably sourced from the pristine wilderness of Canada’s northern forests. Our foragers never take more than can be sustained and tag trees to ensure that future generations can benefit from this amazing mushroom.
Let’s talk taste. What does chaga taste like?
The best description we have ever heard was this: it tastes like maple syrup would taste like if it wasn’t sweet. Chaga tastes a little bit like coffee, a bit like a stout, but it has notes of natural vanilla in it as well. If you like coffee, chances are that you’ll like chaga.
In Finland, another country where chaga grows natively, it has long been used as a coffee substitute.
Is there caffeine in chaga?
No, there is no caffeine in chaga and it won’t keep you awake. Chaga is considered an adaptogen which means that it can support your body delivering a healthy and resilient response to stress. We drink chaga at any time of the day or night when we need a natural lift.
Will chaga get me high?
No, chaga mushrooms are not psychedelic and are legal in any country in the world. Chaga does not get you high, they are not intoxicating in any way. Chaga is simply a wild mushroom with amazing properties, many of which we are learning about only now.