The Importance of Choosing Sustainably-Harvested Chaga Herbal Medicine
If you live on the East Coast, where chaga grows most prolifically in North America, chances are you’ve come across a slew of products containing chaga. Chaga herbal medicine shows up in the form of tea, and is added to coffee, honey, maple syrup, tincture and even skincare. Its unsurpassable antioxidant content and loaded healing compounds make chaga a desirable superfood that can benefit everyone.
Chaga mushrooms’ popularity is increasing each day, which is unfortunately causing this rare fungus to be overharvested. While many medicinal mushrooms can be cultivated, there are some species, like chaga, that are only available by wildcrafting. Additionally, chaga’s slow and unusual reproduction add to the obstacles of ensuring sustainable sources of chaga. Here at Mushroom Revival, we are committed to sustainably sourcing the chaga we use in our products, like our Mush 10 tincture and Myco Cleanse blend.
Sex Life of Chaga
The part of the fungus we use is in our chaga herbal medicine is not technically a mushroom. It is not the ‘fruiting body’ of the fungus, but rather a sterile conk, which many mycologists refer to as a sclerotia or hardened mycelial mass. One to two years after its host tree has died, the fungus will produce tubular pores beneath the bark, where it will remain hidden until its ready to sporulate. Finally, a fruiting body will force its way out of the bark of the tree, where the ephemeral, nutrient-dense mushroom is promptly consumed by beetles and other hungry organisms.
To make things more mysterious, the orientation of the fungus’ fruiting bodies matter:
“Chaga is aptly named Inonotus (to penetrate) obliquus (an angular shift in degrees) because of the fungus penetrating tree wounds to attack and feed upon the heartwood; and the angular tubes that contain its reproductive spores are slanted 20-30 degrees upward towards the sun. Mycologists believe this is to enable spore dispersal allowing wind currents to carry spores to infect nearby damaged trees. Ironically, it is almost at par to the angular declination of the Earth relative to the Sun.” – Excerpt from Annanda Chaga, 2019. (1)
What we need to keep in mind is that the fungus will often not have a chance to get to this stage in its life cycle, if all the chaga sclerotia is harvested. When wildcrafting chaga, we are essentially taking the fungus’s own food storage—which it relies on to survive 2 or so years—and still have enough nutrients to break through the bark of a tree and produce mushrooms.
Consume Chaga Herbal Medicine Consciously
Now that we acknowledge the complexity of chaga and its susceptibility to endangerment, let’s consider what we can do as consumers.
1. Don’t Take More Than You Need. Chaga herbal medicine is wonderful, and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of its ability to transform people’s health. With this in mind, consider backing off your chaga intake unless you feel it’s something your body really needs.
2. Leave Some Chaga Behind. Should you go looking for chaga in the forest and you find a good amount, make sure to leave at least 30% of the conk behind. The less you take, the better for the fungus. If it appears that a chaga patch has already been picked from, consider leaving it alone entirely and seeking out other specimens.
3. Buy Your Chaga from Siberia. Yes, local and wildcrafted medicines are two shiny qualities we all look for in many of our food products, but there are cases where this is not the best option. Chaga is very abundant and responsibly harvested in Siberia, Russia. There are also tributes to Siberian chaga being the most potent form on the market.
Chaga Herbal Medicine from Mushroom Revival
At Mushroom Revival, we take all these factors into account when we source mushrooms to make chaga herbal medicine at our farm. The chaga found in our Mush 10 tincture and Myco Cleanse blend are sustainably sourced from Siberia, and are so potent it does not take much to reap the benefits! Try our products today and feel good about the mindful sourcing and processing of this special superfood!