I was very excited to source some sustainably harvested Scottish Chaga this year. Chaga ((Inonotus obliquus) is known as ‘The Mushroom of Immortality’ in Siberia. It’s a nutritional powerhouse as well as a potent medicine. One of its many beneficial constituents is a compound called super oxide dismutase (often abbreviated to SOD). but I’d rather use its full title! Super oxide dismutase fights the damage caused by free radicals in the body. Since free radical damage is a huge factor in ageing, Chaga has rightly earned its reputation as a ‘Gift from God’. It’s not just a beauty product though, its free radical neutralising action helps to counteract the ravages of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Chaga also has a long tradition of being used to improve athletic performance, strengthening the immune system and as an anti-inflammatory. Its known medicinal constituents and long empirical use leads medical herbalists to choose Chaga in supporting patients fighting cancer as well as those suffering from adrenal burn out or overload. There’s a very long list of conditions that Chaga is claimed to cure and a quick internet search will provide you with reams of information. All I can say is that it is a truly fabulous natural medicine and highly suitable to take as a daily tonic.
Chaga can be taken as a powder, a decoction or a tincture, but the best way to extract the full array of medicinal constituents is as a double extracted tincture. Let me show you how I used this process to create a very high quality Chaga extract in my clinic.
The first challenge is to source good quality sustainably foraged Chaga. A responsible forager will not strip the birch trees but take a little from a range of trees so that there is a thriving source for future years. Dried Chaga comes in woody slightly ‘rubbery’ chunks with a gorgeous autumnual brown hue. The outside edge of each chunk is dark and fissured, almost as though it has been burnt.
The second challenge is to cut the chunks into smaller pieces so that there’s a large surface area to volume ratio which will result in a more efficient extraction process. Cutting Chaga is not an easy process. I tried a junior hacksaw and a rubber mallet before settling on a plain old sharp knife. I found that pressing the point of the knife into a chunk and then twisting allows the fungus to cleave naturally and makes the job slightly easier.
After you have cut the Chaga into chunks put it into a Kilner jar and add a high strength alcohol mix. I used 60% alcohol. Using a lower strength alcohol (for example vodka) will mean that you must be careful about the amount of water you add later in the second stage of the process.
Put the jar away in a dark place for at least three weeks, agitating it every so often to ensure proper extraction. Once the tincture has macerated it can be strained and pressed.
The resulting high alcohol tincture is bottled temporarily and set aside. The quantity of this tincture is recorded so that the volume of the aqueous decoction can be calculated. The Chaga used to make the tincture is reserved and then used for the second stage of the process.
A quantity of water (I use spring water) which is twice the volume of the tincture is put into a pan with the Chaga. You can use a knife to measure the depth. You are going to need to simmer this gently for several hours until the volume is reduced by 50%. At this stage it is a thick dark nutritious (and delicious) liquid. The decoction is strained and pressed again.
The final stage is that the cooled decoction is mixed with the alcoholic tincture so that there are equal quantities of each. If you use a lower strength alcohol in the tincture making part you will need to combine it with less than its own volume of decoction. This is because if the overall alcohol content of the finished article is less than 25% the double extracted tincture may not keep properly. I wouldn’t want to have any risk of spoilage so my final alcohol content is a decent 43%.
Once the double extracted tincture has been made all you have to do is to bottle and label it. I recommend taking 10 – 20 drops as a daily tonic. If you have a particular health challenge you and your herbal practitioner may decide on a higher dose.
Most of the Chaga extract that I have made will be used in my clinic dispensary but at the time of writing I have a small amount available for sale. Do send me an email if you want to know about availability and cost.
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