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Chaga Mushrooms: The King of Medicinal Mushrooms
By Kate Safin

There are a variety of mushrooms whose compounds have been proven to help boost immune function; these include some familiar varieties like shitake and reishi. But there is one medicinal mushroom whose healing properties have been counted on since the stone ages: the chaga mushroom.

Chaga mushrooms have numerous documented health benefits, from aiding allergies, balancing blood sugars, and detoxifying. In Russia, chaga is an approved treatment for certain cancers. The fungus is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and contains a host of minerals and amino acids.

Chaga mushrooms grow on hardwood trees, especially birch trees, in Asia, Russia, Canada, and the United States. The chaga grows on the sides of the tree, creating a symbiotic relationship that allows the fungus to absorb nutrients from the tree. The fungus is dark and looks a bit like charcoal, with a rich golden interior. It can be harvested from a tree repeatedly.

Once harvested, the chaga mushroom is dried and broken into chunks or ground into a fine powder. It can be placed in capsules or formed into a tincture, but the most common way to take chaga is by brewing it into a tea and drinking it. Adding some honey and coconut milk makes a delicious Chaga Chai Latte.

Chaga Chai Latte


  • 1 teaspoon Chaga Extract Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 oz hot water
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey or coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk

Add the ingredients into a blender. Blend until well combined and frothy. You can also stir the ingredients together in a mug. It won't have the same frothiness but it will still taste delicious. Sip and savor.

Locally-harvested chaga mushrooms are available at the East End Food Co-op in the Bulk Herbs Department. You should consult your physician or other health care professional before trying any alternative health treatment plans.

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Submitted by Kate Safin, Marketing & Member Services Manager, at East End Food Co-op. East End Food Co-op is the last natural foods co-op left in Pittsburgh from those original, back-to- nature stores. The Co-op offers all of the products of a full-service grocery store, but with a natural and local touch. For more information, visit www.eastendfood.coop.

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