Superfood of Finland
obliquus causes a white heart rot to develop in the host tree. The Chaga spores enter the tree through wounds, particularly poorly healed branch stubs. The white-rot decay will spread throughout the heartwood of the host. During the infection cycle, penetration of the sapwood occurs only around the sterile exterior mycelium mass. The Chaga fungus will continue to cause decay within the living tree for 10–80+ years. While the tree is alive, only sterile mycelial masses are produced (the black exterior conk). The sexual stage begins after the tree, or some portion of the tree is killed by the infection. I. obliquus will begin to produce fertile fruiting bodies underneath the bark. These bodies begin as a whitish mass that turns brown with time. Since the sexual stage occurs almost entirely under the bark, the fruiting body is rarely seen. These fruiting bodies produce basidiospores which will spread the infection to other vulnerable trees.
It is enjoyed most commonly as brewed tea, but it can be even extracted to make an alcohol tincture. As enthusiasm for superfood diets and interest in exploring natural remedies grows globally, Chaga is gaining popularity in the world superfood market. Finland is a forerunner in utilising the mushroom.
Those convinced of the health impact of consuming Chaga, are not concerned with the suspicious appearance of the black fungus but enjoy its benefits. And why not? An increasing amount of academic research backs up the use of Chaga for health reasons. Most notably, in research conducted at the University of California’s immunology department, a Chaga extract was noted to positively improve immunity by reducing inflammation and fighting harmful bacteria and viruses.
Similar results have been seen in studies conducted at the Shenyang University in China. Chaga mushrooms work by assisting the formation of proteins called cytokines, which are responsible for regulating the immune system.