Often black irregular growths can be seen on birches. This is chaga, a sterile form of fungus that forms when a tree is infected with a parasite called Inonotus obliquus. Its spores grow on damaged areas of the trunk, the size of the chaga can be impressive. as a result of such a lesion, the tree dies, but for humans, chaga is a panacea for many diseases, for a long time people have been treated for many diseases with the help of this nondescript mushroom.
Approximately twenty years pass from infection of a tree with chaga to its death. It becomes suitable for collecting chaga already at the age of 3-5 years. Moreover, in place of the felled chaga, a new one gradually grows, which can be felled again in a few years. This process will be repeated until the death of the birch.
It is difficult to say when people started using chaga as a medicine, but it is known that in China it was called "the king of medicinal herbs" more than 4, 000 years ago. Until now, chaga is widely used in Chinese traditional medicine. The famous Persian doctor Avicenna mentions chaga in his writings, and in the Russian chronicles of the 11th century it is reported that with the help of chaga it was possible to cure lip cancer in the Grand Duke Vladimir Monomakh.
Alexander Isaevich Solzhenitsyn writes about the properties of chaga to help get rid of terrible diseases in his story "Cancer Ward". Doctor Sergei Nikitich Maslennikov cured Solzhenitsyn, and the writer, after recovering, shared this recipe with all his friends. By the way, Dr. Maslennikov worked in the city of Alexandrov, Vladimir region, he drew attention to the fact that even before the revolution, oncology was very rare among the peasants of the Alexandrovsky district, who regularly drank chaga instead of regular tea.
Chaga can be found in the forests of Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as in some Asian countries, the United States and Canada. Chaga affects not only birch, it, much less often, can be seen on the trunks of other deciduous trees. But, according to herbalists, only birch chaga has beneficial properties.
If in folk medicine chaga has been used for medicinal purposes for many centuries, then clinical trials in Russia were first started by the Moscow physician F.I. Inozemtsev only in the middle of the 19th century. Research results have shown that chaga significantly increases human defenses, slows down the growth of tumors, regulates the activity of the human cardiovascular, nervous and respiratory systems and improves the general condition of patients. In the Soviet Union, chaga was officially recognized as a drug in 1955. Research on medicinal properties continued for several years, they say that according to the personal decree of Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin.
Many people confuse chaga with tinder fungus, which also grows on birch trees. But, if you look closely, it is not difficult to distinguish between them: the tinder fungus has a hoof-like shape and a smooth surface. Chaga's surface is almost black and irregular in shape. The tinder can easily be separated from the birch trunk, but the chaga has to be removed with an ax or knife.
Chaga does not have a specific harvest season; it can be harvested all year round. It is best to do this in autumn, when the leaves have already fallen and black chaga is clearly visible on light birch trunks. Collecting chaga during sap flow can seriously injure the tree, therefore, in early spring, it is better to refrain from harvesting. You cannot collect chaga from dried up trees, it no longer has medicinal properties. Some collectors claim that the higher the chaga is from the ground, the healthier it is. One of the reasons for the great popularity of chaga in Russian folk medicine is its all-season nature; it was possible to collect chaga at any time of the year.
In different countries of the world, the names of chaga differ. For example, the Germans call it "pilz", and in Japan it is much more complicated - "kofukisaruno-koshi-take". Among the peoples of Siberia, the name "shulta" is widespread, which is mentioned by Vladimir Ivanovich Dal in his dictionary. According to the author, the poor brew it instead of tea.
There is no other country in the world with such a number of birches as in Russia. Accordingly, the main reserves of chaga are also found in our country. Even in the era of tsarist Russia, the "Russian mushroom" was exported in huge quantities through the port of Arkhangelsk to Western Europe, where it was considered a cure for all diseases.
Despite the centuries-old use of chaga for medicinal purposes, not all doctors share optimism about the ability of this fungus to fight a variety of diseases. Many believe that all this information is not proven, and there is too little serious research. For example, chaga contains a large amount of oxalates, therefore, it is contraindicated for persons suffering from kidney disease. In addition, chaga interferes with blood clotting.