Got “chaga”? Ever heard of chaga? Chaga is a medicinal mushroom that grows in northern Europe, Siberia, Asia and North America. Also known as the “King of Fungi,” chaga grows for seven years inside the bark of wounded or mature birch trees, during which time it absorbs nutrients and phytochemicals from the wood. Finally, it erupts into a grotesque black charcoal-like conk on the tree trunk. Rather than being “mushroom-like,” it actually looks like a large black canker. Chaga is rich in superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme which converts the superoxide ion to less toxic hydrogen peroxide and is produced by a healthy immune system. SOD is an antioxidant that repairs cell damage from free radicals. Chaga has more SOD than fish oils, barley grass, and vitamins E and C. Recent research has proven chaga mushrooms have the highest antioxidant concentration of any known natural food, even higher than acai and pomegranate. Chaga is chock full of polysaccharides that enhance the immune system, treat cancer, HIV, and other bacterial and viral infections. It also contains betulinic acid (to counter viral infections and tumors) as well as triterpenes (which lower cholesterol, improve circulation, detoxify the liver, treat hepatitis, bronchitis, asthma, and coughs). Chaga contains high amounts of germanium (a free-radical scavenger) to cleanse the blood, normalize blood pressure, and prevent tumors, and is also frequently used as a natural remedy for chronic inflammation, diabetes, hypertension, stomach illnesses, worms, and flu. Interestingly, chaga is a polypore (a fungus with pores instead of gills) which puts it in a category of mushrooms that are mostly edible and always non-poisonous. Also, chaga is “wild-crated” and not cultivated which means you will only find the actual mushroom in a forest area. Chaga has a bitter flavor, so you need to be “creative” to get it “down the hatch.” Some people soak dried pieces in vodka as a stomach soother, while others soak it for several hours, dry it, grind it into powder and use small amounts in a cup of hot liquid. With chaga extract, ten drops to a cup of water can be sufficient as a tonic.