We are blessed here in Canada to have wild Chaga mushrooms growing on our own birch tree, offering us wild medicine chaga benefits from mother nature herself. Chaga tea offers a slight vanilla flavour which tastes great on its own, and also makes a great base for a chaga turmeric golden milk latte. Golden Milk is a modern spin on the Auryvedic drink of warm milk and turmeric. Found at health food stores and specialty cafes, it is creamy and delicious and offers a wide nutrient profile provided by the anti-inflammatory curcuminoids in turmeric and the gingerols in ginger. Golden Milk generally uses coconut milk as the liquid base, and as the fat source to facilitate absorption of any fat-soluble compounds. Hemp milk from our own Canadian grown hemp seeds can be used instead and offers a creamy consistency that rivals that of coconut milk (see How to Make Your Own Hemp Milk). The combination of the immunoprotective chaga benefits and the anti-inflammatory aspects of turmeric make this an essential cold weather drink to help nourish and nurture the body.
“Chaga benefits come from their rich source of beta-glucans which display immunomodulating effecs, as well as betulinic acid from the Birch trees which is a potent antioxidant and has anti-tumour properties in vitro.“
Chaga has been widely used in folk medicine in Russia, Poland, and other Baltic countries for a wide variety of gastric problems, cancer, tuberculosis, as well as heart and liver concerns. Closer to home the Chaga mushrooms have long been prized and used by our First Nations people. Cliﬀord Cardinal, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta is a Cree medicine man. He boils chaga for viral-related conditions, in the form of ingested tea. The Gitksan First Nations of British Columbia used the lit black “coals” of the fungi to relieve rheumatic pain. Chaga also produces a sweet-smelling incense and may be added to ceremonial smoking pipes to ensure a continuous burn.
Chaga grows as a sterile conk on birch trees, where the bark has been compromised. Rather than displaying a parasitic relationship with dead or dying trees, chaga has a symbiotic relationship with Birch, exchanging in a way that benefits both organisms. Chaga can impressively pull nutrients out of the soil that the roots of the tree are unable to get at. Chaga contains a number of compounds that can be found in numerous other herbs and mushrooms, including polyphenols, melanins, beta-glucans, sterols, triterpenes, amino acids, etc. according to Robert Rogers of the University of Alberta.
As blessed as we are to have this highly medicinal wild mushroom growing on our soil, we need to consider the sustainability of this potentially vulnerable medicine. Overharvesting is happening as we speak, and with Chaga mushrooms only appearing on 0.025% of Birch trees this makes it all the more important that we purchase Chaga from a reputable source. Harmonic Arts is where I purchase my Chaga from. They are a Vancouver Island Based company that has their values deeply embedded in harvesting medicinal mushrooms and herbs in a sustainable matter.
So what else makes this Chaga Turmeric Golden Milk Latte local? Alongside Chaga, we have our very own Canadian hemp hearts (see Vegan Hemp Ranch Salad Dressing and Hemp Sunflower Seed Pate for more information on the sustainability of hemp and nutritional qualities). Honey can be used in place of dates, for another local ingredient. As important as it is to consider food miles, according to David Suzuki organisation the distance a food travels only makes up 11 percent of its carbon footprint, with the remaining 89 percent is made up of how the food is grown. Choose organic products where possible, especially if using fresh ginger and turmeric. These rhizomes, or roots, readily absorb any pesticides from the soil they are grown in. Choosing organic spices including organic cinnamon and black pepper guarantees the spices haven’t been exposed to pesticides and irradiation.
How to Prepare Chaga
- Bring water to a boil, turn heat down and add chaga.
- Lightly simmer for 20 minutes to 5 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Strain off the liquid and serve.
- The grounds can be re-brewed or stored in the fridge to brew again later. Up to 20% of its bio-active compounds are released with each brew, so it is a good idea to brew it at least 3-4 times.
- The flavour has been compared to that of a sweet mild coffee with hints of vanilla.
Golden Milk Latte with Chaga
- 1/3 cup hemp hearts
- 1/4 cup water or chaga
- 2 " piece turmeric root fresh
- 2 " piece ginger root fresh
- 2 dates (or 2 tsp honey)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon ground (or cinnamon stick)
- 1/8 tsp black pepper ground
- Prepare the chaga tea as per above instructions. Add cinnamon stick if using.
- Mince the turmeric and ginger and add to a food processor along with the hemp, 1/4 water or chaga tea, dates, ground cinnamon and pepper.
- Blend until a nice hemp milk is formed. Add 1 3/4 cup of warmed chaga tea and blend until well combined.
- Option to strain mixture. I like to save the strained ingredients and add to my morning oatmeal. Serve warm.
References for Chaga Benefits – Local Chaga Turmeric Golden Mylk
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.