If you are plugged in to the world of superfoods and alternative nutrition, you’ve no doubt heard of chaga. Cultivated in the northernmost reaches of the globe, this little mushroom has been touted to do everything from ward off disease to fight cancer to reverse aging and much more. With the world at large now privy to the secrets of chaga, there have been many unscrupulous merchants who have begun selling fake or inferior chaga in order to make a quick buck.
Don’t be fooled: authentic chaga is easy to identify and the fake stuff doesn’t even close to passing muster. Read on to learn how to identify chaga and how to tell the fakes from the real deal.
Identifying Fake Chaga
Chaga is a mushroom that grows on birch trees throughout much of the northern hemisphere. Chaga can be seen on trees as far south as the Caucasus mountains and the mid-Atlantic U.S. However, chaga that grows outside of frigid northern locales is useless for human consumption because it lacks the nutritional content that is only created by extremely cold weather. In short, this means that only chaga harvested in Alaska, Siberia, or similar regions is to be trusted.
Chaga manifests as a dark black growth on the sides of birch trees. It is often superficially similar to burls, abnormal growths on trees that are the product of disease, stress, or other ailments. The primary way to differentiate between them, however, is that burls are not fungi, but are a part of the tree itself. In addition, chaga tends to grow out in a rectangular shape, while burls tend to be more rounded due to their nature as an outgrowth of the tree trunk.
Chaga is further distinguished by its colorful interior, visible by breaking open the hard outer shell or by observing where the chaga and its host tree meet. Chaga has a rich orange-yellow appearance on the inside, which is why it is sometimes referred to as “black gold.” This interior is also often spongy to the touch and has been compared to cork in its texture. Mushrooms that lack any or all of these attributes are likely to be fake.
One common way chaga vendors try to rip customers off is through the use of lab-grown chaga. Chaga that is not harvested naturally is considerably inferior due to the fact that it is through growing on trees and leeching nutrients that chaga acquires its medicinal value. Any chaga vendor that is selling artificially-grown mushrooms is selling an inferior product.
Another method that unscrupulous chaga vendors use is selling chaga that has been weighed down with dirt and other impurities. Many chaga harvesters, out of laziness or greed, will often roll chaga chunks they’ve collected in mud, dirt, and other substances, with the intent of making their hauls look bigger than they actually are (and thus fetch a higher price). Some vendors will then sell these tainted chaga packages to customers.
In order to identify chaga that has been tampered with in this fashion, you should look at the purity of the product. Chaga should be 100 percent pure, containing no bits of dirt, mud, grime, or anything else. Reputable chaga vendors will wash and sterilize all of their chaga before packaging it for sale. Not only is selling dirty chaga a swindle, it also runs the risk of harming your health by introducing pathogens or poisons.
When it comes to identifying chaga powder that is fake, you may have a harder time. Whole chaga chunks are more difficult to fake due to the fact that they have a very specific appearance and feel. However, chaga powder can be more easily passed off as fake due to its ground-up appearance. Look at your chaga powder carefully and make sure that it meets the physical requirements that chaga must possess. Chaga supplements are a big concern when it comes to being faked.
While chaga has been used for centuries in Alaska and Siberia as a remedy for everything from the common cold to cancer, it is a relatively new food in the context of the world at large. Additionally, chaga is not regulated that well by the U.S. government or other governments, making it easier for cheats and liars to pass off fake product on trusting customers. As such, you will need to do your own homework before buying chaga.
Always use your common sense and investigate a vendor thoroughly before buying their products. There are a great many chaga vendors that simply want to sell you fake product, but there are also many reliable vendors that will sell you the purest, cleanest chaga available. Even if you are not planning an excursion to the woods anytime soon, knowing how to identify chaga will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.