Chaga, “King of Medicinal Mushrooms”

image1At the end of 2016, I went through a real tough spot with anxiety. Like, a three-panic-attacks-a-day, can’t-leave-my-house kind of spot.

Some of it was circumstantial (there were just a few stressors floating through the ether around November 2016) but mostly it was my body telling me something needed to change RIGHT NOW. I was walking around for months with my fight-or-flight response triggered. I could feel the cortisol rushing through my bloodstream.

There were a lot of things I changed in my daily life, and that combination of actions slowly led to me feeling like myself again. A trip to my doctor, journaling, meditative breathing, upping the calming herbs and oils and tinctures, a media (social and otherwise) fast… but my first line of defense was to cut out caffeine. Namely, coffee… my first love.

I was around five years old when I started sneaking sips of coffee out of my dad’s mug in the mornings. To be fair, he liked a little coffee with his cream and sugar. (Sorry, Dad.) He’d tease me, saying, “it’ll stunt your growth…”

I’m proud to say I stand tall at 5’1” today.

By the time I was thirteen, I had a full-blown coffee habit. “Friends” premiered the next year, and suddenly there was nothing cooler than sitting around drinking coffee all day with your, well, friends. My future trajectory was set. For the rest of my teenage years, through college, and well into my (first few) career(s), I’d have sooner given up my oxygen than my caffeine.

But twenty-some-odd years later, something had to give. I was desperate. I found a decently strong-tasting decaf blend and powered through a couple of weeks of withdrawal headaches. They paled in comparison to the panic-ridden hell I’d been experiencing, and I was starting to feel better already.

The problem is, in order to de-caf coffee, you have to put it through a chemical process. It has to be steamed enough so it’s receptive to solvents, and then repeatedly rinsed with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate for about 10 hours.

So, thumbs up for less caffeine, but not so much for replacing it with things that sound like they belong in Heisenberg’s RV.

Enter: CHAGA.

You guys, have you heard of chaga? It’s a medicinal mushroom (just hear me out) that grows wild on birch trees in the northern regions of the country. It’s actually referred to as the “King of Medicinal Mushrooms.” It has numerous health benefits, and is said to support immune function, reduce inflammation, support normal cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and a slew of other things.

And no, it doesn’t taste like mushrooms. When brewed it turns into a strong, beautiful dark caramel colored tea with hints of vanilla. I’ve been treating it like coffee. I’ll add a little stevia, sometimes a little cream, then sprinkle it with a maca and cacao blend (sparingly and only in the mornings, ‘cuz yeah, cacao has some caffeine in it) and cayenne.

Yes, I said cayenne. I put it on anything. Get used to that.

I first learned about chaga from Brooke Hampton of Barefoot Five. I purchase the wild-harvested chaga chunks through her site and brew them in my crock-pot. (She she has a fantastic video on the same page about how to brew it.) You can also find wild-harvested chaga sold by Etsy sellers, and it’s starting to make the health food store rounds thanks to brands like Four Sigmatic.

I’m not gonna say I’m done with coffee forever—sometimes a girl really needs the real thing—but this stuff has been brewing in my house non-stop for the past couple of months. And y’all? I think I’m in love.


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