Chaga has been all the rage lately–packed with antioxidants and with a multitude of health benefits including slowing down the aging process, lowering blood sugar, fighting inflammation and more, it’s no wonder this fabulous fungus is making headlines. But what exactly is chaga tincture, and why should you take it?
What is chaga tincture?
Chaga tincture is an extracted liquid form of chaga mushroom, usually dissolved in ethanol alcohol. Typically, chaga tincture comes in a small glass bottle with a dropper for easy measuring and administration.
Chaga tincture has been utilized for centuries for its natural and functional benefits which is why it's often called the king of medicinal mushrooms.
Tinctures that contain chaga are believed to help lower stress, detox the body, improve your immunity, and more.
You can buy it at a specialty store or from your local apothecary. But chaga tincture is also fairly easy to mat at home!
There are a few ways to make tincture, which have different benefits. Don’t be intimidated by the process–it’s actually quite easy!
Let's first cover the type of tinctures, and then dive into each method.
The type of chaga tinctures
There are tree types of tinctures: hot water extraction, alcohol extraction, and dual extraction.
Dual-extraction is the most common type of tincture.
Tinctures are great because they are easily absorbed by your body, are easy to use, and are a quick addition to your drinks and recipes. Let’s take a look at how you can extract the good stuff with each method type.
Since water extraction and alcohol extractions have different benefits, why not combine them for the maximum effect? The good news is, it isn’t as hard as you may think. Dual-extraction tinctures offer a powerful extraction combination of both methods.
There are a many methods to create a dual chaga extraction but the most popular method involves soaking the chaga in alcohol before the hot water extraction–this method provides maximum bioavailability of the active and functional compounds and is our recommendation.
Let's dive in!
How to make dual extraction chaga tincture
In comparison to an alcohol or hot water extraction, a dual extraction takes a bit more time but it isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Dual-extraction is the most common method for at-home tinctures as it combines the medicinal benefits of both hot water and alcohol together.
Here's what you need to make chaga tincture:
- Sealable glass containers: Sanitized mason jars or snap jars make great options. Note that the size of the jar should be proportionate to the volume of chaga you plan to add to it. But it's okay if it's not perfectly sized!
- Dried, finely chopped or chunky-ground chaga: If you just scored some fresh chaga while foraging, or picked up some meaty chunks from your local mushroom farm, we recommend drying it first. Especially if you don't plan to use all of the chaga today for medicines. Here's a guide on how to do that. As for texture, small chunks are okay, but grinding in a food processor, blender, or coffee grinder will expose more surface area which may be beneficial.
- Alcohol: You'll need some quality alcohol. Cane alcohol, grain alcohol, or quality vodka will work just fine. Or, you can use ethanol alcohol.
- Measuring cups: to keep track of how much alcohol you add in
- Labels or a marker: to label your jar with important information like the date and volume of alochol added.
- Eventually, you'll also need a heavy sauce pan that can fit 2-3x much as alcohol. And a bamboo measuring stick. But you won't need those just yet. As well as a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth
Here's how to make a chaga tincture at home:
- Prepare your chaga mushroom - If your chaga isn’t already dried and powdered, chop it into tiny pieces and dehydrate them. Drying your mushrooms will maximize their shelf life and allow you to get the most out of them.
- Add to jar - Add your chaga to a glass jar like a mason jar with a sealable lid. You can fill the jar with chaga until it's about 1.5 inches from the top of the jar.
- Measure and add alcohol - Measure the amount of vodka you add to your container. Try adding 1 cup at a time to make it easier. Your measurement doesn't need to be scientifically precise, but having a good idea will make future steps easier! Fill your glass jar, covering the powdered chaga, until its nearly to the top. Leave just a bit of breathing and shaking room. Depending on your container, about a half inch should do! Then, write down how much alcohol you’ve used on your label or directly on the jar since you’ll need this information later.
- Seal the lid - Tightly seal the lid and label it with today's date.
- Wait & shake - Now it's time to wait. The ideal location of your alcohol extract is in a cool, somewhat dark space that you'll see almost every day. A pantry might be a good option. Or perhaps even your bathroom counter. Every day, give your jar a little shake. Sometimes, adding a label that says "Shake Me!" is just enough reminder to help. (Trust us, it works!) Let your chaga steep in the alcohol for at least three weeks or up to eight weeks.
Now it's time to make your dual-extraction! Once your alcohol extract has been sitting for 3-8 weeks, it's time to put the 'dual' in 'dual-extraction'. What you have in your jar right now is an alcohol extraction. Adding water and further extracting is what makes it a dual-extraction.
This is when you'll need your fine mesh strainer, large sauce pan, reserve jar for alcohol, and a measuring stick.
- Strain - You need to strain out the ground mushroom from your alcohol extract without losing any alcohol. The alcohol must be saved so you can use it later. We recommend using another sealable glass container underneath your strainer to catch the alcohol. Carefully pour your alcohol extract over a fine mesh strainer (or cheesecloth) allowing the alcohol to land safely in your other container.
- Set your mushrooms aside - Carefully set your mushrooms aside while you seal your alcohol in the other glass container.
- Add mushrooms to the pot - Transfer the mushrooms which have been strained from your jar to a heavy sauce pan (or large dutch oven).
- Add the same amount of water as you did alcohol: Now, in the pot, add the same amount of water as you did alcohol originally. This is why it's important to know how much alcohol you added to the jar. If you didn't measure, before, that's okay. Measure how much alcohol was set aside. And then add only that much water to the pot
- Evaporation - With a wooden stick, measure the level of the water in the pot right now. This is an important step, because this line tells us how much water needs to evaporate for us to get BACK to this level.
- Double - After you've measured how much water a 1:1 ratio is, now add the same amount of water to the pot again. At this point, you will have doubled the amount of water in the pot.
- Simmer - On very low heat, bring the chaga to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to the lowest setting. You do not want to boil the chaga. Simmer the chaga slowly on very low heat (and UNCOVERED) for at least 30 minutes. You'll know it's ready when the water has reached the original level (where you've marked on your measuring stick).
- Repeat if desired - You can continue to the next step, or repeat this same water process for 2 to 3 days if you wish. Each day, add your stored water and mushrooms to the pot. Double the amount of water. Simmer until it's reduced to the original measuring level. Multiple extractions may make your tincture more potent medicinally.
- Strain - The water your mushrooms are in is VERY valuable to your tincture. So do not accidentally strain it into the sink! You'll need to save the water just like you did with the alcohol. Strain the mushroom again with a fine metal strainer and save the water in another jar. You can discard the leftover mushroom at this stage.
- Combine - Combine the alcohol and hot water extractions together and give a good stir or shake. Your tincture is completed!
There isn’t one correct way to make chaga tincture, including a double extraction. Feel free to experiment with different methods or even create your own!
While a dual-extraction process is the most popular, you may need to choose one or the other for what you're making.
Let's talk about hot water and alcohol extractions separately:
Chaga hot water extraction
Extracting chaga via hot water releases beneficial compounds such as beta-glucans and triterpenoids. This is the traditional method of extracting chaga. Hot water and chaga have a long history, which is why chaga tea is incredibly popular.
It’s the most common method of extraction because it’s the cheapest. All you need is your mushroom and hot water to make a great chaga extraction.
Why does chaga need to be extracted?
Many of the beneficial compounds, like beta-glucans, are trapped underneath chaga's tough cell wall exterior. This call wall is called chitin and is also found in shrimp and crab shells. As you can imagine, chitin is VERY hard for our bodies to digest. Hot water helps to break down these tough exterior walls, allowing us to access all the medicinal compounds hidden underneath.
You can learn more about mushroom extraction with our complete guide here.
While it's true that boiling chaga may remove some of the nutritional benefits of chaga, the medicinal compounds are released with hot water.
Here's how to make a hot water chaga extraction:
- First, make sure you've got a great source of chaga mushroom. You can source your chaga from a specialty supplier, a mushroom farm, or try your hand at forraging.
- Once you have your chaga, it's a good idea to dry it. Drying allows you to store it for long periods of time. Cut your chaga into 3/4 inch chunks. They don't need to be perfect. But breaking up the chaga makes it easier to dry and easier to add to your extraction.
- Measure out your water and add to a heavy sauce pot or dutch oven. For a very, very strong extraction, use one liter of water for each ounce of dried chaga mushroom. For a more palatable extract tea, increase the volume of water. Some sources recommend using bottled water instead of tap water, and we tend to agree.
- Bring your water to a boil.
- Once it's reached a rolling boil, turn your stove down to the lowest setting. You don't want to continuously boil the chaga, you just want it to be at a consistently hot temperature. Immediately add your chaga chunks to the water.
- Turn on your timer. After two hours, check on your tea. Some of the water will have evaporated. Many people like to stop the process here. This is a very light, very palatable extraction and is easy to store for use as a tea. However, if you're looking for a stronger extract, keep going.
- Heat your chaga on very low heat for up to four hours, but not longer.
You can enjoy your extract as a tea, or save it to combine with your dual extract below. Save both the liquid AND the chaga chunks if you are going to continue your extraction process.
Chaga alcohol extraction
Alcohol extraction for chaga utilizes an alcohol soak (usually ethanol alcohol or high-quality vodka) to extract beneficial compounds like terpenoids.
Although you can use rum or vodka for alcohol extraction, many commercial products use ethanol alcohol. Whichever you choose, the alcohol isolates the water insoluble components phytosterols and betulinic acid but it can’t break down the chitin on its own because heat is necessary.
In other words, alcohol makes additional medicinal compounds available to our bodies.
NOTE: Alcohol extraction is not often done on its own. Dual-extraction is the most common method for tinctures. Dual-extraction combines both alcohol and hot water extractions. However, some people may want to use a pure alcohol extract in combination with other remedies, tinctures, or applications, so we've included it here.
To perform an alcohol extraction on your own, you’ll need 190 proof ethanol. It’s safe for consumption and because you won’t be consuming a vast amount of tincture, the amount of alcohol used is negligent.
A huge benefit to an alcohol extraction is that the body absorbs the nutrients quickly. These tinctures are extremely fast-acting because of the capillaries on our tongues and cheeks that have the ability to absorb alcohol quickly.
Here's what you'll need to make an alcohol chaga extract:
- A sealable glass jar, like a mason jar or a clamp seal jar
- Chaga mushroom: you can dry fresh chaga mushroom and grind it at home, or you can use commercial chaga powder. Either will work fine for this method as long as you're getting your powder from a reputable brand.
- Alcohol, like high quality cane alchol, grain alcohol, or vodka. Or ethanol alcohol.
How to make an alcohol extract with chaga:
- Add your chaga to the glass jar until there it is about 1.5-2 inches from the top
- Measure out your alcohol in one-cup intervals until the jar completely covers the chaga and is as close to the top as possible (with just a tiny bit of room to spare!). Remember, it's a good idea to keep track of how much alcohol you've added for later in the process.
- Label your jar with the date and the volume of alcohol added
- Set aside for between 3 - 8 weeks.
- Find a spot in your house that doesn't get too much sunlight, but that you will see every day. A pantry or bathroom shelf might be good places, as long as they stay relatively cool
- Give your jar a good 'shake' each day. Try taping a "SHAKE ME!" label to the front so that you remember. Trust us, this reminder works! After the three weeks, many of the nutrients in your alcohol extraction will be bio-available. But still, many sources recommend a longer steep for the most benefit.
And you’re all done! As you can imagine, alcohol extracts of chaga aren't ideal for daily intake because of the volume of alcohol. However, many people may choose to add this to other tinctures, fire cider, or other natural remedies at this stage.
What is chaga tea used for?
Chaga tea is used for its endless health benefits. Easter Europeans have been consuming it for centuries as a natural remedy to fight against viral infections, treat cancer, and more. These mushrooms are packed with nutrients and can be consumed regularly. No wonder they’re seen as the king of mushrooms.
Chaga tea provides a multitude of benefits, including:
- Fighting inflammation
- Lowering blood sugar
- Anti-aging properties
- Digestive health
- And much more
Another great aspect of chaga is that it generally doesn’t have many side effects. It’s not entirely immune to them, and there have been occurrences of serious side effects such as kidney damage, weakness, and confusion, but this is usually seen when chaga is consumed alongside specific medications.
If you are curious about adding chaga to your daily routine, it’s important to run it by your primary care physician to ensure that it’s a good fit for you, especially if you take certain medications such as:
- And more
How much chaga tincture to take daily
Now that you have learned about chaga, how much should you take? Many sources recommend a single dropper (about 1.5 ml) per day. For medicinal applications, the dose may be double that or potentially higher.
The answer depends on quite a few things such as your health status, your weight, and your size. Most scientific studies agree that consuming less than 5 grams (or 1 teaspoon) of chaga a day is best, but don’t overwhelm your body with too much of it too soon.
Start your chaga consumption with a small dose recommended by your doctor and adjust the dosage if you need to. There is a small potential for toxicity, and although chaga tea is usually taken for helping your digestive system there have been some instances of it causing an upset stomach.
For more about the potential side effects of chaga, check out this article.
How to incorporate chaga tincture to your routine
Since tincture is consumed in small doses, a jar of your own tincture should last quite a long time. It can also make a great gift to your friends and family, and can be a fun bonding activity to do together. The small doses can pack a punch to not just your daily routine, but to your food and drinks as well. Some easy ways to incorporate chaga are:
- Directly under your tongue
- To your daily cup(s) of coffee
- A supplement to smoothies
- As an added ingredient to your favorite soups, stews, and other recipes
With chaga, the possibilities are endless. This super fungi provides a multitude of benefits with little side effects, is fairly easy to extract as a tincture, and lasts a long time. It’s no wonder that chaga has been used for centuries and hailed for its properties.
If you’re curious about introducing chaga into your life, check out our other articles on this wonderful shroom and talk to your doctor to determine the proper dosage. And if you find another unique way to incorporate it into a recipe, let us know!