Chaga – Inonotus Obliquus: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Birch Mushroom

Table of Contents

We’re branching out into Fungi, which isn’t a plant so we may need to create a new category here with an exact title. How about Edible & Medicinal Fungi and Lichen?

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a mostly recognizable fungi, black and rugged on the outside and an orangey golden brown on the inside. There are other fungal growths and injuries on various trees that can look similar to chaga. First establishing that you’ve got a birch family tree will help.

Often I have to say something is more common in southern Ontario, but in this mushrooms case our area (Haliburton, Ontario) is actually smack in the middle of its denser population. It’s still good to keep in mind that chaga is slow to grow and at risk of overharvesting.

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) on white birch
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) on white birch

Edible Uses of Chaga

You’ll read online that unlike other popular mushrooms the chaga you see is the mycelium, not the fruiting body. And thus taking it all kills it. I believed this for a whole year. But the reality seems to be that the whole tree is more or less infected and chaga will continue to slowly grow even if you take a whole conk. But, oh my, you should see the fierce debates in foraging groups.

Some folks believe it best to harvest in winter, but it can be harvested any time of year.

Chaga is typically served as an antioxidant rich sweet tea or coffee substitute. You may taste a hint of the wintergreen flavour birch trees have. Grind dried pieces of the brown insides to your preferred texture, and steep a small handful of this to a couple litres of water.

I have also used it as a base for soup, although boiling it kills the fungus making it less beneficial. Some crafty folks make fancy ferments and beers with it too.

Store the grounds in a dark, dry spot.

Medicinal Uses of Chaga

Chaga is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Immune

Medicinal tags include Adaptogen, Anodyne and Stimulant. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes the crushed or shredded fungus steeped in water to stimulate the immune system or as an adaptogen to restore balance.

It’s also being studied for its anti-cancer properties.

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) on ironwood
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) on ironwood

Alternative Uses of Birch Conk

A forgotten clump of chaga can be used as kindling, as it’ll be harder to cut and process.

Growing Inonotus Obliquus

Plant lots of yellow birch, white birch and ironwood to host it for the next generation. All birch family trees!


If you have diabetes or a blood clotting disorder please check with your doctor first before consuming chaga.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Every book I reference that is available on Amazon is linked to with an associates link.



Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs

The Herbal Apothecary: 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

Eating Wild in Eastern Canada: A Guide to Foraging the Forests, Fields, and Shorelines

Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs & Herbal Formulas (8th Edition)

Please Like, Comment, Share! We'd love to hear your stories and knowledge! Thank you!

Leave a Comment