Chaga Medicine





I’ve had a knob of chaga (Inonotus obliquus) languishing in my herb cabinet since last fall, when my sister and I foraged a chunk for each of us near Lake Superior.

Chaga, a native fungi that is tops at boosting immune function and reducing inflammation, has long been a go-to for me. Yet despite it growing in abundance throughout Wisconsin, I had yet to forage my own. I’d been looking for it in my woods and on my parent’s land in northern Wisconsin, but had yet to find any that was growing on a live tree within my arm’s reach.

Even if you’re not the medicine-making type, chaga may have worked its way into your healthy lifestyle habits  in recent years, as “mushroom coffee” and “mushroom tea” seem to be a thing in healthy circles.

And just like so many things you find in your favorite box of herbal tea, I find that homemade is fresher, more vibrant, and yes, even more healing than it’s boughten counterparts.

So homemade chaga extract was near the top of my list for remedies to craft at home.


Double extraction.

(It’s not as complicated as it sounds!)

Chaga (and other fungi) are interesting additions to medicine making, in that some of the medicinal components are alcohol-soluble (think: tinctures), while others are water soluble (think: bone broth, tea or decoctions).

So while tossing a chunk in my nettle cha or adding a knob to my bone broth was good, a double extraction was so much better.

The instructions below are suitable for chaga and other medicinal mushrooms. Try rishi, shitake, turkey tail, or whatever mushroom is your favorite. And feel confident than your homemade mushroom extraction will be far more potent and useful than anything you can buy in capsules at the store.


Making your own double-extraction is easier than you might think! I’ve demystified it below, with three simple steps. In step 1 you literally put the chaga in a jar and cover it with alcohol; in phase 2 you simmer the same mushrooms in water; and in step 3 you bottle.


All of the details follow.



  1. Remove any stray bits of tree bark from your chaga. Break the mushroom into small pieces, between the size of a pea and a large cherry tomato.
  2. Fill your jar halfway with mushroom pieces, then cover with 80 to 100 proof alcohol. (I prefer high quality brandy for my tinctures, but use what you have. Any  mild-flavored alcohol that is 80 proof or higher will suffice.
  3. Line a jar lid with with waxed paper or a small plastic bag (to prevent corrosion) and label.
  4. Place in an out-of-the-way corner of your kitchen (out of direct sunlight) for 1 to 3 months, shaking gently whenever you think of it.
  5. After your tincturing period is complete, strain your infusion through a cheesecloth-lined colander, reserving the liquid in one jar and the chaga in your strainer.

20180225-DSC_8234PHASE 2: DECOCTION

  1. Transfer the same mushrooms to a medium-sized glass or stainless steel cooking pot. Place 2 quarts of water in the pot for every pint of tincture you infused. (My example pictured here was made in a pint jar, so I added 1/2 gallon of water.)
  2. Add the chaga that you previously tinctured, then insert a skewer into the pot and make a pencil line where the water level is. Make a second pencil line 3/4 of the way down the stick. (You will use this stick to determine when you have simmered off enough water.)
  3. Bring pot to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for for two or more hours, or until liquid has reduced by approximately 3/4, bringing the water level down to your second pencil line. (If you accidentally simmer away too much liquid, you my add more to bring it back up to the appropriate amount.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then strain through a cloth-lined strainer.


  1. Combine your tincture and decoction, then transfer and bottle. You’re double-extraction is complete!


Edited to add: if you can’t forage your own chaga, you can always purchase it locally from a forager or herbalist in your neighborhood, or buy online. (afflink)

Make your own DIY chaga mushroom extract at home. Simple to make, chaga extraction is easy homemade medicine for immune support.

Foraging apples.









Is it apple time already?

This hot, dry summer has had me longing for some crisp fall days. And while autumn is still a ways off, the apples have begun to ripen.

Like so many crops they are early this year.

Last week we slipped away for six days at my parent's cabin on the Wolf River. (You probably didn't miss me because I posted while we were away. Hooray for technology and the "select publication date" feature on Typepad.)

During our vacation Lupine and I visited a wild apple "orchard" that we pick at every year. We went twice, and on the first foraging day we had a conversation I want to remember always. It went like this:

Lupine: "Mama, this is the best day of my entire life."

Me: "Oh, Lupine. I'm so glad. Thank you for being my foraging buddy."

Lupine (as she threw her arms around my waist): "Thank you for being my foraging buddy, Mama!"

At which point my heart melted into a big puddle of love.

Sigh. Sweetness overload.

A few of our favorite trees were ripe already, including this one that Lupine has nicknamed "Cake" because, well, "it tastes like cake."

I've been picking this particular tree for more than 20 years. (Though I've always simply referred to it as "my favorite apple tree" rather than "Cake", though her name has grown on me and now I call it "Cake" too.)

My grandpa and I used to pull his old pick up tree underneath and fill the bed with apples for baiting deer, and yes, apples for saucing and eating.

I always made sure the deer didn't get any good ones from this tree.

This old tree is nearing the end. It's split and rotting out on the inside. It's much smaller than it use to be, as one whole section had dropped off in the past five years. I'm planning on grafting a branch onto a younger tree so we can continue to enjoy Cake Apples for many more years. I think I'd better hurry or I'll lose my opportunity. 

In all, Lupine and I picked one large cooler-full. It's in the kitchen now, brimming with the ugly-yet-delicious apples. Today we'll juice (for our first experiments in hard cider making) but mostly we'll sauce.

And I can hardly wait.

(My instructions for making and canning apple sauce are here.)