Chaga has become all the rage as of late for its strong medicinal properties. Used as a folk remedy in the northernmost parts of the world for generations, chaga has recently become available to the general public through online vendors that harvest it for commercial sale. While many chaga users prefer to buy their chaga from professionals, it’s entirely possible to harvest it yourself depending on where you live and how much effort you’re willing to expend.
If you live in the right place and you’re up for an adventure in the woods, you too can venture out to find your own chaga. Here’s how you can do it.
Where Can Chaga Be Found?
While chaga is generally associated with the far northern parts of the world, its habitable range is actually much larger. Chaga is generally located within the Circumboreal Region of the northern hemisphere. The Circumboreal Region is a floristic region defined not by climate or geography but by the uniformity of the plant life found within it.
The habitable range for chaga thus extends across a wide swath of the northern hemisphere, including much of Europe and Russia, extending as far south as Turkey and the Caucasus and also incorporating parts of Central Asia, Mongolia, China, and the Korean peninsula. Chaga is also found in Alaska, much of Canada, and northern regions of the continental U.S., including parts of New England, Michigan, and northern Minnesota.
Chaga grows primarily on birch trees, so chaga can only be found in locales that contain a significant amount of birch forest. This excludes flat, treeless landscapes such as the Great Plains in the central U.S. or the evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest. It is important to seek out birch forests as chaga is most commonly found in old growth forests that have been relatively undisturbed by human development.
Chaga can grow on any type of birch tree, from paper birch to cherry birch to yellow birch and more. Birch trees are easily identified by their bark, which is curly-looking and resembles scraps of paper. Chaga can sometimes be found on elm, beech, and hornbeam trees, but this is uncommon and forests containing those trees are generally not worth checking.
In addition to this, healthy, harvestable chaga is generally found as far away from cities and places of human habitation as possible. Cars, houses, factories, and other human creations expel pollution into the air, which is absorbed by trees, plants, and other forms of life. Human pollution has been shown to have adverse effects on animals and other living things.
Because of the symbiotic relationship chaga has with birch trees and the nature by which it absorbs nutrients, chaga located near cities often contains large amounts of pollutants, which hurt the nutritional content and can also harm anyone who consumes the chaga. To forestall this, only harvest chaga from forests that are as far from civilization as you can get, to ensure that the pollutant content is minimal or nonexistent.
Finally, in addition to all this, chaga’s nutritional value can only be manifested if it grows in an exceptionally cold climate. While chaga can be found across a wide swath of Europe, Asia, and North America, chaga that grows in more temperate climates lacks the nutritional content that makes it worth consuming. Because of this, chaga is only worth harvesting if you are located in Alaska, Siberia, or a location with a similarly cold climate. We do not recommend harvesting or consuming chaga from places with temperate climates.
As a corollary to the previous point, chaga reaches its maximum nutritional potential during bouts of cold weather. This means that chaga should only be harvested during the winter, when the temperature is consistently below freezing. Due to the extreme climates where chaga is typically harvested, this means that chaga pickers should be experienced in dealing with cold and adverse weather conditions.
Chaga has become a worldwide sensation thanks to the efforts of chaga harvesters and vendors who have made it available to people outside of the frigid northern lands where it has been enjoyed for generations. You no longer need to live in rural Alaska or Siberia and pick your own chaga to enjoy its countless benefits, from anti-aging properties to immune system health to more.
If you ever get the itch to identify chaga in the wild, however, knowing where to find it will come in handy. Whether you are planning to become a chaga picker yourself, you merely want to collect chaga for your personal use, or you’re going on a nature hike and you want to see if you can find chaga for fun, knowing where and how to find it is an adventure in and of itself. Does chaga grow in your local area? Why not head out to a park or nature reserve and find out for yourself?