Sudbury·Backroads Bill

'Tree cancer' makes for healthy herbal tea

Chaga tea, made from a fungus on rotting trees, is considered by many as a medicinal drink

A fungus found on rotting trees is becoming a popular ingredient for medicinal tea according to northern Ontario adventurer, Bill Steer. 

Chaga is the black, hardened, crusty mushroom found on rotting birch, commonly known among ecologists as a "tree cancer."

"It looks like a bursting tumour but recent research indicates benefits in treating cancer and other diseases," said Steer.

According to Steer, the earliest known recorded use of chaga tea dates back to the 16th century, when it was regarded as a folk medicine. 

Grant Lauzon, a chaga expert in North Bay, operates a holistic and alternative health business where he collects, processes and sells the mushroom.

"Research indicates it is like having a natural chemotherapy treatment," said Lauzon. He said chaga helps detoxify cells, skin and blood and is known to cure stomach ailments including ulcers, as well as psoriasis.

However Lauzon is concerned about the amount of chaga harvested in northern Ontario.

"It takes approximately 80 to 100 years to produce about 10 pounds of chaga," Lauzon said. "It's been completely wiped out in places like China and Russia because of relentless, value-driven exploitation."

Lauzon is hoping chaga harvesters will some day be certified by an institute of mycology.

"If we succeed, Ontario would become the only sustainable source for chaga in the world."