The Environmental Impact of Chaga “Hunting”: Costs and Alternatives

[Updated March 2021: We would like to thank all of the folks who came by the table and accessed Chaga products from us over the last several years. As we have always said, our continued provision of high-quality Chaga tincture was dependent on having a sustainable local source — we have now decided to discontinue selling Chaga tincture. Please consider the benefits of other locally-abundant wild and cultivated health-promoting mushrooms, including our newest addition, Lion’s Mane.]

Popular interest in the Chaga fungus (inonotus obliquus) has led to a spike in global market prices for this rare and mysterious mushroom. Spurred by the incredible health claims associated with teas and tinctures made from this exceptionally potent antioxidant, “health product harvesters” in Northern Regions, including Nova Scotia, have begun collecting wild specimens at a rate which is not only unsustainable, but ecologically damaging.

Part of our aim as mycology advocates and wild spaces defenders is to encourage people to experience the power of local-growing foods, and health-promoting Chaga fungi are among those occurring naturally in the beautiful Acadian forests. We want people to feel their connection with, and understand the significance of protecting, the ecosystems that allow all species, including humans, to thrive.

It is for a potentially limited time only that we are selling Chaga products made from our own small, locally-foraged supply; we want to make sure that the Chaga is used to its maximum potential, and not to contribute to its overcommodification. For this reason, we do not have Chaga for sale in its raw form.

There is hope for those who wish to continue to use Chaga as an ongoing health supplement but do not want to contribute to a negative pattern of over-harvesting: according to the latest research, Chaga mycelium (the part of the fungus growing inside of trees) contains many, if not all, of the beneficial attributes – and unlike the slow-growing, rare sclerotia (the part of the fungus that is visible on the surface of trees, which is harvested), mycelium has shown promise for human cultivation.

If you know where the Chaga grows, count yourself lucky! Teach others about the importance of leaving the majority of wild-growing medicinals in the forest, and protect the local environment from all forms of exploitative “harvest”.

Sign up for our newsletter at the market or contact us to receive updates on responsible Chaga consumption!

See also:

Herbalist Michael Vertolli on Chaga and the Wild Harvesting Dilemma

Mycologist Paul Stamets on the Health Benefits and Ecological Factors associated with Chaga

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