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On the hunt for Chaga

Saturday February 10, 2018
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A walk in the woods of Finnish Lapland with Aimée Benbow, Technical Director at Viridian Nutrition.

Ingredient provenance is central to quality control and assurance at Viridian Nutrition, as well as part of the company’s environmental commitment. In addition to analysing all raw materials to ensure they meet strict criteria, equally important is getting out in the field, auditing the growers and suppliers to confirm precisely how the ingredient is grown and extracted.

And for Viridian Nutrition’s new Nordic-inspired Wild Chaga and Cacao powder, that’s exactly what Technical Director, Aimée Benbow, did - jumping on a flight over to Finland.

“As the plane approaches Helsinki Airport, we are amazed, and slightly alarmed, by the sheer volume of forest below, obscuring the runway until the final moments before landing. Finland is heavily forested and 90% of which is organically managed and certified. 


“From Helsinki, we take a three-hour train journey into Northern Finland where we are met at country station by two guys dressed in lumberjack gear, who lead us to a pick-up truck for the next leg of the journey. Stein and Petri are passionate and animated about chaga, and their company is one of the world’s specialist suppliers of certified organic Finnish chaga extract. Over the hour-long road trip, they explain how their business evolved from a genuine passion for working with the natural resources of their native land – the berries and tree products including pine bark, and the rare and extraordinary chaga mushroom.  


Photo caption: Viridian's Aimée Benbow with Stein and Petri, nutritional experts.


“Donning walking boots and warm clothing, we park up and head into the dense pine and birch forest, Stein and Petri leading the way through previously undisturbed country. It is clear to see how untouched the land is with blankets of wild bilberries and lingonberries strewn across the  forest floor dotted with colourful shrubs and lichen. The forest is home to wild bears and wolves, thankfully Stein explains that they are shy creatures and we are unlikely to spot any large wildlife today. Just 10% of the Finnish forest berries are wild-harvested for human use, the rest is left to nature. 

“After nearly an hour of trekking through acres of forest, we discover the elusive chaga mushroom, which can be found on just one in 2,000 birch trees. Chaga is perhaps one of nature’s ugliest creations and you’d be forgiven for assuming it was unfit for human consumption, but centuries of traditional use have seen this least attractive fungi become the stuff of legend.

“But it pays to be careful when sourcing this potent ingredient. 


 Photo caption: Harvesting the chaga from a birch tree.


“Mass-market chaga is commonly produced in commercial quantities in laboratory vats, however this intensive method of growing the mushroom does not compare favourably with wild-grown chaga, in terms of nutrient abundance and the measurable levels of effective compounds. Wild chaga lives as a synergistic growth on birch trees and is therefore able to derive important elements from the soil and the tree itself. Additionally, the harsh climate of Finnish Lapland encourages the natural production of protective compounds such as OPCs (oligomeric proanthoacyanidins) within the chaga. Chaga mushroom is sustainably harvested to ensure both continuity of supply and the biodiversity of the Finnish forests.


“Petri, a highly-educated nutritional expert in plant chemicals and their benefits, explains that on collection of the raw chaga from the forest, it is transported to their local extraction plant where following organic standards, the chaga is extracted to twenty times the original strength while guaranteeing a minimum of 8% OPCs. The extraction process uses only water, and no harsh chemicals whatsoever. The extract is then dried and powdered and ready to be shipped to the UK where it is blended, to Viridian’s unique formulation, with organic cacao from the Peruvian rainforest.  A super-concentrated extract, each 1g serving is equivalent to 6000mg of chaga.”

Organic Wild Chaga and Cacao from Viridian Nutrition blends with milk (plant-based if preferred) to make a pleasant tasting, nutrient dense beverage, perfect for the winter months and throughout the year as a caffeine free, coffee alternative.


Author: Aimée Benbow, BSc (Hons) ANutr. is Head of Technical Services at Viridian Nutrition.


The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: Nutrition News and Viewsnordic


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