Grandmother Birch Medicine - my 1st meeting

Years ago when I was studying plants of the northern regions of the world with fresh, new eyes, I was introduced to a fungus called Chaga. For most of my life I have lived in the north and cold climates of the world and so have been in the ecosystems where Chaga lives. In my youth I must have walked by Chaga many times and never took notice, never looked deeper into the black charred growth as containing a most powerful and sacred medicine. I probably passed it off as some deformity from insects or some form of rot on the tree. Not until my teens would I be introduced to Chaga as a relation I shared this earth with.

One winter’s day an old man who was teaching me about the medicines of the northern forests brought me into the mountains where the birch trees grew tall. The day was grey and cold with a few inches of snow on the frozen earth. We walked a couple miles across the high ridges in the Appalachians of Pennsylvania before descending a bit down one of the southwestern slopes. There we came upon a stand of yellow birch trees. I remember their golden bark glowing like some lost treasure on that bland colored day. They stood barren and reaching towards the clouds above with their crooked and twisting branches, as if frozen in time. There was something almost magical about the feeling of those trees on that day. It was a sacred feeling that can only be felt, not placed into clumsy words.

The snow crunched under my feet as we moved otherwise silently through the trees. The Old Man was looking at the golden trees with a reverence. Slowly he turned his weathered face to mine and motioned for me to walk to a larger yellow birch not far away. As I moved towards the tree, he followed.

As I looked at the tree I noticed this large gnarled black growth jutting out from the broken bark. The mass looked like it had been burned and was charred and deeply furrowed all over. I knew the Old Man wanted me to get acquainted with this deformity, as was his way in helping me understand the ecosystems around me. I studied the growth and felt its harsh skin beneath my soft fingers. It was ice cold and rough, rough like stone or the bark of ancient cherry trees. I placed my nose to its body and smelled the heavy burnt scent that matched its charred look. It solidly seemed and felt like part of the tree, firmly attached like an extension of the wood itself.

After a short time the Old Man began to tell me of the old Grandmother who carried deep water medicine beneath the skin of fire. He told me the Kuhëmëna Wihhinachk Lantoanto (Grandmother Birch Medicine)- Chaga, was an ancient medicine upon the sacred earth that only grew where it was cold. He said it was a medicine of the north. Placing his old fingers gently upon the black growth he spoke softly and told me that inside was the beating rhythm of water being pulled from the tree and sent through a filter, much like our kidneys and then sent back to the tree. Looking me in the eyes he told me, “This medicine is like the north and south poles of the earth, it is opposite. It eventually kills the tree, but the tree knows this and is not angry. Instead the tree gives the most precious and sacred of its medicines to the growth.” Pausing for a moment to place his right hand on the tree he then continued, “The black bark on the outside protects the sacred medicine on the inside, just as fire protects by warding off. This is why it smells of char. The medicine on the inside is of the water, of the tree’s blood. Opposites, just like the north and south, death and life, sickness and health. The tree gives of its life to offer medicine to the world. It is the most sacred give-away.”

The Old Man took from a leather pouch some tobacco and gave it as an offering to the Grandmother Birch Medicine. He said a prayer to the tree, to the Grandmother Birch Medicine and to the sacred directions, seasons, levels of existence and all life contained within. Once this medicine process was done he took his tomahawk and chopped the charred mass from the tree. This exposed the brilliantly colored cork interior which sharply contrasted the gnarled exterior bark. The orange-gold color beamed outward there on that grey winter’s day like the sun itself. I stared in fascination.

The Old Man explained how important it was to leave the remaining cork on the tree because it would grow back as long as the tree was alive. He said to only take what was broken off and to always remember the future generations. Holding the Grandmother Birch Medicine gently in his hands he said she only grows and lives on living trees. Once the tree dies the relationship between tree and fungus also dies in the flesh. The medicine is for the living and must be taken from the living.

We carried the fungus back to camp where the Old Man showed me how to clean it up and make it ready for tea. After the coals of the fire were glowing steadily, we boiled water and then poured it over the chunks of chaga. He covered it and let it sit for two days. Only then did he show me how to work it up as a medicinal tea and only then did he tell me of its medicinal qualities and many uses; how you could tell what direction medicine it had by where it was growing on a tree. He went into depth on how the medicine varies slightly depending upon the age of the tree and where it is growing, what season the chaga is harvested in and under what phase of the moon. The slight differences in its medicinal value depending upon what kind of tree it was growing on were also covered. Nothing was left out; nothing was skimmed over when the Old man was teaching of medicines and life itself.

As he poured the steaming hot red-brown liquid into a wooden bowl I watched the steam curl into the cold air and disappear like a ghost. He offered me the bowl and I observed its rich color and savored its mild scent. I brought the bowl to my lips and easily sipped the hot liquid and felt its smooth texture enter my mouth. The taste was pleasantly mild with tones of earth and deep fertile forest. I sloshed it around over my tongue to extract and experience all its flavor and life before swallowing it and bringing it deep with the core of my body. It was nulilaiskakwen, good medicine, it did good within me. I was thankful to have been introduced to such a powerful medicine of the Northern Forests. I was honored to have been acquainted with the Grandmother Birch Medicine.

My next post will detail the medicine.



I wandered out to read about Chaga....

I did 50 plus years of Botany in the west. I dealt with mostly vascular plants.

I likely saw CHAGA relatives.

But determined its not in California. (one map said, I guess I could spend hours on that simple question).

Interesting its NOT a fruiting body and is not producing spores. Apparently its a huge oxalate dose. THATS interesting....(we do have a whole thread around PR on the Spinach Cure).

I tend to not use the mushrooms, due to the autoimmune issue. I might take them during acute episodes but lets avoid Acute Episodes...for now.
Hello @Nord Wolf........I'm a lover of the forest, as is Rufous (but in a totally different league) and obviously many others on PR.

I've always loved the smell of the earth....but to get to actually taste it and have it become part of you must be very special indeed.

Funny, that I also never noticed it before. From your picture it looks like that so? I must look it up....and spinach, huh? One of my favorite veggies, so it's going to be of interest. Yes, when cooked it does have an earthy smell, doesn't it? Even the juice of it.

You know, I never the Old Man or Grandfather still alive? Do you partake of any tribal gatherings? Do you consider yourself part of this extended family? Just for my knowledge, you understand. (I ask a lot of questions...sorry.) I hope you're doing's tough and probably tougher for some than others. Yours, Lenora.
From your picture it looks like that so?
Humm, no not so much. It looks more like a burned piece of gnarled bark.
You know, I never the Old Man or Grandfather still alive? Do you partake of any tribal gatherings? Do you consider yourself part of this extended family? Just for my knowledge, you understand. (I ask a lot of questions...sorry.)
No he walked over back in the summer of '92' at 96 winters old.
Years ago I did involve myself with various tribal functions around the east coast, but then I got far too busy and was moved around so much that I lost contact. I was accepted as family with his people, but that was a long time ago. His direct family were all very old when I knew them, and none are alive today.
I don't mind questions, though I'm sure most you might have I wouldn't have answers to :)
I hope you're doing better
Thanks. I've done very little in the last week but tons of rest. It has helped take a bit of the edge off, but still quite low. My healthcare team thinks they may have finally located something local for me to get in with... that has the potential to make huge differences!! I'm excited about it. If it comes to pass I will be sure to share here. But I don't want to say anything about it beforehand and possibly interfere with the the direction of flow ;)
Even though I typically not partial, or trusting of large herbal suppliers, there are a couple that I do recommend.

The first is a supplier of Eastern Tea Medicines. It was actually started by one of my students many years back, who had such a passion for preserving tribal authenticity and supporting the ancient ways of people still living and practicing them. In the bulking shadow of the major corporate tea industry that clear cuts, mass cultivates, pollutes and offers the world depleted and worthless teas, my student saw an opportunity to delve deeply into the mountains of Asia. He sought out true tea artisans who still live with, care for, harvest and prepare teas in the ancient ways. Then he created Wild Tea Chi in order to not only bring their products to the world, but support their disappearing lifestyles and traditions, as well as bring to to world their stories.

After a number of years, he gave the small company to his assistant, who is also a dear friend of mine. She has equal the passion, intelligence, compassion and care for the traditions of her people, and has carried the torch well.

I can 100% recommend their products as the best quality Eastern Medicinal Teas I’ve ever come across.

Wild Tea Chi

Another botanical company that I feel does well in locating and offering high quality medicinal plants is

I don’t know them personally, but have used some of their products and they feel solid.

Mountain Rose Herbs
Hi @Nord Wolf. I went through the tea listings, as well as putting in relief from bone pain and nothing useful came through. (Oh, I did see Essiac listed...that's a first and there it was on the top line!)

Do you happen to know the name of a tea that is good for this type of pain (fractured pelvis, fractured lumbar area & a few other "goodies.") I was hoping that since the doctors can't help with pain relief, there may be something on the market for us. If you don't know the name of it offhand, then please don't bother.

I'm sitting on all my Ace Ice Packs, trying to do exercises and know the night from hell awaits me. If anyone has any ideas, they would be most appreciated. Thanks. Yours, Lenora.
Do you happen to know the name of a tea that is good for this type of pain (fractured pelvis, fractured lumbar area & a few other "goodies.") I was hoping that since the doctors can't help with pain relief, there may be something on the market for us. If you don't know the name of it offhand, then please don't bother.
A tea made from Horsetail, Nettle and Alfalfa plants, brewed strong and drunk 3 times per day works well for knitting bones. All of those can be found on Mountain Rose Herbs. As for the pain, do the docs have you on any pain meds? Also, have you tried acupuncture for the pain?
Do you happen to know the name of a tea that is good for this type of pain (fractured pelvis, fractured lumbar area & a few other "goodies.") I was hoping that since the doctors can't help with pain relief, there may be something on the market for us. If you don't know the name of it offhand, then please don't bother.
Historically, and I myself have used these plants for broken bones and bone pain with success as well, Arnica, Boneset and Comfrey all work very well. Keep in mind that herbs work best when they are geared toward the individual rather than standardized. But if you don’t have contact with a traditional herbalist, then look to the next best thing, trial.

Boneset works great for bone pain is it is strongly infused and drunk as hot as one can stand it at 2-4 wineglass fulls per day. Or if taken in powder form - 10-12 grains, or of the extract - 24 grains daily. Parts used - flowering tops and leaves

Comfrey also works great to ease pain and inflammation, and to heal bones . Use the entire fresh or powdered plant. Use 1 teaspoon of herb to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for .5 hour and drink 4 times daily. If using externally you can use the fresh, dry or powdered herb for poultice.

Please remember, this is just informational and what I have personally used. You will have to decide for yourself and or ask your doc…
Hi@Wolf......No, I'm on very little for the amount of pain I can drive you a little crazy if you let it.

I was feeling a bit better yesterday and now I've really tumbled down the hill & no, at least 6 days and nights without sleep isn't good for any of us. I do things that will help me the most, heat (if indicated) , whatever my internist prescribes ,

I'll try the teas you mentiioned and will hope for the best. A compound cream that my doctor has made is also a tremendous help. I'll order more at the beginning of next week and will hope for the best, Your DR. can order this cream as necessary, It does help....needless to say, I tend to fall a lot, So there are options, not exactly the best, but we have to make what we can out of them for the moment. So different teas it will be. Thanks. Yours, Lenora.

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