2)	Marge Keough hugs a tree with chaga mushroom growing on its bark. Photo credit: Marge Keough

Marge Keough is in the fifth year of running her small business Fayston Forager – making and selling small-batch tinctures from wild chaga mushroom and what’s commonly known as Japanese knotweed.





Keough first started tincturing these about 13 years ago when she was bitten by a tick and exposed to Borrelia bacteria, developing Lyme disease. This was during a time, she said, when there wasn’t a good understanding of Lyme and it took nine months for health care providers to figure out what she was struggling with. She worked with a naturopathic practitioner who employed antibiotics as needed, while also using herbs to manage her symptoms, learning about the use of knotweed through the work of late American herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Before his death in 2022, Buhner authored 23 books on herbal medicine, ecology, and related topics, and said that he popularized the use of Japanese knotweed root for the treatment of Lyme infections, as well as its general use as an anti-inflammatory.

Around the time that Keough developed Lyme, her sister, who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Keough researched herbs for breast cancer in addition to her research on Lyme, finding that chaga – a fungus that resembles burnt charcoal, growing on birch and other trees – can have the effect of suppressing tumors, as well as helping the body to better manage stress. Her sister’s oncologist supported its use.

Keough learned about how to tincture chaga and knotweed – reading, talking to other herbalists and “gaining a lot of respect and gratitude for these plants that are here to help us heal,” she said.




While she’d always been a gardener and a “backyard herbalist” who loves learning about plants, “it was dealing with these illnesses in our family, that pulled me further in that direction,” she said.

For her home business, Keough works in small batches, producing up to 10 gallons of knotweed tincture and up to 5 gallons of chaga tincture each year. She said that she’s selective about the plants she collects, including when and where she collects them. “I like to focus on local, organic, wild, sustainably harvested plants in pristine locations.”

With knotweed, Keough harvests big rhizomes when the plant is dormant, then hand-shaves the most vibrant parts for tincturing. “The inside of the knotweed is a beautiful deep orange,” she added, “and the chaga is also a beautiful golden color.”

Chaga is a very slow-growing fungus and takes about a decade to replenish after harvesting, Keough said, so she only takes a small amount and doesn’t harm the tree while doing so. To tincture it, she first pounds and grinds the fungus, then does three separate extractions, finally combining them. The whole process is labor-intensive and takes several months.

Keough grew up in upstate New York and visited The Valley to ski with friends after college, then stayed. She worked as a community outreach coordinator for Chittenden Solid Waste District for two decades – work that focused on managing resources and educating people about how to reduce waste. She said it was nice to transition from that work to having a small home business. 

Fayston Forager tinctures can be found in Waitsfield at the von Trapp Farmstead and Mad River Taste Place, in Warren at East Warren Community Market and The Warren Store, and in Middlesex at Roots Farm Market.