One of the most unusual of the Chinese traditional herbal medicines is a fungus called Cordyceps sinensis.
What’s so unusual about it?
Aside from it’s potent healing properties, which we’ll get to in a moment, it is also one of the most curious natural substances used in healing. It’s found in nature as a parasitic fungus growing on the bodies of caterpillars in the mountains of Tibet above 14,000 feet. That’s pretty unusual.
It’s such a powerful substance, and so rare, that Tibetan mushroom hunters can earn up to $900 an ounce for gathering it. Again, not something you can say about any other medicinal mushroom.
In fact, in 1993, three Chinese runners were tested for anabolic steroids after breaking five world records. No steroid use was discovered, but all three had been training using Cordyceps.
As interesting as these facts are, the most amazing properties of this mushroom come from its use in traditional herbal medicine. Here is a short list of the known research findings on Cordyceps:
- Supports Cardiovascular Health – used to combat hypertension, abnormal blood clotting & hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Supports Kidney Function and Detoxification – chronic kidney disease
- Powerfully Strengthens the Immune System – inhibits several types of cancer, enhances NK lymphocytes (natural killer cells), useful for treating the autoimmune disease Lupus
- Strengthens the Body in Numerous Ways – antioxidant, improves athletic performance, lowers high blood sugar, reduces cholesterol, protects the liver, increases energy production, alleviates fatigue, increases stamina
- Regulates the Nervous System – alleviates depression & stress
- Helps Lung Function – reduces asthma symptoms, bronchitis & tuberculosis
- Helps Correct Infertility & Impotence – improves testosterone levels & sperm count, alleviates female menopause symptoms, improves performance
Impressed? I know I am.
Modern herbalists have developed a cultivated form of Cordyceps that can be grown on a culture of rice. It’s not nearly as expensive as the naturally found form, but works just as well.
The only caution for the use of Cordyceps is for those already on prescription anticoagulants. Because it decreases blood clotting time, it can increase the effectiveness of these drugs to dangerous levels.
When taken by itself, the most common dosage ranges from 750 mg to 3,000 mg. Because it can have a stimulating effect, most people take it in the morning and noon rather than later in the day. It can take a month or more to see results, although some people notice changes sooner.
Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008.
Yamaguchi, Y., et al. Inhibitory effects of water extracts from fruiting bodies of cultured Cordyceps sinensis on raised serum lipid peroxide levels and aortic cholesterol deposition in atherosclerotic mice. Phytotherapy Research. 14(8):650-652, 2000.
English, J., et al. Treatment of mild to moderate hypertension with shark cartilage and Cordyceps sinensis. Vitamin Research News. 15(11), 2001.
Cordyceps Monograph. Institute for Natural Products Research.
Jones, K. Mushrooms: Sports supplements of tomorrow. Healthy & Natural Journal. February/March 1996:50-52.