Cordyceps (Dong Chong Xia Cao)
Botanical Name: Cordyceps sinensis, C. militaris, C. ophioglossoides
Cordyceps is most commonly used for kidney disorders, male sexual disorders, and for its anti-aging and stamina-building properties.
Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Cultivated Versus Wild Harvested Cordyceps.
Below is an overview of cordyceps, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of cordyceps.
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Western Name: Cordyceps
Also Known As: Caterpillar Fungus, Caterpillar Mushroom, Yarsha Gumba, Semitake
Organs/Systems: Respiratory, Cardiovascular, Endocrine, Reproductive
Key Actions: Adaptogen, Anti-inflammatory, Anticancer, Tonic, Antioxidant, Anti-aging, Antimicrobial
Medicinal Uses: Stress, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, lupus, diabetes, leaky gut, asthma, insomnia, builds stamina.
Pin Yin: Dong Chong Xia Cao (translates as Chinese Caterpillar Fungus or Winter-worm and Summer-grass)
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Kidney, Lung
Key Actions: Tonifies Yang, Tonifies the Kidneys, Transforms Phlegm, Stops Bleeding, Supports Lung Yin
Medicinal Uses: Cleanses the kidney and liver. Protects the lungs and kidneys. Builds stamina. Treats infertility, erectile dysfunction, chronic fatigue, kidney stones, renal failure, diabetes, colds and flu, bronchitis, arthritis, asthma, low back pain, lupus, Crohn’s disease, proteinuria, weak extremities, consumptive coughs with blood in the sputum.
Basic Habitat / Botany:
Cordyceps is a genus of parasitic fungi (ascomycete or sac fungi) that grow on the larvae of insects, in particular caterpillars. There are more than 400 species of Cordyceps.
When these fungi attack their host they replace its tissue and sprout long, slender stems that grow outside of the host’s body. The remains of the insect and the fungi are hand-collected and dried. They are distributed worldwide, but particularly in Tibet, Thailand, and China where the climate is humid and warm.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Mushroom
Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Warm
Caution: Considered safe.
Key Constituents: Polysaccharides, Nucleosides, Cyclosporine, Cordycepin, Cordycepic acid, Adenosine, d-Mannitol cordycepin, 3-deoxyadenosine, Ergosterol, Bio Anthracenes, Hypoxanthine, Superoxide dismutase, Protease, Dipicolinic acid, Lectin
History/Folklore: Cordyceps stimulates cells and specific chemicals in the immune system, helping to support overall immunity and helping to prevent illness, including cancers. Cordyceps is used by athletes to build stamina and strength. It contains adenosine, a nucleic acid that increases the production of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is at the core of delivering energy to muscles.
The herb has been used for thousands of years to improve energy, appetite, stamina, and libido. Traditional healers in Indian and ancient Chinese and Tibetan cultures have used Cordyceps as a tonic to treat a wide variety of ailments, including diabetes, infertility, and erectile dysfunction.
The constituents d-Mannitol Cordycepin and 3-deoxyadenosine are in part responsible for various physiological functions that help control insulin and blood sugar levels. Animal studies have shown the herb combats high blood sugar levels while simultaneously reducing insulin levels, helping to protect against insulin resistance.
Cordyceps is being studied for its ability to lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels, helping to prevent arteriosclerosis, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. Cordyceps may also reduce high levels of triglycerides–also a cause of heart disease.
Cordyceps has long been used to fight coughs, colds, other respiratory infections, and chronic autoimmune disorders. It is also used to treat asthma, tuberculosis, and chronic bronchitis by helping to protect the lungs.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is considered a Yin and Yang tonifying herb used to protect the kidneys during transplants, as well as to treat renal failure and restore the kidney damage caused by toxicity. It is also used to restore liver function caused by either hepatitis B or C.
It is especially effective at countering those ailments that are associated with inflammation, including arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, cardiovascular issues, and even Alzheimer’s.
Cordyceps sinensis is a root-like structure with dark brown fruiting spores and white tendrils, called mycelium. C. militaris is the cultivated version and is just white or yellow mycelium. The chemical makeup of the natural or wild-harvested and the cultivated variation of Cordyceps is also different. For example, the lab-grown variation, C. militaris, is mostly made up of the constituent cordycepin, while the wild variation is mostly adenosine. It is adenosine that is known to enhance athletic performance. While some levels of beneficial compounds have been amplified in the lab, some bioavailability and efficacy of other compounds have been reduced or changed.
Commercially produced Cordyceps can also be diluted with rice fillers. Many commercial producers of Cordyceps use brown rice flour or other grains to grow the Cordyceps on, and these grains can be ground into the powder that is sold as Cordyceps. While this is not a harmful practice and indeed helps to make Cordyceps affordable for purchase, it can alter the chemical properties associated with wild-harvested Cordyceps. Wild-harvested Cordyceps can cost up to $10,000 USD per pound.
Cordyceps ophioglossoides is better known as Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides or goldenthread cordyceps (Don’t confuse goldenthread cordyceps with Coptis chinensis / Huang Lian, which is a root also called commonly called golden thread and is used to support digestive function.) C. ophioglossoides is a parasitic fruit body (or mushroom) of the truffle-like Elaphomyces. Similar to the other varieties of cordyceps, it helps regulate blood sugar levels, fights inflammation, and boosts athletic performance.
The name Cordyceps comes through Latin from Greek words meaning club and head.
One of the first written records of Cordyceps dates to the Tang dynasty 620 BCE, where it is noted to be a mythical and magical creature that can transform from an animal to a plant throughout different seasons. In the winter it grows as a parasite feeding off the body of insects, particularly caterpillars, and then emerges in the summer as a mushroom.
The mushrooms are harvested in early summer when the fungus has emerged, but before the larval body has disintegrated. Good quality Cordyceps is intact with a short stick-like fungus and a bright yellow, fat, full, and round insect part with a yellowish-white cross-section.
Yin and Yang
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cordyceps is understood to tonify both Yin and Yang. Due to this balance, it can be taken safely over long periods and is commonly used as a tonic herb.
$10,000 Soft Gold
Natural Cordyceps sinensis is harvested by hand and carries a price tag of $10,000 USD per pound, making it the most expensive mushroom in the world. It is sometimes referred to as “soft gold.”
5-12 g per Day
A typical general daily dose of C. militaris is 5 to 10g is used to build strength and boost immunity.
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