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Cordyceps (dong chong)
What is cordyceps? What is it used
Cordyceps is one of the most unique substances found in herbal
medicine. It's actually a form of fungus which grows naturally
on the backs of caterpillars found only in China, Nepal and
Tibet. Synthetic versions of cordyceps have been manufactured
in the West without the use of caterpillars.
Cordyceps has played a variety of roles in traditional Chinese
medicine, where it has been used for approximately 1,500 years.
Cordyceps fungus has been described as a very effective herb
for treating circulatory, respiratory and immune problems,
as well as sexual dysfunction. It was also classified as a
general health tonic because of its capability to improve
energy, stamina, appetite, endurance, and sleeping patterns.
In tradition Chinese medicine cordyceps is used for the kidney
and lungs meridians.
Exactly how cordyceps works is something of a mystery. Compounds
found in cordyceps are classified as HDPs, or host defense
potentiators. These compounds include: hemicellulose, polysaccharides,
nucleosides, triterpeniods, complex starches and other molecules.
Combinations of these compounds are now believed to stimulate
the human immune system, and may aid in neuron transmission,
metabolism, hormonal balance, and nutrient and oxygen transport.
How much cordyceps should I take?
The exact amount of cordyceps to be taken is not known; however,
most practitioners recommend taking 2-3 grams daily with meals.
It will take approximately one to two months before patients
will see the benefits of cordyceps.
What forms of cordyceps are available?
Many specialty stores and Asian markets sell wild cordyceps
fungus complete with a caterpillar; however, wild cordyceps
is quite expensive. Some natural health food stores sell synthetic
versions of cordyceps as capsules.
What can happen if I take too much
cordyceps? Are there any interactions I should be aware of?
What precautions should I take?
The supplement form of cordyceps appears to be safe; at present,
there are no known side-effects or drug interactions associated
with the fungus. However, some risks of lead poisoning have
been reported in conjunction with wild cordyceps. As always,
make sure to consult with a qualified health care provider
before taking cordyceps or any other herbal remedy or dietary
Other Resources :
More You Know About Minerals
More You Know About Nutrition
- Chang HM, But PPH (eds.) Pharmacology
and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica, vol. 1.
Philadelphia, PA: World Scientific, 1986. pp. 410-413.
- Jones K. Cordyceps: Tonic Food of Ancient
China. Seattle, WA: Sylvan Press, Inc., 1997.
- Kuo YC, Tsai WJ, Shiao MS, et al. Cordyceps
sinensis as an immunomodulatory agent. American Journal
of Chinese Medicine 1996;24:111-125.
- Wu TN, Yang KC, Wang CM, et al. Lead poisoning
caused by contaminated cordyceps, a Chinese herbal medicine:
two case reports. The Science of the Total Environment
- Xiao Y, Huang XZ, Chen G, et al. Increased
aerobic capacity in healthy elderly human adults given a
fermentation product of cordyceps Cs-4. Medicine and
Science in Sports and Exercise 1999;31(Suppl.):S174