Information about Cordyceps is very controversial for the time being: this mushroom is believed (by both traditional herbalists and many Western scientists) to be one of the most potent and health improving herbs in the world; on the other hand, modern science has very little knowledge about it, the majority of facts and results being taken from the studies done by the Chinese scientists.
Cordyceps belongs to the family of numerous mushrooms, which are, actually, parasitic organisms, growing wildly on the caterpillars in the high plateaus of China, Nepal, and Tibet. The fruiting body of Cordyceps looks like grass. That is why it is called Winter Worm – Summer Grass besides Deer Fungus, Caterpillar Fungus, and Aweto.
Among the numerous species Cordyceps sinensis is the most famous due to its curing properties. The Chinese discovered its power many centuries ago, having noticed that sheep, grazed on Cordyceps, were stronger and healthier. Traditional herbalists began using the fungus for curing many diseases in humans. Cordyceps was believed to be a cure-all herb, able to fortify all the body systems, providing anti-aging, immune boosting, and strength increasing effects. This mushroom was especially popular for its ability to improve male sexual function, working as an aphrodisiac. Its influence on the human organism was often compared to that of ginseng.
The Western world got acquainted with Cordyceps not so long time ago, mainly due to the works and research of Dr. Georges Halpern, a physician and professor emeritus with the University of Hong Kong, and the author of several books about this fungus. He and other scientists and herbalists confirm that the mushroom can:
– stimulate the immune system; – cure sexual dysfunction in men; – maximize body oxygen uptake; – build muscles; – improve kidney, liver, and lung functioning; – provide anti-aging effect…
The list of what is stated is not complete.
At the same time, the mechanism of Cordyceps activity in the human body is not known. The fungus effects are connected with its components, which are classified as “host defense potentiators” (HDPs): polysaccharides, ophiocordin (an antibiotic compound), cordypyridones, nucleosides, bioxanthracenes, sterols, alkenoic acids, hemicellulose, triterpeniods, complex starches and exo-polymers. Special emphasis is made on two chemicals, which are believed to be active Cordyceps compounds: cordycepin (deoxyadenosine) and cordycepic acid (mannitol).Many scientists, though, are positive that combinations of the above mentioned ingredients are to produce the health benefits in humans and animals.
Although, wild Cordyceps are said to be the most powerful, they are quite expensive and difficult to buy in many parts of the world. Therefore, the cultivated forms of the fungus, grown on the soybeans, are the most popular and widely spread. Many manufacturers use not Cordyceps sinensis, but its substitutes (C. ophioglossoides, C. capita, and C. militaris) in their commercial preparations.
It is said that Cordyceps is safe to use even for a long period. Still, it is up to the consumers to decide, since many questions about the fungus remain open.