The Cordyceps is in the family of ascomycetefungior sac fungi which encompasses approximately 400 known species of fungi. This number is, however, not exhaustive. The name ‘Cordyceps’ is Latin-the first part, Cord, means ‘club’ and the second part, ceps, means ‘head’.
The Cordycep fungus derives its nutrients by attacking insects and arthropods; hence it is said to be entomopathogenic..For instance, it attacks a caterpillar and then stays put knowing quite well that the caterpillar will not survive the onslaught. When the caterpillar ultimately dies, another fungus begins to sprout on the caterpillar’s body as the Cordycep mushroom. That awkward situation was however ignored by the Chinese, just as the rest of the world has, when they discovered the medicinal benefits that the Cordycep mushroom boasts.
After discovery by the Chinese, the Tibetans and the Nepalese quickly followed suit and began to use the Caterpillar mushroom for medication. These ones, though, went a step further and decided to eek a living out of the ‘ruthless’ mushroom. And today, the Cordycep mushroom is still a cash crop in Tibet. It is also reported that when the Nepalese Civil war broke out, different factions fought hard trying to dominate and control the Cordycep Mushroom trade. Since then other nations have gained interest in the mushroom too, and significantly the East Asian countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Korea. In these countries, the cordyceps grow prolifically in tropical forests and in areas of humid temperatures.
In 1993, the Cordycep mushroom caused a stir when Wang Junxia, QuYunxia, and Zhang Linli, three female athletes from China, won the 1,500, 3,000 and 10,000 meters, and set 5 new world records at the National Games held in Beijing, China. The ladies passed the doping test and disproved many people who had been so stunned that they believed the Chinese were on anabolic steroids. Thereafter their coach, Ma Junren, made it public that he had recommended Cordyceps to his athletes. Of course, the mushroom, being just a foodstuff, could not fall under the IAAF rules.
Medicinal Properties of the Cordyceps
The Cordyceps are said to control hypoglycaemic activity. They are able to control the blood sugar levels ensuring it does not fall below medically acceptable levels. They also catalyse the anti-depressant workings of the body.
As for particular diseases, Cordyceps is said to be able to heal Hepatitis B since they are strong antibacterial fungi. They are also credited with having antiviral powers, killing pneumococcal viruses in addition to the hepatitis B virus. They also attack the golden staph and herpes viruses. The medicinal power of Cordyceps also inhibits the vitality of leukocytes.
The Cordyceps are said to detoxify the body and a detoxified body is the last place disease causing organisms want to dwell. The mushroom consequently ensures proper circulation of blood within the body, where all tissues are properly fed.
A lot of research is being done on the Caterpillar mushroom and many people agree that the mushroom has great potential in providing new drugs to treat the tough diseases like cancer. As it were, oncologists all over the world continue to recommend the use of the Cordyceps as complementary treatment to conventional ones. In various instances, Cordyceps was able to inhibit the growth of an existing tumour or clear it completely.
For patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, they gave their bodies a fresh boost of energy when they consumed Cordyceps in the course of treatment.
Kidney disorders have also been rectified to a significant degree by the use of Cordyceps. Where abnormal blood pressure was the issue, research showed that the patient took Condyceps and the blood pressure fell by 15%. This consequently reduced the protein levels burdening the kidney. Further observation in the same research was that superoxide dismutase increased while lipoperoxyde serum reduced. This neutralised the free radicals and reduced the risk of damaging the kidney.
On one occasion, 57 renal patients were put on clinical observation. Their renal problem had been triggered by the use of gentamicin, an antibiotic. A section of the patients took 4 to 5 millilitres of Cordyceps each day. Another section of the patients was put on conventional medication. While the group on conventional treatment recovered 45% of their kidney working capacity, the group on Cordyceps had their kidney recovery go up to 89%. The recovery periods for the two groups were just as varied, the one on Cordyceps being comparatively shorter.
The Cordycep mushroom apparently has many medicinal benefits that some other mushrooms may not have. They are said to have 77 micro and macro substances, 80 varied enzymes, invaluable amino acids, vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fats, all of which give the mushroom the rich medicinal value that it has.
Together with the benefits already described, the mushroom helps patients who have insulin problems, helps reduce anxiety by soothing the nervous system and helps fight respiratory problems like bronchitis. Cordyceps boosts the overall wellbeing of the body.