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What are Cordyceps?

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More than 1500 years ago in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet, the lush meadows close to the snow line were covered with many flowering plants and grasses. The local herdsmen who liked this area for herding, gradually noticed that when their cattle and sheep chewed a particular grass, they became very strong.  Even old yaks showed signs of being younger, and had increased natural physical strength. Little did they suspect that this grass actually was a parasitic fungus, which invades the body and eats the soft tissue. The "grass" part is the fruiting body of this mushroom. It is called Cordyceps Sinensis.

Was it possible that small grass contained some mysterious ingredient? Some traditional Chinese doctors started to gather them as medication for their patients. To their surprise, the grasses did wonders for several diseases for which they did not previously have any cure. And so the medicinal powers of Cordyceps sinensis were discovered. Its mysterious health effects were passed from one generation to another.

More than 1000 years later, the emperor's court physicians studied the Cordyceps formula, and using their own experience and wisdom, improved on its usage. Cordyceps became a respected TMC (Traditional Chinese Medicine) drug, but was available only for the Imperial Palace. The common people had no authorization to use Cordyceps. The Chinese named it Dong Chong Yia Cao, or "winterworm, summer grass".

In recent years it has become possible to grow Cordyceps on a pure brown rice medium, and to obtain the mycelia (thin threads that make up the body of a fungus).  These mycelia contain the complex chemical compounds that harbor the medicinal effect of this remarkable mushroom.

Cordyceps is a powerful tonic, which gives the body, increased vitality and energy, enhances blood flow and lowers cholesterol.  Cordyceps improves the cellular energy production facilitating the utilization of oxygen in the body; and increasing blood circulation, which makes oxygen and nutrients more rapidly available to all parts of the body. 

Many clinical studies have been conducted with this medicinal mushroom product. In a study in which nine hospitals participated with a total of 273 patients, a two months daily treatment with three grams of Cordyceps lowered total cholesterol by 17%. Beneficial cholesterol (HDL) was elevated by 27%, while triglycerides concentration was lowered by 9% on average.



By Dr Ronald Breteler
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