Adams Herbs



(Cordyceps sinensis)

Energy and vitality, quickly and efficiently

OTHER NAMES: Caterpillar Fungus, “Summer Plant, Winter Worm”

PARTS USED: Mycelium and fruiting body.

USED IN: LEAPING*(soaring), JOY!, Roots Run Deep

NOTES: In 1993, the Chinese women’s track team shocked the world when its runners set 5 new world records at the Olympic games in Beijing. The team tested clean for steroids, but the coach later disclosed that he had given his athletes at least one (entirely legal) performance-enhancing substance: the mushroom, Cordyceps.

Cordyceps is a rare, high-altitude Tibetan fungus, and one of the most bizarre entries in the Materia Medica. In the wild, spores of the Cordyceps mushroom land on and infect insects, often caterpillar larvae. A spore will grow and parasitize its host, killing it and eventually transforming the host tissue into fungal tissue. Then the fruiting body sprouts out the head like antlers.

Hence the name “Summer Plant, Winter Worm.”

Cordyceps is extremely rare in the wild, and it’s only in the last few decades that people have figured out how to cultivate it. Today, we can leave the insects out of the equation, and grow Cordyceps on a medium of sawdust, rice bran, soybeans, etc. It’s gotten a lot cheaper, too, although it’s still up there as herbal medicine goes.

Cordyceps is first and foremost an energizer and invigorater. Within 30 minutes on an empty stomach, Cordyceps begins to work on the lungs, increasing oxygen uptake. With a surplus of oxygen, energy-intensive metabolic processes simply run more efficiently. There’s no caffeine jolt, no caffeine buzzzzzzzzzz – just pure calm energy. You don’t feel different, you just feel… awake? Alive? It’s hard to put into words. Competitive athletes who take it say they don’t feel any different; it just takes longer to hit “the wall.”

This is of real value when you’re pushing yourself aerobically, but it’s also pretty amazing when you’re burning the midnight lamp. Think about it: we yawn when we’re tired – we’re trying to oxygenate.

Me, I did my pre-med full-time nights while working full-time days at my mom’s health food store. I’d get up for work at 6 in the morning, and then need to be awake and alert through classes that lasted until maybe 10 in the evening. Cordyceps was an absolute lifesaver. It gave me the energy I needed, but still let me get to sleep afterwards. And it didn’t leave me drained the next day like coffee can. (Please note: I am not dissing the java. I love the java).

The research on Cordyceps is interesting. It mostly has to do with older folks with a medical “need” for energy and vitality. It’s also been shown to increase libido and sexual function in older folks, but I, for one, do not consider Cordyceps “sexual” at all. I just think that, the older we get, the more that energy makes everything run better.

There’s also evidence that Cordyceps can mitigate bone marrow suppression during chemo and radiation. To be honest, most of the research on Cordyceps is coming out of China, where single herbs are almost never looked at. Cordyceps-based formulas, however, have been shown to be beneficial in a variety of disease states.

(For asthma, Cordyceps combines well with a bronchial antispasmodic like Butterbur. For “deeper,” more chronic lung weakness, equal parts Cordyceps and Reishi mushroom work nicely).

Everything I’ve just said describes the modern, cultivated Cordyceps; not the thousand-dollars-a-pound wild stuff. And yet there are still connoisseurs who insist that the wild stuff is better.

I don’t have any personal experience with wild Cordyceps. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it were better. No matter how much the parasitic fungus transforms its original host, there are still going to be insect compounds left in the wild fungus. In Traditional Chinese medicine, insects are often profoundly strengthening… Once again, I don’t have any experience here.

SAFETY: Cordyceps is absolutely safe.

DOSING: I use Cordyceps differently than most herbalists. While most will use 20-40 drops of the standard low-alcohol tincture twice a day, I save it for when I really need it, then I dose it high – two droppersful, maybe three. As something that works within an hour of using it, you’ll find dosing that works for you.



© 2009 Adam Herbs. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Use common sense. Don't jump into a full therapeutic dose of anything the first day. Trust your experience more than someone's learned opinion. If you're dealing with something scary or serious, work with a professional. If the professional appears incompetent, find a better one.