Heading: The Stamina Mushroom
In the 1990′s a group of female, Chinese, distance runners broke world records in their events by considerable margins. The apparent ease of their wins attracted a great deal of suspicion in regard to possible illegal drug use, but what emerged was not a steroid or erythropoietin (EPO) tainted athletic performance rather a rediscovery of an ancient Chinese remedy centred around Cordyceps Sinensis. Cordyceps are very rare and unique fungi, also known in China as Dong Chong Xia Cao (“Summer Grass, Winter Worm”), it has been highly regarded and effectively utilised in Traditional Chinese Medicine for well over 2000 years. It grows in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, at an altitude of about 3,500 metres and can only be harvested in relatively small quantities. Its positive effect on increasing stamina was first observed by Tibetan shepherds, when their flock of yaks had consumed the fungi whilst eating the summer grasses and then proceeded to mate more vigorously than previously observed. In the wild it has a symbiotic relationship with a particular variety of caterpillars, which consume it and then become one with it on a cellular level.
What actually are fungi?
Fungi are a division of eukaryotic organisms, which grow in irregular masses, and are without roots, stems, or leaves; they are also devoid of chlorophyll or other pigments capable of producing photosynthesis. Fungi contain ergo sterol instead of cholesterol in their plasma membranes. They reproduce sexually or asexually (spore formation), and may obtain nutrition from other living organisms as parasites or from dead organic matter as saprobes. Fungi have a well-defined cell wall composed of polysaccharides and chitin; they can be moulds, yeasts, or dimorphic.
Cordyceps Sinensis is now being safely grown and processed to be available in capsule form, this process does not involve caterpillars. Its use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) centres on its properties as a liver tonic and it stimulates the system encouraging greater stamina. Cordyceps has powerful active ingredients, which can help restore the normal functioning of the body, stimulate immune response, increases energy, vitality, and longevity. Recent research has shown that Cordyceps can improve peak performances during sports, and also has muscle-building capability. In TCM, Cordyceps has been used to help regulate blood pressure, strengthen the cardiovascular system, and improve sexual energy. Clinical tests performed at the Hunan Medical University have shown that Cordyceps significantly contributed to increased levels of libido in the test subjects. Further clinical studies, primarily with elderly patients with fatigue, showed that Cordyceps-treated patients reported improvements in their wellbeing, ability to tolerate cold temperatures, memory retention and cognitive capacity. According to the biochemical analysis of Cordyceps species it is noted that they contain interesting properties like Cordycepin, which has been used to create the pharmacological drug Ciclosporin – which is helpful in suppressing the body’s immune system during organ transplants. In 1950′s the chemical constituent of Cordyceps were determined by and a crystalline substance was isolated and named Cordyceps acid. This acid was later identified to be D-mannitol and further studies were performed to identify the constituents of the fungus. The chemical substances isolated were; ‘amino acids, steric acid, D-mannitol, mycose, ergo sterol, uracil, adrenine, adenosince, palmitic acid, cholesterol palmitate and 5α-8α-epidioxy-5α-ergosta-6, 22-dien-3β-ol’.
My own personal experience in taking a Cordyceps supplement was that it immediately acted on my liver and stimulated similar sensations to when I was on a liver cleansing program. I did then begin to feel greater levels of stamina in my day to day life and it encouraged me to be more aware of parts of my diet which were not in tune with a liver cleansing program. I would recommend a juice fast and/or a raw vegetable diet for a few days before beginning taking Cordyceps, to maximise its efficacy. It is also recommend, by TCM consultants engaged by the manufacturers, taking the supplement first thing upon awakening and last thing before retiring to sleep – two capsules a day drunk with plenty of warm water for the kidneys. Whether you are feeling run down and needing a potent natural lift or perhaps you actually are preparing for a marathon, Cordyceps could be the answer for you.
Appeared in Conscious Living Magazine.