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Cordyceps

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The 1993 Olympics put Cordyceps into the mainstream media. After winning three gold medals and breaking five world records for women’s running, the Chinese Olympic team was tested for steroid use. Turns out they weren’t using steroids, but their coach, Ma Junren, later admitted to supplying the entire team with Cordyceps mushrooms. Yeah, these mushrooms rock!

stress.jpgThis unusual fungus which grows on caterpillar larvae (and other insects) has been appreciated in China for centuries for supporting sexual function as well as the enhancement of sexual performance. Traditionally touted for its effectiveness as an aphrodisiac, Cordyceps is highly sought after in the west as a sexual tonic. Word on the street is that it works like herbal Viagra, improving libido in both women and men.

In a double-blind placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21 women who were experiencing sexual frustration were given Cordyceps supplementation with 90% reporting improvements in libido and sexual health compared with none in the control group (1)! In the lab, Cordyceps stimulated testosterone production in mice, yet it is not yet known whether it exerts similar effects in humans. (2)

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As well as improving sexual function, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cordyceps is touted as a time-honored effective herb for improving circulation, the respiratory system, the immune system (3) and kidney function (4,5,6). Because of its ability to improve energy, stamina, appetite, endurance and sleeping patterns, Cordyceps has also been classified as a general health tonic.

This medicinal mushroom may be a support for people who feel achy or depressed from overwork, pollution or bad dietary habits. It may also be beneficial for fighting cancer and may shrink tumor size, (7, 8,9) particularly with lung or skin cancer (10).

Since Cordyceps is a potent antioxidant, it assists the body in ridding itself of free radical activity that can lead to early aging and degenerative illnesses. In one study, Cordyceps was given to 20 healthy patients, age 50-75 years old, and the pilot study suggested that Cordyceps improves exercise performance. (11)

Though more studies are warranted, one study showed that Cordyceps has the ability to ameliorate harmful effects of chemotherapy on bone marrow function (12) How exciting is it that Cordyceps might help with the treatment of cancer? Even more exciting are many studies highlighting Cordyceps’ possible anti-diabetic effects (13, 16)

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Possible Medicinal Benefits of Cordyceps:

  • anti-bacterial
  • anti-oxidant
  • anti-tumor
  • anti-viral
  • blood pressure
  • blood sugar moderator
  • cardio-vascular
  • cholesterol reducer
  • immune enhance
  • kidney tonic
  • liver tonic
  • lungs/respiratory
  • nerve tonic
  • sexual tonic
  • stress reducer

Virus-to-cancer connection is where medicinal mushrooms offer unique opportunities for medical research. – Paul Stamets

This medicinal mushroom is contra-indicated for those taking blood-thinning medications, insulin or other blood-glucose lowering medications, anti-coagulants or anti-platelets or you have a myelogenous type cancer such as AML or CML*. (*Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website)

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