It’s not everyday you walk into a local food market and find a package of cordyceps on the counter for sale. The last time I saw any cordyceps was at 5,000 metres in the Himalayas of northwest Nepal. I had heard it was for sale in Canada at the rare pharmacy that sold it. Now you can find it at Buddha-Full Market on West 2nd Avenue in Lower Lonsdale.
Cordyceps sinensis has been described as a medicine in old Chinese medical books and Tibetan medicine. It is a rare combination of a caterpillar and a fungus found only at altitudes above 4,500 metres. It is said to be the only animal/plant combination in existence. On a 700-kilometre trek in the Upper Dolpo region I found local school kids and villagers searching for it. Evidently it is very rare and the areas where it is found may be shrinking due to global warming. I saw children and adults on their hands and knees searching for the almost invisible creature in very high pastures. They referred to it as a “magic worm.”
Traditional healers and local people in certain areas of the Himalayas have used the mushroom, known in Tibetan as yarsagumba, for centuries to treat up to 21 different ailments including cancer, bronchial asthma, bronchitis, TB, diabetes, cough and cold, erectile dysfunction, BHP, jaundice, and hepatitis.
Mushrooms of all types have been used as food, medicine, poison, and in spiritual mushroom practices in religious rituals across the world since at least 5,000 B.C. Traditional healers recommend the cordyceps fungus/mushroom as a tonic, and claim that it improves energy, appetite, stamina, libido, endurance, and sleeping patterns. It also has the reputation of increasing longevity.
Cordyceps is now being used in human trials in North America in the dosage range of 1,000-3,000 mg daily, either in one single dose or multiple doses with meals. There is no indication if this is the optimal dose or not, and it is uncertain if this dosage is even effective as research has not verified its potency. No robust scientific studies have been conducted to understand the full effect on the human body and most information on side effects has come from user reports.
According to medical reports, cordyceps has been observed to affect the immune system so it’s not recommended for those using prescription drugs that target the immune system. Additionally, cordyceps may impact blood glucose levels and should be used with caution by those who suffer from diabetes or low blood sugar. A doctor’s prescription is not required but a visit with a physician is recommended.
By Michael McCarthy