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Cordyceps sinensis is a type of fungus that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. Cordyceps is also known as Chinese catepillar fungus because it is a parasite that grows on the Tibetan caterpillar until the caterpillar dies, at which point it sprouts a mushroom. (Most cordyceps produced commercially in Western countries is actually grown on plant sources, such as soybeans.) The Chinese have long used cordyceps to promote overall good health and modern research indicates that cordyceps does indeed support liver, kidney, heart and immune system function. It also appears to act as an antioxidant in the body, protecting it from free radical damage.
Cordyceps sinensis has a reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac. Recent studies performed in both China and Japan demonstrated a 64 per cent success rate among men suffering from impotence. Scientists have isolated two chemical constituents in cordyceps, (deoxyadenosine) and cordycepic acid (mannitol), which are thought to be the active compounds that increase sex drive. These same compounds are also thought to improve lung function and increase energy levels; it is well known that Chinese athletes use cordyceps to help increase their stamina and endurance. It has been theorised that cordyceps enhances athletic performance because it helps it increases blood flow and oxygen supplies throughout the body, which helps the heart, lungs and other organs function more efficiently. In one study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers reported that athletes who took 4.5 grams of cordyceps daily for six weeks had double the rate of oxygen intake as those in the placebo group.
Cordyceps gathered in the wild, particularly in the Tibetan regions, is thought to be the most medicinally potent. You can buy wild cordyceps in some Chinese specialty shops, still attached to the caterpillar. However, this form is expensive, and costs up to $10 a gram in the USA. In addition, there is some concern that imported wild cordyceps may carry the risk of lead poisoning because some fungus harvesters attach a lead filament to caterpillar-grown cordyceps in order to increase its weight and get a higher price. Dietary supplements containing cordyceps are a safer and less-expensive alternative and are not associated with any significant side-effects. Cordyceps is available in capsule, extract and tincture forms at health food shops and from on-line distributors. The suggested dose is 2 to 3 grams each day with meals.
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