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    Ophiocordyceps sinensis (Cordyceps) (冬虫夏草)
    chongcao1.jpgchongcao2.jpgchongcao3.jpgOphiocordyceps sinensis (Cordyceps) is a fungus that parasitizes larvae of ghost moths and produces a fruiting body valued as an herbal remedy. The fungus germinates in the living larva, kills and mummifies it, and then the stalk-like fruiting body emerges from the corpse. It is known in English colloquially as caterpillar fungus, or by its more prominent foreign names (see below): yartsa gunbu or yatsa gunbu (Tibetan), or Dōng chóng xià cǎo (Chinese: 冬虫夏草; literally "winter worm, summer grass"). The moths in which O. sinensis grows are ambiguously referred to as "ghost moth", which identifies either a single species or the genus Thitarodes, and the species parasitized by O. sinensis may be one of several Thitarodes that live on the Tibetan Plateau (Tibet, Qinghai, West-Sichuan, SW-Gansu & NW Yunnan), and the Himalayas (India, Nepal, Bhutan). O. sinensis is known in the West as a medicinal mushroom, and its use has a long history in Traditional Chinese medicine as well as Traditional Tibetan medicine.The hand-collected fungus-caterpillar combination is valued by herbalists and as a status symbol; it is used as an aphrodisiac and treatment for ailments such as fatigue and cancer, although such use is mainly based on traditional Chinese medicine and anecdote. Recent research however seems to indicate a variety of beneficial effects in animal testing, including increased physical endurance through heightened ATP production in rats.

    Medicinal use of the caterpillar fungus apparently originated in Tibet. So far the oldest known text documenting its use was written in the late fourteen hundreds by the Tibetan doctor Zurkhar Nyamnyi Dorje (Wylie: Zur mkhar mnyam nyid rdo rje)[1439-1475]) in his text: Man ngag bye ba ring bsrel ("Instructions on a Myriad of Medicines"). A translation is available at Winkler. However some Tibetan doctors suspect that its use might date back even further, but under different names. No conclusive research has been published on this hypothesis yet.

    The first mention of Ophiocordyceps sinensis in traditional Chinese Medicine was in Wang Ang’s 1694 compendium of materia medica, Ben Cao Bei Yao. In the 18th Century it was listed in Wu Yiluo's Ben cao cong xin ("New compilation of materia medica").No sources have been published to uphold widespread claims of "thousands of years of use in Chinese medicine" or use of "chong cao since the 7th Century Tang Dynasty in China". The ethno-mycological knowledge on caterpillar fungus among the Nepalese people is documented by Devkota(2006) The entire fungus-caterpillar combination is hand-collected for medicinal use.

    The fungus is a medicinal mushroom which is highly prized by practitioners of Tibetan medicine, Chinese medicine and traditional Folk medicines, in which it is used as an aphrodisiac and as a treatment for a variety of ailments from fatigue to cancer. In Chinese medicine it is regarded as having an excellent balance of yin and yang as it is apparently both animal and vegetable. Assays have found that Ophiocordyceps species produce many pharmacologically active substances. They are now cultivated on an industrial scale for their medicinal value. However, no one has succeeded so far in growing the larva cum mushroom artificially. All artificial products are derived from mycelia grown on grains or in liquids. According to Bensky et al. (2004), laboratory-grown C. sinensis mycelia have similar clinical efficacy and less associated toxicity. He notes a toxicity case of constipation, abdominal distension, and decreased peristalsis, two cases of irregular menstruation, and one case report of amenorrhea following ingestion of tablets or capsules containing C. sinensis. In Chinese medicine C. sinensis is considered sweet and warm, entering the lung and kidney channels; the typical dosage is 3–9 grams.

    Cordycepin, a compound isolated from the "Caterpillar fungus".
    Some work has been published in which Ophiocordyceps sinensis has been used to protect the bone marrow and digestive systems of mice from whole body irradiation.An experiment noted Ophiocordyceps sinensis may protect the liver from damage.An experiment conducted with mice noted the mushroom may have an anti-depressant effect. Researchers have noted that the caterpillar fungus has a hypoglycemic effect and may be beneficial for people with insulin resistance.There is also experimental evidence of the supposed energizing effect of the fungus, as it has been shown to increase endurance through heightened ATP production in rats.


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