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Don't Buy That Bottle of Caterpillar Cordyceps Mushroom Supplement Before Reading This

Tim Boyer's picture
Mushroom Supplement
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The health benefits of a traditional Chinese medicine advertised under the label “Cordyceps Mushroom Supplement,” was recently promoted on television claiming to have the potential to restore lost energy and vigor. While the acclaimed health benefits of medicine made from the Asian Cordyceps fungus are nothing new, what was surprising was the televised advertised price of only $7 for a fair sized bottle of this supplement.

The surprise is that as of last fall, BBC News reports stated that some Himalayan villagers make their living by collecting the fungus along the mountainous regions of Tibet to sell to a Chinese market that can be as high as tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram. In fact, the money to be made is so lucrative that it resulted in multiple homicides as villagers from one region tried to prevent outsiders from cashing in on their limited supply.

The Cordyceps Mushroom supplement comes from an Asian mushroom known as Cordyceps sinesis (C. sinesis), which sprouts from the body of dead caterpillar in the wild. It is also known as the Himalayan Viagra “Yarsagumba,” which translates as “winter worm, summer grass.” Reportedly it can only be found in the mountainous regions above 11,000 feet in Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.

The fungus is the result of spores from C. sinesis entering the body of a live caterpillar while it is in the larval form of a large moth native to the region. Upon infection from the spores, strands of filaments called “hyphae” begin to sprout from the spores that then leads to the death of the caterpillar. The hyphae grow longer and more numerous and develop into a relatively large stalk-like fungal fruiting body that emerges from the insect’s carcass after having sapped the caterpillar’s body of all nutrients.

Cordyceps fungus has been and still is used for medicinal purposes in China. However, it reportedly has been also used as a non-detectable performance enhancing drug for Olympic hopefuls. During the National Games in 1993, track records by Chinese athletes were credited in part to drinking a tea made from the caterpillar fungus.

Today, demand for the fungus is increasing and is used more for its supposed energy-generating properties with sexual health and vigor topping the list as a cure for erectile dysfunction making it an Asian version of Viagra.

As a result of the demand for and the increasing scarcity of the mushroom, the cost of procuring this traditional medicine is beyond the budget of most health conscious consumers. Which begs the question: How can a health food store or online seller of this expensive supplement sell it so cheap?

The answer to that question is that they are not selling what you are led to believe is the “real thing.” Rather, they are selling the mushroom or an “extract” of the mushroom or whatever, without it having been grown under the same environmental and nutritional conditions as the expensive wild-grown Cordyceps fungus. In short—they don’t use the potentially important caterpillar to grow the mushroom supplement they sell.

An online search of a variety of sellers of Cordyceps mushroom supplements reveals that aside from the typical promotional health benefits guaranteed, on closer inspection a typically smaller font states something like, “…contains a strain of cultivated Cordyceps recognized by the Chinese government as most similar to wild Cordyceps sinesis, a rare fungus found in the Tibetan Highlands of China.”

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“Most similar” is how the sellers avoid fraud charges. To be fair, some sellers are less evasive and do plainly state that their Cordyceps Mushroom supplement is not derived from a caterpillar.

It turns out that that the sale of counterfeit Cordyceps mushroom is a problem even among the Chinese. In one study, researchers point out having determined that some supplies are diluted with soy or other ingredients, or in worse cases—not the right mushroom. They determined this just by simply putting ground samples of product under a microscope and identifying fake ingredients.

In addition, it is not clear how or why the Cordyceps mushroom possesses its supposed health benefiting properties. And, whether or not it really requires a specific caterpillar or insect host, or whether it must grow from an insect that feeds upon a particular plant or root also remains unknown.

Because the sustainability of maintaining natural wild Cordyceps mushroom is a growing problem, researchers are trying to learn more about its host/parasite relationship and whether it can be mimicked in the lab using other insect species. Currently, some labs and businesses grow the mushroom successfully on an artificial nutrient media without the insect component—which is most likely what you are buying relatively cheap in a bottle from your health store or online seller.

Just to be clear, this is not to say that research—and there’s a lot of it going on—using Cordyceps mushroom grown without the caterpillar is not good science. The odds are that the far majority is good science and is seeking to answer the aforementioned questions about the Cordyceps fungus and its potential role in treating disease—cancer related research is one example.

The point to all this is that the buyer of this supplement should be aware that if the cost is inexpensive, it is not what he or she were most likely looking for. And even if they do find a source that is fairly expensive, there’s a good chance they are being bamboozled one way or another. There may be some truth to at least some of the claims made about the caterpillar Cordyceps mushroom’s health benefits—it’s been around for centuries—but to find that truth you’ll have to get past the deception first.

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

References:

“Application of microscopy in authentication of valuable Chinese medicine I--Cordyceps sinensis, its counterfeits, and related products” Microscopy Technique and Research 2011 Jan;75(1):54-64; Au D., Wang L., Yang D., Mok DK., and Xu H.

“Host insect species of Ophiocordyceps sinensis: a review” Zookeys. 2011; (127): 43–59. Published online 2011 September 8; Xiao-Liang Wang and Yi-Jian Yao.

Updated November 1, 2014

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Comments

I've tried it and it is excellent. For sure the best one out there.They will even send you their lab reports if you're in doubt.
what company is a safe and reliable one for buying Cordyceps. I live in the U.S.A. I have heard that aloha medicinals is a good company. I s this true or is there a better one out there.
I have used cordyceps from both Vitamin Shoppe and NOW Foods, both of them have worked well. I have taken 6 capsules a day and I have experienced increased energy and vigor in about two days. When I stopped taking them the increased energy went away.
Bottom line, Mushrooms should not be consumed! It's a fungus, like a yeast infection, it has no roots, it's not a plant it's not a vegetable and it's not a fruit, just because you can eat it does not mean you should. I could eat paper, but should I.
Saying that people should eat fungus because of pathologies from pathological species is ignorant. We have good bacteria, good fungi and yeasts that are necessary for life. There are also, bad bacteria, fungi and yeasts that can kill a person.
Has anybody tested Fohow cordycepsis products? I know it's MLM based company, so I have some doubts about it...
Milena, I am also trying to collect information about FOHOW. I know they are MLM, but question about their quality. I have some information and would be happy to share. Drop me email at [email protected] Regards, Igor
Simple. Ask them to send you a certificate of analysis that shows the contamination (heavy metals etc) and the active ingredients (beta-glucans, cordycepin, adenosine, cordycepic acid, maybe even more). Because anybody with a computer can make a certificate make sure it has an address and contact details of both the lab and the supplement company (so you can verify), and it should be dated. It should be issued by a third party laboratory - this is a requirement of the health authorities / customs authorities, so do not believe their story if they claim they don't have it / don't need it. It is mandatory !! My guess - you won't receive it or you'll receive something generic that only shows contamination. Meaning the actual product has no active ingredients but is just powder. I've never seen a MLM company that was selling a decent product. Their goal is to make money, not to help people.
Dear Experts, What is your opinion about Chinese company FOHOW? they are selling Cordyceps products called "Linchzhi Ganoderma" I concern about quality of their product. Thank you! Igor
Hello Helpers! I am asking if any experts here can give an opinion on these 3 products of Cordyceps. I want to buy for my mum who suffer Kidney Renal Failure (creatinine in urine) and low immunity. Thanks Much! 1) Oriveda Cordyceps 2) “Real Mushrooms” Cordyceps Mushroom Extract. You can find it on Amazon. 3) VitaJing Cordyceps Sinensis Mushroom Extract 20:1. Again, on Amazon. I am not sure if one is better than the other. I also look into Chaga Mushroom, but realized that it has too much heavy metals that is bad for kidney/renal patient. Any opinion is appreciated. Thanks!
HALLO,GET WILD CORDYCEPS FROM CHINA.GET DRAGON HERBS WILD CORDYCEPS WHICH IS VERY EXPENSIVE.OTHERWISE,GO YOURSELF TO CHINA AND GET IT YOURSELF.THE OTHER OPTIONS ARE SHILAJIT OR KOREAN RED GINSENG.
Hello Sean, It is simple I think, Oriveda sells Cordyceps sinensis with a clear indication of the active ingredients, which is lacking in the VitaJing product. Despite their 'warm water extracted' claim, I think it is not extracted but just dried powder. Otherwise they would have listed at least ONE active ingredient, logic says... Real Mushroom seems good at first sight but it is not Cordyceps sinensis but Cordyceps militaris, fruiting body extract. Something similar but NOT the same at all.
Thanks Sheb. I see that you have bought Orievada before. It seems like you like it much? FYI, I see that Orievada has a new and slightly different label compared to the old one, with 1 key ingredient missing -- Cordycepin 0.2%. I asked them and they said the new quality test reveal that it is about slightly less than 0.1%, so they no longer post Cordycepin as active ingredient.
Anyone tried Cordysen? It's a cordyceps extract product from New Zealand. The brand is claiming: Cordysen ™ contains a high-quality Cordyceps extract, with the concentration of polysaccharides up to 40%. No Cordyceps extract products exist in the market that provide a higher concentration. In addition, some of the nutritional elements, including the immune-supporting polysaccharides, are located inside the Cordyceps cell walls, which are made from an indigestible fibre called chitin – the same material a lobster shell is made of. When Cordyceps is in powder form, polysaccharides have no way to interact with our immune system. Hot water extraction is the only clinically validated method for breaking these polysaccharides out of the indigestible cell walls. Lastly, if you take a deeper look into the research done on Cordyceps, you will note that most of the studies are based on the use of Cordyceps extract. During the manufacture process, we extract the Cordyceps spore that is grown inside the Cordyceps cells to ensure the effectiveness of Cordysen ™.
Cordysen in not growing in NZ. there are only 6 places for naturally growing Cordyceps. If you want more information including report of different cordyceps industries in China, please email me to [email protected]
Ok, thanks for that. Cordysen appears to be the CS-4 strain, so it's lab cultured and produced in NZ, unless I am missing something. What your referring to is CS-1,2, and 3? I believe. My email is [email protected]
Cordysen has great marketing but little content. Their specifications are no match for Oriveda Cordyceps CS-4. No detailed specifications and they don't want to send you their analysis certificate. Also, their product is rich in starch (do the test with iodine and water-dissolved Cordysen- the solution will turn dark meaning it has over 5% starch) because it's probably grown on grains instead of in liquid. The best Cordyceps is mycelium-based, grown in liquid and fermented/hot water extracted. Starch is also polysaccharide but without benefits. So much for "40% polysacharides" - half of the 40% polysaccharides are probably leftover grain-polysacharide don't be fooled
@sheb, Do you yourself sell oriveda Cordyceps? Thank you
No I am using it as a consumer
HALLO GUYS,I HAVE GIVEN UP ON CORDYCEPS.IF YOU WANT CORDYCEPS GET THE WILD ONES FROM CHINA.LAB GROWN ONES WILL NOT WORK.TRUST ME ON THIS.I AM NOW CONCENTRATING ON KOREAN RED GINSENG.IF ANY ONE KNOWS A GOOD KOREAN RED GINSENG PRODUCT YOU CAN EMAIL [email protected] GINSENG AND CORDYCEPS HAVE SIMILAR PROPERTIES.I PERSONALLY THINK THAT KOREAN RED GINSENG IS STRONGER THAN CORDYCEPS.
Great comments. I have an unique situation whereby I am rather allergic to mushrooms (and mushroom extracts) but would benefit greatly from 3’-Deoxyadenosine (cordycepin) from the Codyceps mushroom. Therefore I need to find an honest manufacturer of synthetic cordycepin, independently analyzed. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
YOU ARE NOT ALLERGIC TO MUSHROOMS.BUY DRAGON HERBS DUANWOOD REISHI OR THEIR WILD CORDYCEPS.LAB GROWN MUSHROOMS CAN CONTAIN HEAVY METALS AND STEROIDS.
HALLO ERIC.YOU ARE NOT ALLERGIC TO MUSHROOMS.THE ALLERGY IS A WAY OF YOUR BODY REACTING BADLY TO LAB GROWN MUSHROOMS OR WILD MUSHROOMS CONTAINING HEAVY METALS.ONE BRAND STANDS OUT AND THAT IS DRAGON HERBS.COM.TRY THEIR DUANWOOD REISHI.IT IS EXCELLENT FOR STRESS AND IMMUNE SYSTEM.THEY ALSO HAVE OTHER MUSHROOMS.HOWEVER,THEIR LAB GROWN CORDYCEPS DOES NOT WORK GREAT,ONLY THEIR WILD CORDYCEPS WHICH IS VERY EXPENSIVE AND VERY LITTLE.
please email me!! IM LOOKING FOR ANY INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO OBTAIN CS-4 CULTURE AND CULTIVATE. PLEASE PLEASE im at a loss of information in my area but wish to grow.thanks so much
Valuable analysis , I loved the facts , Does anyone know where I could possibly locate a template HI OCISS 4140 form to fill out ?
Gbear - you are absolutely right. There is NO WAY to verify the cerficates of analysis, which can easily be faked. Oriveda is produced and sourced from overseas. Who knows what the real analysis is unless you send it to a lab yourself? --GG
It is wise to be cautious about any supplement, but the cultivated version of cordyceps sinensis Cs-4 has been widely studied in double blind clinical trials. These trials focus on young athletes, and older adults 50-75, both active and sedentary. Positive results are shown for VO2max, increase metabolic (10.5%) and ventilatory (8.5%) threshold, and also in the reduction of serum LDL (5.4%) and increase in HDL cholesterol (19.2%). If you are buying from a reputable company it will be safe and effective. I can send you clinical trial data and a quality source if you email me at [email protected]
Hi all. Can someone PLEASE guide me to the best place to buy cordycepts? I'm new to this and don't want to waste my money on fake stuff. HELP!! Thanks much! U can email me at [email protected]
Can anyone confirm whether cordyceps should smell/taste like cocoa? There are a few sellers on Amazon selling a product that has been "lab-tested" and standardized with regards to cordycepin content, but looks and smells as if it is mixed with cocoa powder, which is far cheaper and also has stimulant effects. I know that it is very common to adulterate a mushroom product with rice flour, and call it "myceliated substrate", which is a lie. What does cordyceps actually taste/smell like? Thanks, -N
I have not eaten Cordyceps elsewhere, I do not know what it is. However, I know wild Cordyceps in Tibet ate a little smell, fishy.there is nothing with cocoa powder.

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