The Cordyceps mushroom is gaining a lot of popularity for its purported effects of bolstering physical capabilities.

Cordyceps Mushroom Benefits (source: U.S. News and World Report)

Though a new trend in nutraceuticals, Cordyceps (or Dong Chong Xia Cao in Eastern herbalism) has been known and used in China for centuries.

Dong Chong Xia Cao translates in English to “winter worm summer grass”, a comment on the mushroom’s interesting life cycle. The fungus has a parasitic relationship with the larva of ghost moths (the winter worm), basically turning the larva into a dried husk as it grows out of it (the summer grass.)

The materia medica of Chinese herbalism describes Dong Chong Xia Cao as:

“Having an herbal temperature and flavor that is warm and sweet, augmenting the kidneys, strengthening its yang.”

WESTERN MEDICAL TRANSLATION: In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC), herbs have “temperatures”. This designation doesn’t refer to the physical temperature of the herb, but rather the body’s reaction to ingesting a particular herb. For example, the flush feeling one gets when eating a hot pepper. Additionally, herbs also have “flavors”. But again, by “flavors” Chinese doctors aren’t referring to the taste. They mean its effect on a body’s available energy. The term “sweet” means the herb has a tonifying effect, or adds to the flow of available energy.

POSSIBLE REASON IT WORKS: Western medical studies show that Cordyceps contains adaptogens. The active ingredients in plants and mushrooms, adaptogens can help the human body deal with stress and fatigue by regulating cortisol levels.

The Chinese materia medica goes on to say that Dong Chong Xia Cao:

“Augments the lung and nourishes its yin.”

WESTERN MEDICAL TRANSLATION: Nourishing yin means the herb helps increase the availability of the body’s yin substance. In this case, yin can be thought of in Western medical terms as the set of processes and substances that coordinates the body’s inflammatory and immune factor response, ensuring an optimized response of your immune system.

POSSIBLE REASON IT WORKS: Western medical studies show that Cordyceps has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

What is most interesting about all this focus on Cordyceps as an energy booster, from the point of view of a classical Chinese herbalist, is that Dong Chong Xia Cao is not the “go to” compound in Chinese medicine for this purpose. In fact, the reputation of Cordyceps as an energy booster is not as strong as other options in the materia medica.

This brings us back around to a notion mentioned in our article about nutraceuticals and Chinese medicine. Nutraceutical use is tantamount to herbalism. With thousands of herbs available, its hard to know what to use. Often people are taking herbs that, from a Chinese medical perspective, aren’t the best ones for the problem.

Our custom medicinal tea service was designed with that in mind. With our expertise in Chinese medicine and herbs, backed up by our understanding of modern Western medicine and physiology, we can create a custom medicinal supplement that is exactly what’s needed for a particular health issue.

To learn more about how Cordyceps, or any of the other 400+ herbs that make up the materia medica of Chinese herbalism could benefit you, contact us today.

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Dr. Dan Perez is both a Western-trained physician and a graduate of the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. Based in Austin, Texas, AOMA is recognized as one of the leading schools in Chinese Medicine. Being both an expert in Western medicine and Chinese medicine, Dr. Perez offers his patients natural, minimally invasive and integrative medical options for treating a variety of chronic medical conditions. If you would like to know more about how Dr. Perez can help with your health and well being, contact him today. You can contact Dr. Perez at his office, located just off of Bee Cave Road in northwest Austin (near Lakeway), for more information or to book an appointment.