Today across Asia, caterpillar fungus is commonly used for tiredness and debility, persistent cough, kidney disease, to regulate menstruation, and anemia. And while its many medicinal properties continue to be utilized even after centuries, its use to restore sexual vigor is deemed its most powerful ability, with many Asians touting it as the secret of youth.
The caterpillar fungus, also commonly known as deer fungus, is a member of the truffle family and found around bamboo, oak, and pine trees, in cold and snowy marshlands at altitudes above 10,000 feet.
Caterpillar fungus grows by infecting insect larvae, mature insects, or truffles (another fungi) with spores that germinate, thus preventing further maturation of the larvae. The fruit of this fungus eventually forms at the end of the dead host.
In ancient China, where for centuries this fungus was used exclusively by the Emperor because of its scarcity, it was given the nick-name “summer-plant, winter-worm” because the Chinese have long considered it a vegetable during the summer, but an animal during the winter.
Used primarily for impotence, backache, and as an antidote for opium poisoning, caterpillar fungus was prepared by stuffing the stomach of duck which was then roasted until well done. After removing the fungus (which was not eaten directly), the duck was consumed twice a day for 8--10 days.
Considered similar to ginseng in potency in ancient Chinese herbals, caterpillar fungus was also used to rebuild virility after long illnesses or physical exhaustion. Unlike many fungi common to the East, varieties of caterpillar fungus do grow in North America, especially in eastern United States.
The invading insect
The primary chemical constituents of caterpillar fungus are high levels of coarse proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, and ash. It also contains a variety of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, uracil (found in the nucleic acids of DNA and RNA), uridine (related to uracil), adenine (an essential organic molecule), adenosine (a component of nucleic acid), cordycepic acid (needed for energy), ophiocordin (an antibiotic), and three anti-protein bound polysaccharides known as CO-N, SN-C, and CO-1. A chemical comparison to many edible fungi such as shiitake and reishi show considerable differences in chemical make-up (see related articles listed below).
While studies on this fungus are only preliminary, what is apparent is that caterpillar fungus stimulates the immune system by promoting white blood cell production and repair of damaged T-cells. Additionally, it is said to have powerful sedative effects, the ability to prevent spleen, kidney, and liver deterioration, as well as a variety of in vitro anti-bacterial actions to protect the unborn against streptococcus, staphylococcus, and a number of bacterium--a great benefit to pregnant mothers. But what has made this fungus so highly valued through the ages is its ability to treat aging disorders and its ability to increase sex drive.
For centuries in China, caterpillar fungus has been prescribed for sexual maintenance, especially for support of gonads health. From the Chinese perspective, however, sexual function, lung function, and kidney function are all inter-related. Thus, it comes as no surprise that caterpillar fungus has been shown to have a positive effect in all three areas.
While the effectiveness of aphrodisiacs is still largely a matter of speculation for Western scientists, in 155 case studies performed to understand the relationship between this fungus and reported increases of sex drive, results demonstrated that 64% of patients showed marked improvement in sexual ability when given caterpillar fungus capsules 3 times a day for 40 days, with 46 of those patients able to resume normal sexual relations. Following these results, blood tests showed a discernible increase in hydroxycorticsteroid and ketosteroid levels which while apparently directly correlated to the increase in sexual response, is unclear why.
Today across Asia, caterpillar fungus is available in raw, dried, powdered, cured, extract, and tincture forms, and commonly used for tiredness and debility, persistent cough, impotence, kidney disease, to regulate menstruation, and anemia. In many parts of the East, it is also chosen to build bone marrow, reduce phlegm (as an expectorant), to treat asthma, and for “painful seminal emissions.” And while its many medicinal properties continue to be utilized even after centuries, its use to restore sexual vigor seems to be deemed its most powerful ability, with many Asians touting it as the secret of youth.
Medicinal Mushrooms, by Christopher Hobbs
images via wikipedia.org
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