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26/04/2009

Medical mushroom

The Cordyceps Sinensis Medicinal Mushroom

A True Superfood

Since the dawn of shamanic healing over 50,000 years ago, mankind
has searched for healing ingredients to concoct the ultimate
panacea—a cure-all. One of the most sought-after ingredients was
Cordyceps, a substance so revered that it was exclusively reserved for use by
royalty in ancient China. Chemical analyses have shown that its allegedly
remarkable properties are much more than superstition or mere folklore.
Cordyceps sinensis is a new generation of mushroom being used by the
pharmaceutical industry and also as a dietary supplement amongst more
informed consumers seeking alternatives to the more conventional
treatments for cancer and AIDS as well as a wide range of other health and
immune system issues.

Cordyceps is considered a "food" by the US Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) and is classified as "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS). A growing
number of researchers now consider it to be a "superfood" that can be
included in almost every diet. So why are these rediscovered mushrooms
now regarded as superfoods?

What makes Cordyceps important for use with cancer is that it contains beta-glucans and polysaccharides. As the sugars break down, the numerous oxygen
molecules are released on a cellular level, the result being that cancerous materials present are immediately destroyed. Cordycepin, one of the target
compounds (nucleosides), inhibits the DNA repair mechanism and is probably responsible for its antiviral (HIV) effects.

Full-spectrum Chemistries There is a lot of confusion today in the field of
pharmaceutical mushrooms as to what form of mushroom product is
the best for use. There are various components of the mushroom which
have been used as separated compounds. Is it the fruit-body, the
mycelium or an extract standardised from some particular compound
which is responsible for the mushroom's properties? This question is not as straightforward as it seems.

Fruit body. This is the mushroom that you see above the ground. It is the spore- producing portion involved with reproduction. Basically, the fruit body is
equivalent to the flower of a plant. Fruit bodies only form in response to some stress from the environment. Mycelium. This is the growth form of the organism under the ground where all of the life processes occur: growth, feeding, competing for survival and some forms of reproduction.

Broth. In cultivated mushroom products, the mycelium can be grown either by fermentation, in a tank full of liquid "broth", or on a solid substrate of some material that is found in the natural growth condition. For the production of many mushroom-derived drugs and health supplements, the compounds are extracted
not from the mycelium but from the broth in which the mycelium is grown.
As an example, there are a number of pharmaceutical drugs produced from the Shiitake mushroom: lentinan from the fruit body; LEM from the mycelium; and KS-2 from the residual culture broth, an extracellular compound. To extract lentinan from Shiitake mushrooms is a pretty straightforward chemical process. But what
about another compound present in Shiitake, called eritadenine?

This compound is useful in the treatment of high cholesterol levels, while lentinan is used for the treatment of cancer. If you extract Shiitake compounds using hot water and then use alcohol to precipitate out the polysaccharide fraction, the lentinan is concentrated and the resultant product is effective for cancer treatment or immune system stimulation. However, with this process you lose the eritadenine, and the extract has no effect on blood cholesterol.

Consequently, even though a raw Shiitake product shows great effectiveness in treating high cholesterol, the "standardised extract" available today is useless for this purpose. So, what is the more valuable product: the raw, full-spectrum
Shiitake or the standardised extract? The answer is neither, or both. It really depends on what you are hoping to achieve with the supplement.

For general health-supplement usage, the best product is the one that has the greatest effectiveness over a broad range of conditions. In this example, it makes much more sense to use a full spectrum of products—the fruit body, mycelium and broth. German precision created the concept of standardised extracts. But now we are beginning to realise that mixed chemistries play a more important role in
the effectiveness of how unrelated chemistries might produce specific results. It is a complex form that is still not completely understood but produces clinical results not available with standardised extracts.

Most pharmaceutical mushrooms are utilised as extracts for their most potent and most successful products and formulas. But these are very specific and targeted extracts, made for the particular purpose of concentrating specific compounds. Additionally, it is because these chemical compounds are produced as extracts that the pharmaceutical medicine industry is allowed to hold patent rights to them. Natural foods cannot be patented.

There are two general categories of bio-active
compounds found in pharmaceutical mushrooms:
1. The polysaccharides, which comprise most of the
medicinal compounds, are soluble in hot water and
not in alcohol. The immuno-stimulant type of action
so well known in mushrooms is from this class of
compounds. If you are looking for immuno-modulation action, then don't use alcohol extracts as
they will not be effective.
2. The nucleosides, another class of compounds, are
soluble in non-polar solvents like alcohol and hexane.
These compounds are usually smaller in molecular size
and are more specific in their bio-activity compared
with polysaccharides. Nucleosides, deoxynucleosides
and most of our antibiotics and antimicrobials fall into
this category.
Health Benefits and Clinical Studies
The medicinal properties of Cordyceps are remarkable.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the main use
of Cordyceps has been in the treatment of asthma and
other bronchial conditions. Modern research now
confirms the efficacy of these
ancient uses.
Much of what is known in the
western world about Cordyceps
sinensis is due to the work of Dr
Georges Halpern, a physician
and professor emeritus with
the University of Hong Kong
and the author of several
books about Cordyceps.
One of the highlights of
modern research has been the
discovery of new antibiotics in
this mushroom. One of these,
cordycepin, is very effective against all sorts of bacteria
that have developed, or are developing, resistance to
other, more common antibiotics (such as penicillin, a
fungus product!).
Cordyceps is especially effective against tuberculosis,
leprosy and human leukaemia, as shown in many trials
in China, Japan and elsewhere.
Some additional health benefits of Cordyceps are
outlined below.
• Enhances physical stamina
The best-known medicinal action of Cordyceps is in
the increase of physical stamina. In 1993, the Chinese
National Games brought this mushroom to the
attention of the world's sporting authorities. A group
of nine women athletes who had been taking Cordyceps
shattered nine world records.
There have been many reports of amazing
improvements in performance in various sports due to
the intake of Cordyceps.
There has even been talk of banning Cordyceps from
sporting events because it may give an unfair
advantage to those who can get it!
Most professional athletes who use it now are
unwilling to admit that they do, due to the possibility
that some sporting authority will outlaw its use. In the
other direction, the Canadian Olympic Committee has
taken an official stand on Cordyceps, ruling that it is
allowed in professional competition.

These medicinal mushrooms are extremely high in both beta-glucans,
which have been shown to be useful in cancer therapies, and
polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are long sugar chains with many oxygen
sections within them. As these sugars are broken down by the body, the
oxygen molecules are released and absorbed on a cellular level. We know
that all forms of cancer cannot exist in an oxygen-rich environment and
that without proper oxygen levels the body is left to fall into degenerative
states that encourage cancer, heart disease, immune disorders and
diabetes, and also allow many viral diseases such as hepatitis C, Lyme's
disease and many others to flourish.

The key is how to deliver oxygen to the body on a cellular level. This host
of pharmaceutical mushrooms includes such well-known products as
Reishi, Maitake and Agaricus which are rich in beta-glucans, known sources
for oxygen. This list continues to grow, with clinical studies now including
more than 70 different mushroom species. The most interesting one to
emerge is Cordyceps sinensis, which grows at about 16,000 feet (4,877 metres)
in Tibet.

Cordyceps sinensis increases ATP (adenosine triphosphate) levels in the
body by almost 28 per cent. ATP is the body's energy supply source—the
body's battery, so to speak—and is required for all enzyme processes. It is
also now believed that ATP is where cold-fusion ("Brown's gas") processes
occur in the body on a molecular level. Although the concept of
molecular-level cold fusion is not the subject of this article, I believe this is
the root of biological energy exchanges, which will be explored in future
writings. The impact on the energy state alone would make this mushroom
a true superfood, but there is much more to be shared.

Clinical research has shown that Cordyceps use
increased cellular bio-energy—ATP (adenosine
triphosphate)—by as much as 55 per cent. Increased
synthesis of ATP and faster energy recovery have been
reported. It would seem that Cordyceps improves the
internal balance mechanism, thus making the
utilisation of oxygen more efficient. These properties
may account for the overall physical enhancement, the
extra endurance and the anti-fatigue effects that are
seen in humans using Cordyceps.
• Improves respiratory function
Several scientific studies have demonstrated the
benefits of Cordyceps sinensis in alleviating the symptoms
of various respiratory illnesses including chronic
bronchitis and asthma.
• Increases oxygen
absorption
In a double-blind, placebocontrolled
study with 30 elderly
volunteers, Cordyceps was
shown to improve significantly
the maximum amount of
oxygen these people were able
to assimilate.
Chinese studies of
cardiovascular illnesses have
shown that ethanol extracts of
Cordyceps mycelia and Cordyceps
fermentation solutions caused
a change in the biological action that allowed for an
increase in cellular oxygen absorption by up to 40 per
cent. In addition, studies have shown the effect of
these compounds in relieving chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease.
• Improves heart function
Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits
of Cordyceps sinensis in treating heart rhythm
disturbances such as cardiac arrhythmia and chronic
heart failure.
• Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels
Four studies have demonstrated that Cordyceps sinensis
helped to lower total cholesterol by 10–21 per cent and
triglycerides (neutral fats) by 9–26 per cent, and at the
same time helped to increase HDL ("good") cholesterol
by 27–30 per cent.
• Improves liver functions
Cordyceps sinensis has been shown to improve liver
functions as well as help with cirrhosis, sub-chronic
and chronic hepatitis and related liver diseases which
are more prevalent than most people think..
The liver is the living filter of the body, cleaning the
blood and all other fluids of impurities. There is no
way for you to survive, much less feel healthy, without
a functioning liver.
Clinical trials with Cordyceps supplement involving 33
patients with hepatitis B and eight patients with
cirrhosis of the liver showed a 71.9 per cent
improvement on the thymol turbidity test and a 78.6
per cent improvement on the SGPT test. These are
enzyme tests showing changes in liver functions.
• Improves kidney disease
A Chinese study has shown a 51 per cent
improvement in chronic kidney disease after only one
month of dietary
supplementation with
Cordyceps.
• Reduces tumour size
Several clinical studies with
cancer patients have been
conducted in China and Japan,
using a therapeutic dose of 6.0
grams of Cordyceps per day.
In one study with 50 lung
cancer patients who were
administered Cordyceps in
conjunction with
chemotherapy, tumours
reduced in size in 46 per cent
of patients. A study involving cancer patients with
various types of tumours found that Cordyceps sinensis
extract (6.0 grams/day for over two months) improved
subjective symptoms in the majority of patients.
White blood cell counts were maintained and tumour
size was significantly reduced in about half of the
patients.
Researchers in Japan reported that Cordyceps
enhances the general reactivity of the immune system
in individuals with cancer. To discover this, they
subcutaneously injected mice with cancerous
(lymphoma) cells and then orally administered
Cordyceps. This led to a reduction of tumour size and
prolonged life. Cordyceps also improved the antibody
responses in these studies.
• Enhances immunity and T-cell production
Cordyceps has been found to enhance "natural killer"
(NK) cell activity, thus increasing T-cell production
which results in expanded muscle mass. Muscle power
is improved with the building of young, healthy cells.
Cordyceps effectively recharges the protective army of
NK cells. The body's ability to fight infections and
tumours depends on the availability of NK cells. These
are essential as the first line of defence for maintenance of the body's protection mechanism,
commonly known as the immune system.
Several scientific studies of Cordyceps have especially
focused on NK cells and Cordyceps' effect on them as
they relate to cancer formation. One in vitro study
demonstrated that Cordyceps significantly enhances NK
cell activity in normal individuals as well as leukaemiastricken
people.
In a Chinese study, published in the Chinese Journal of
Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, natural
Cordyceps enhanced the NK cell activity of normal
patients by 74 per cent and increased the NK activity of
leukaemia patients by 400 per cent. Similar
improvements of NK cell activities were found in large
melanoma tumours.
• Assists symptoms of ageing
Clinical research in controlled studies has revealed
that elderly patients suffering from fatigue and senilityrelated
symptoms reported
relief in these areas after using
Cordyceps for 30 days. Their
fatigue was reduced by 92 per
cent, their feeling of cold by 89
per cent and their dizziness by
83 per cent. Patients with
respiratory/breathing problems
felt physically stronger and
some individuals were able to
jog up to 600 feet (183 metres).
• Protects against freeradical
damage
Several studies have shown
that Cordyceps sinensis gave
protection against the damage caused by free radicals
and had powerful anti-oxidant properties.
• Helps discomfort from tired legs
Various studies have shown that Cordyceps sinensis
improved the flow of blood in the body by relaxing the
smooth muscles of the blood vessels and allowing
them to expand, and also enhanced the functioning of
the heart and lungs.
Cordyceps therefore prevents or reduces the
contraction of blood vessels which interferes with
blood flow in the legs—the main cause of tired legs.
• Improves sexual function
Three separate Chinese double-blind, placebocontrolled
studies with over 200 men with "reduced
libido and other sexual problems" showed remarkably
similar results. On average, 64 per cent of the
Cordyceps-users reported significant improvement at the
conclusion of the experimental period compared with
24 per cent of the placebo group.
In another double-blind, placebo-controlled study
conducted with 21 elderly women with similar
complaints, 90 per cent reported improvements of
their condition following the use of Cordyceps,
compared with none in the control group.

Cordyceps has been shown to improve libido and
quality of life in men and women, fight infertility and
increase sperm count and survival. Clinical studies
involving 189 male and female patients with decreased
libido and desire showed improvement of symptoms in
66 per cent of cases. A
double-blind study conducted by the Institute of
Materia Medica in Beijing showed an 86 per cent
improvement in female libido and desire. The most
dramatic physical proof came from a fertility study
involving 22 males which showed that, after eight
weeks of taking a Cordyceps supplement, their sperm
count increased by 33 per cent, their incidence of
sperm malformations decreased by
29 per cent and their sperm survival
rate increased by 79 per cent.
• Reverses HIV
In a study in 2004 in Ghana, 3,000
early-stage HIV patients were given a
formula with Cordyceps sinensis as a
primary ingredient. Beyond anyone's
wildest dreams, at the end of six
months all 3,000 patients showed "no
presence in their blood of HIV".
When an HIV–AIDS patient took the
Immune-Assist drug for cancer, their
clinical picture improved
dramatically in regard to the HIV
infection.
Immune Function, Anti-cancer
Response and DNA Repair
It has long been understood
that the beta-glucan compounds
found in many species of
mushroom significantly enhance
immune function. This class of
compounds is the most widely
prescribed class of anticancer
medications in the world. The
pharmaceutical drugs lentinan,
PSK and grifolan are examples of
these compounds.
There is evidence of another mechanism at play in
the Cordyceps anti-tumour response besides the wellknown
immune modulation triggered by the
polysaccharide compounds. It is related to the
structure of at least some of the altered nucleosides
found in Cordyceps, exemplified by the cordycepin
compound (3'-deoxyadenosine).
This is a molecule almost identical to normal
adenosine, with the exception that it is lacking an
oxygen atom on the ribose portion of the molecule at
the 3' position.
The same lack of this 3' oxygen can be seen in other
Cordyceps compounds such as dideoxyadenosine. The
lack of oxygen at this particular position is thought to be important in a very specific way. The structure of
DNA depends on this oxygen to create the bond
between adjacent nucleosides. This bond is between
the 3' and the 5' positions on the ribose portions of the
nucleosides, effectively forming the "ladder structure"
that holds the DNA together.
In the replication of any cell, the first step is the
separation of the DNA molecule down the middle, like
unzipping, between the pairs of complementary
nucleosides.
The next step is the insertion, one at a time, of newcomplement
nucleosides. These form hydrogen bonds
between the complement pairs and phosphate–sugar
bonds between the 3' and 5'
positions at the outside edge of the
molecule, which is the ribose
portion.
The synthesis of the new DNA
molecules proceeds with the
sequential insertion of newcomplement
nucleosides one at a
time into the newly forming DNA
molecule until the original strand of
DNA is replicated twice, each of
these strands being an exact copy of
the original and forming the genetic
code for a new generation of cells.
This synthesis continues to proceed
with the insertion of each new
nucleoside, unless a 3'-
deoxyadenosine (cordycepin)
molecule is pulled in.
When this happens, there is no
oxygen present at that vital
position to form the 3'–5' bond,
and the replication of the new
DNA molecule stops. Once the
DNA synthesis stops, the cell
cannot continue to divide and
no new cell is formed. (In
normal mammalian cells, this
insertion of the de-oxygenated
adenosine is of little importance,
as healthy cells have an inherent DNA repair
mechanism.)
When this sort of error occurs, the altered nucleoside
(the cordycepin) is removed from the string of
nucleosides and a new segment of adenosine is
inserted. However, by their very nature, cancer cells
have lost this DNA repair mechanism. (If they could
correct their DNA errors, they would not be cancer
cells.)
Most bacteria and all viruses (including the human
immunodeficiency virus, HIV) lack this DNA repair
mechanism.
When we look at the rate at which cancer cells
replicate, it is clear how this mechanism could exert a significant anti-tumour response. For example, a
normal healthy breast tissue cell has an average life
span of about 10 days, after which it reproduces and a
new cell is formed. But breast cancer cells multiply
much more quickly than healthy cells, reproducing on
average every 20 minutes. This means that breast
cancer cells replicate about 750 times more quickly
than the surrounding healthy tissue. If the cordycepin
were equally toxic to both types of cells, it would be
killing off the cancer cells 750 times faster than the
healthy cells. But because of that DNA repair
mechanism in the healthy cells, cordycepin appears
not to interfere with the healthy cell
replication, and the tumour-cell kill
rate is actually much higher than the
750:1 ratio.
The same sort of DNA interruption
mechanism is also responsible for the
anti-tumour effects of some other
chemotherapy agents. This same
mechanism of DNA synthesis
inhibition is probably the mechanism
responsible for the antiviral effects
seen with cordycepin.
Conclusion
The best-known medicinal action of
Cordyceps sinensis is the increase of
physical stamina. Cordycepin is
very effective against all sorts of
bacteria that have developed
resistance to other antibiotics.
Cordyceps has been shown to
improve the internal balance
mechanism, thus making the
utilisation of oxygen more
efficient.
Numerous studies have
demonstrated the benefits of
Cordyceps sinensis on heart rhythm
disturbances such as cardiac arrhythmias and chronic
heart failure.
Four excellent studies have demonstrated the
benefits of Cordyceps sinensis in helping to lower total
cholesterol and triglycerides and to increase HDL
("good") cholesterol.
Clinical studies involving male and female patients
with decreased libido have shown significant
improvements in symptoms. The most dramatic
physical proof has come from a male fertility study that
showed that a Cordyceps supplement greatly increased
sperm count, decreased sperm malformations and
improved sperm survival rate after eight weeks of use.
These properties and others may account for the
overall physical enhancement, the added endurance,
the libido-enhancing attributes and the anti-fatigue
effects seen in humans using Cordyceps sinensis.
Worldwide studies have shown that this unassuming
fungus delivers even more potentially life-enhancing
benefits than claimed. This is a superfood which is
just beginning to make itself known in the western
medical literature.
The reduction of this active fungal material to nanoparticle
size also has great promise, and further
research work is being conducted which may lead to
additional patented medicines.
More importantly, the full-spectrum of compounds
present in the fruit body, mycelium and broth of the
natural substance continues to prove once again that
ancient knowledge meets the
modern test of science. ∞
About the Author:
Richard Alan Miller is a physicist,
herbalist as well as an expert in
growing and marketing botanicals.
He set up his own production and
marketing company, Northwest
Botanicals (1212 SW 5th Street,
Grants Pass, Oregon 97526, USA).
He is the author of diverse papers
and books on metaphysics,
parapsychology and alternative
agriculture. His articles (with coauthor
Iona Miller) in NEXUS
include "The Schumann's
Resonances and Human
Psychobiology (10/03),
"HAARP's Threat to the 'Voice of
the Planet'" (10/04) and "From
Helix to Hologram" (10/05). He
was a speaker at the NEXUS
Conference in 2004 in Brisbane
and in 2005 in Amsterdam.
Mr Miller's article in this
edition is an extract from
chapter one of his book Power
Tools for the 21st Century, to be published later this year
by Earthpulse Press (http://www.earthpulse.com). This
is the second book from the series "The Non-Local
Mind in a Holographic Universe". The first book, ESP
Induction Through Forms of Self-Hypnosis, is due for
publication in July 2009.
Richard Alan Miller can be contacted by email at
rick@nwbotanicals.org and via his website
http://www.nwbotanicals.org.
Editor's Note:
Due to space constraints, we are unable to include
endnotes with this article. To view these, and for more
technical information and references, please go to
http://pharmaceuticalmushrooms.nwbotanicals.org/
and then http://www.pharmaceuticalmushrooms.
nwbotanicals.org/lexicon/cordyceps/indepth.htm.

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