The Origin of Cordyceps

The Chinese refer to Cordyceps as Dong Chong Xia Cao (冬虫夏草), which translates literally to Dong Chong冬虫 Winter Worm, Xia Chao 夏草Summer Grass. Cordyceps is the dry complex composed of the fruiting body of the fungus Cordyceps and the larva corpses of the insects on which the fungus is parasitic. It is found primarily at high altitudes on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau and the Dolpo mountains of Nepal. The fungus is parasitic, growing on and deriving nutrients from several species of caterpillars primarily that of the moth Hepialus Armoricanus Oberthur, which lives 5-6 inches underground.

In late autumn, chemicals on the skin of the caterpillars interact with the fungal spores and release the fungal mycelium, which then infects the caterpillar. The infected caterpillar will drill underground and pass the long winter there. By early summer of the following year, the mycelium starts to use the young insect as nutrient for rapid production, and grow the fruiting body/stroma from the head of the caterpillar. This stature entity is called "the grass". Cordyceps needs unusual circumstances for growth. It is also very difficult to collect. Current prices at the wholesale level in China are in excess of US$14,000 per kg and going up all the time. Actually the Cordyceps succinct lies in the fruiting body/stroma. The most effective components are synthesized inside the fruiting body.

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