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Chinese caterpillar fungus – 1+1 of Company

Chinese caterpillar fungus – 1+1 of Company 

(Scientific Name: Cordyceps sinensis), alternate name of Chinese worm grass, also known as summer grass and winter worm, called worm grass for short, is precious traditional Chinese medicinal material. Cordyceps sinensis fungus of Hypocreales, Clavicipitaceae, Cordyceps is parasitic inside Hepialus larva in the alpine meadow soil, and larva becomes rigid. Under optimum conditions, long rod-shaped stroma grows out from head end of muscardine cadaver in summer, which is Cordyceps sinensis (complex of fruiting body of Cordyceps sinensis fungus and muscardine cadaver sclerotium (larva cadaver)). Cordyceps sinensis is mainly native to the high and cold zone, and snow-capped mountains and marshlands in provinces and autonomous regions like Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, Guizhou, etc.

Real Cordyceps sinensis is wild, which grows in grass slope nearby the snow line shrub zone of snow-capped mountains and marshlands at the altitude of 3,000 meters to 5,000 meters. In summer, worm egg is laid on the ground, and when egg turns into larva after about one month of incubation, larva burrows into damp and soft soil layer. A kind of mould in the soil invades into larva, and grows up inside larva. After winner, when the next spring is coming, mould hyphae begin to grow, and grow out of the ground in summer, which look like grass. Then, body of larva and mould hyphae jointly form complete “Cordyceps sinensis”. Spore takes worm body as nourishment, and grows rapidly. Generally, worm body is about four cm to five cm, and spore can grow to the length of worm body within one day. Then, worm grass is called “primary grass”, with best quality. In the next day, spore grows to about double length of worm body, which is called “second grass”, with secondary quality. Root hair will appear after inactivation, so it is called Cordyceps sinensis. 

Origin of Name

It is worm in winter and it is grass in summer, so Cordyceps sinensis is a treasure. Cordyceps sinensis is called worm grass for short. Fungus parasitic inside Hepialids larva body in winter, and grow in winter, so Cordyceps sinensis gains its name. 

From its appearance, worm body of Cordyceps sinensis is golden yellow, faint yellow or yellowish-brown, which is also known as “gold grass” due to high price. It is regarded as treasure because of high medicinal value and good effect, with great market demand. However, there are rare natural resources, so Cordyceps sinensis is quite expensive.  

Is Cordyceps sinensis worm or grass? Mr. Wang Hongsheng, associate research fellow of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry College of Qinghai University, who is engaged in research on artificial cultivation for years, introduces that, in its forming process, popularly, Hepialus armoricanus of various categories under Vespertilionidae lays eggs in the soil to produce offspring, and egg turns into larva. Around this time, Cordyceps sinensis fungus invades into larva body, absorbs substance inside larva body as nutritional conditions for survival, and continuously multiplies inside larva body so that larva body is full of hyphae. When the weather warms up in May to July of the coming year, yellow or light brown fungus stroma grows our from the head of larva, which is straw-shaped after fungus stroma comes out of the ground. Then, Cordyceps sinensis we see at ordinary times forms. Therefore, even if Cordyceps sinensis has the appearance of worm and grass, it belongs to bacteria-alga biont, which is neither worm nor grass. 

Cordyceps sinensis is mainly distributed in the high-altitude area at the altitude of about 3,500 m to 5,000 m in Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Gansu. According to different places of origin, professionals divide Cordyceps sinensis into Qinghai Grass, Tibet Grass, Sichuan Grass and Yunnan Grass. Sometimes, Cordyceps sinensis from Qinghai and Tibet is called by a joint time of Tibet Cordyceps sinensis. Generally, Cordyceps sinensis from Qinghai and Tibet is better than those from other places in interior quality, which is well received in the market and whose selling price is quite high. 

Cordyceps sinensis, also called worm grass or cordyceps, is the compound of stroma of Cordyceps sinensis fungus parasitic inside Hepialus armoricanus and larva corpse, belonging to Hypocreales, Clavicipitaceae, Cordyceps. Just as its mane implies, Cordyceps sinensis is worm in winter and turns into grass in summer. Why is it so amazing? In fact, Cordyceps sinensis is worm egg laid in the ground by an animal called Hepialus armoricanus, which will grow into larva just like silkworm after incubation. In addition, a kind of spore will permeate into the soil through water to specially seek larva of Hepialus armoricanus to live a parasitic life, and absorbs nutrition of larva to rapid multiple, which is called Cordyceps sinensis fungus. When hyphae grow slowly, larva grows up also and comes out of the ground. Until worm body is full of hyphae after multiplication, larva will die. At that time, it happens to be in winter, so it is so-called winter worm. When the weather warms up, fungus body will sprout slowly from the head of winter worm, and fungus stroma like grass grows up, which is called summer grass. Asci are inside the head of fungus stroma, and spore is inside asci. When asci ripe, and then spore spills out to seek larva of Hepialus armoricanus as host again. This is the circulation of Cordyceps sinensis.

Ingredient of Cordyceps sinensis

Cordycepin is a kind of material related to nucleic acid, which achieves antibiosis and can inhibit cell division. 

Effect of Cordyceps sinensis

Cordyceps sinensis has the effect of moistening lung to preserve yin and replenishing kidney, so it can be regarded as food of supplements to nourish lung and kidney, stop bleeding, reduce phlegm, protect lung, reduce dysentery and suppress cough caused by tuberculosis.

Future Development of Cordyceps sinensis

In recent years, Taiwan has begun to develop the technology of cultivating Cordyceps sinensis, and Cordyceps sinensis has become raw materials of healthcare products, because Cordyceps sinensis has a mild drug property and cannot generate any side effect easily, so it can change human body constitution in an unintended way. However, it is not easy to collect Cordyceps sinensis, so its price is still high. If Cordyceps sinensis can be cultivated by the way of artificial fermentation cultivation through fungus body, the cost will reduce through mass production, and it shall be good news for the public! 

Morphological Characteristics

Summer grass and winter worm (Qian Nang), worm grass (Question Answering to Chinese Materia Medica) is the complex of stroma of Cordyceps sinensis fungus which is plant of Clavicipitaceae and larva cadaver of its host like Hepialus armoricanus Oberthur which is insect of Hepialidae (Complex of stroma of Cordyceps sinensis fungus, the plant of Clavicipitaceae, which is parasitic inside overwintering larva body of Hepialus armoricanus, insect of Hepialidae, and worm body). Ascomycetes stroma of Cordyceps sinensis comes out of the head of host larva, solitary, slender, like baseball bat, 3cm to 11cm long. Sterile stem is 3cm to 8cm long, with diameter of 1.5mm to 4mm. The upper part is the head of stroma, slightly inflated, cylinder-shaped, 1.5cm to 4cm long, brown. Except for a small part of tip, perithecium gives birth. Most of perithecium is trapped inside stroma, with tip bulging outside of stroma, egg shape or oval, 250 micron to 500 micron long, diameter of 80 micron to 200 micron, and many long striped linear asci are inside perithecium. Eight ascospores with diaphragm are inside the asci. Host is insect larva of Lepidoptera and Coleoptera. In winter, fungus invades and lives inside larva, and worm dies because worm is full of hyphae. In summer, stroma grows. It is distributed in Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Gansu, Qinghai and Tibet. Around the Summer Solstice, the local enter the mountain to collect Cordyceps sinensis when accumulated snow does not melt yet, and stroma always comes out of snow surface. Later, when accumulate snow melts, and then weed grows, it is difficult to seek Cordyceps sinensis, and worm body underneath earth dies away, which is not unsuited to medicine. After Cordyceps sinensis is dug out, when worm body is damp and is not dried, the outer earth and membrane are removed first, and then dry Cordyceps sinensis in the sun. Chinese rice wine is sprayed on Cordyceps sinensis to make it soft and straight. Every seven or eight pieces of Cordyceps sinensis are plunged into a batch, which are dried with low fire. Cordyceps sinensis is complex of worm body and fungus stroma, 9cm to 12cm long. Worm body, just like Sanmian Old Silkworm, is about 3cm to 6cm long, and 0.4cm to 0.7cm thick. The surface is deep yellow, rough, with transverse ruga on the back, and eight pairs of feet on the segmental venter, of which four pairs in the middle of worm body is obvious. The cross-section inside is full, white, slightly yellowing, and the surrounding is deep yellow. Fungus stroma comes out of the head of worm, rodlike, flexuous, and the upper part is slightly inflated. The surface is grey brown or black brown, 4cm to 8cm long, with diameter of about 0.3cm. When it is broken off, the inside is hollow, pink white, slight odor, weak taste. Worm body is yellow bright, plump, fat, and that of yellowish white cross-section and short stroma are best. Cordyceps sinensis mainly produced in Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan, Guizhou, Nagqu Prefecture of Tibet and Yushu of Qinghai has the best quality. 

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