**Check out this wicked pic of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (we'll chat about him below)
Cordy (as we affectionately call it) is an amazing medicinal mushroom (and herb!) - we love it for athletes, kids with asthma or chronic coughs/colds and for post-partum mamas especially. It's warming, strengthening, helps you to rebuild and supports your energy. A herbal ally if ever there was one.
But Cordyceps has a few skeletons in its closet that we’re going to reveal today - like many of us, it has a few dodgy relatives and a bit of a dark past! 😂
Let’s start with the relatives, shall we?
Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is one of Cordyceps’ nastier cousins. Our cordy, Cordyceps CS-4 is a strain of Cordyceps sinesis mycelium cultivated in a liquid ferment. Normally we grow all our herbs in the great outdoors - Di Tao is our underlying philosophy at SuperFeast - and we only use medicinal mushroom fruiting bodies, usually. But this cordy is the exception to the rule, and we’ll explain why below.
NOTE: Cordyceps sinensis is the old name for the fungus that is now, if you're a fungus nerd or scientist, more correctly called Ophiocordyceps sinensis. We haven't found 'Ophiocordyceps' really rolls off the tonuge, so we're sticking with Cordy.
Our cordy comes from a strain, CS-4, discovered in the 80s by Chinese scientists. This lab-grown strain preserves the life of insects world wide! And also the environment, as, unfortunately, picking this fungus in the wild can be very damaging to the environment (and dangerous for the people picking it!). CS-4 is, to date, the only non-wild cordyceps strain that still contains all the active ingredients found in wild cordyceps. It took years to discover this strain, and it's been heavily researched in China, and found to be as effective as wild cordyceps in terms of its immune and energy/performance enhancing benefits.
CS-4 is grown in a nice sterile environment (in stainless steel tanks on a liquid culture that the mycelium feeds on) on the right side of the tracks. But head to the outskirts of town and you’ll find its cuzzies reigning over the insect realm in a most horrific fashion.
Originally thought to locate an ant, move into its body and take over its brain, it’s now been shown that Ophiocordyceps unilateralis actually takes over the ants bodies, leaving their brains intact. Which may actually be worse.
“This means that the ant is likely conscious and cognizant (sic) of what’s happening to it as the fungus seeps into its body... It’s like having your entire body zombified except your head, which is arguably even worse than full-on zombification.”1
Good. Great. And you thought your relatives were bad!
Now, it’s easy to point the finger at distant relatives and denounce their ant-controlling, zombie-puppeteering ways, but fact is, regular old Ophiocordyceps sinensis (aka the big daddy of our CS-4 strain) is no better than his ant-murdering bro.
See, big poppa C. sinesis is a parasitic fungus too (none of the Cordyceps clan are TECHNICALLY mushrooms, but I dare you to tell them that...I’ll keep my body parasite free, thanks).
Instead of ants he eats moth larvae and he’s very very famous in the Himalayas. He also doesn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 - for him to take out a larvae and become your herb of choice will cost you, around $20,000-100,000 USD a kilo for the raw materials. Given that we use 10kgs of raw material to make an extract, that's not cheap!
“Traditional healers in Sikkim recommend the fungus/mushroom Cordyceps sinensis for “all illnesses” as a tonic, because they claim that it improves energy, appetite, stamina, libido, endurance, and sleeping patterns.”2
Now, all these old-school Asian healers classified Cordy as a medicinal mushroom and they’ve been frothing over it for millenia. And we were excited to make it a part of our range. But see, when we were selecting herbs for SuperFeast we had to make a call.
Do we go with the zombie-larvae-fungus-thing that is mighty rare and expensive or do we go with this more modern take on a very old herb, the CS-4. See, CS-4 is trying to redeem the family name. He’s vegan, affordable, still super potent and been doing his thing for more than 30 years (this strain was developed in the 80s). CS-4 has been studied and tested and it works. We aren't sure it contains the same 'essence' as truly wild cordyceps, but we're constantly impressed with this strain and we use it daily ourselves. Remember, at SuperFeast we are alllll about the potent and wild harvested tonic herbs, according to Di Taoprinciples. We decided to give CS-4 a chance in the SuperFeast range, and we’ve been delighted to see that he’s committed to his reformed zombie lifestyle. Paleo diet (grain and sugar free), keeps it clean with regular checkups (i.e. testing) and stays out of the way of his crazy family (lab grown). We recommend you give him a try!
Now, if you’re a herb nerd and you really want wild Cordyceps, maybe take a little trip down to the southern Australian states (think dry, high-ish forest-type places) and look out for this guy: Cordyceps gunnii.
He’s expensive and only available to harvest three months of the year, and yep, he’s parasitic, but if you find him, you could brew him up in a tea and/or tincture and enjoy his true blue Aussie cordyceps medicine. Our friend at Teelixir, Jules, found some a while back and gifted us one; it was truly a special day. Thanks Jules!!
We hope you enjoyed this adventure down the rabbit hole of the weird and wacky (Ophio)Cordyceps family. And know that we will continue bringing you the best Chinese medicinals we can source and the least-zombifying cordyceps we can find!!
We’d love to have a range of Aussie medicinal herbs available to you all soon, we’re working on it. Are there any you guys know and love and would like to see? We just know there’s so much wisdom and healing to be found in this land. Shoot us any questions in the comments below. And check out this sweet Pumpkin Spice Latte and get your Halloween on!
We are so damn excited to be sharing the inaugural SuperFeast Academy offering - Tonic Herbalism 101 Course.