An Example of Fake Cordyceps
by Eric Brand
Here is a nice specimen of counterfeit cordyceps. This specimen came from a Chinese herbal pharmacy in Chicago. Actually, I found it at the home of several TCM students, who had already eaten most of the box. Fortunately, this is not a toxic adulterant but rather a simple fake- it is made from flour. Needless to say, it has no medicinal value. At least it wasn’t priced as high as the real deal!
Cordyceps can be found in multiple forms. True wild cordyceps is extremely expensive and comes in many different grades. It takes a bit of expertise to buy it and it starts off at about $5000/kg and goes up steeply. Even at the top of the Chinese wholesale chain, cordyceps is so expensive that a daily dose costs about $5-15. Given this prohibitive expense, most users now consume lab-grown cordyceps, which is cultivated in glass jars.
The lab grown product can be differentiated into several types. Many strains of Cordyceps sinensis have been successfully cultivated, and Cordyceps militaris is also prominent in cultivation (it has a similar constituent profile). The former is mostly available in a powdered form, the latter can be found in the form of powder as well as the whole mycelium and whole fruiting body. Blue Poppy now carries two high-quality encapsulated cordyceps products. We have the CS4 research strain of Cordyceps sinensis available as a powder and as a 4:1 extract. We offer it in an encapsulated form in individual bottles but we can source it by the kilogram as well (upon special request).
The successful cultivation of cordyceps has allowed it to be a usable medicinal for the average person. Prior to its successful cultivation, cordyceps was pretty much just a medicinal for wealthy patients. In recent years, it has become more and more popular (probably because of widespread research into its immune-enhancing properties) and the wild product has become increasingly scarce and threatened. The price for the wild product has risen astronomically each year, and it can be stunningly expensive. Fortunately, the price for the cultivated product has been stable.
I once heard a lecture from Prof. Chang Yung-Hsiun at China Medical University in Taichung wherein Dr. Chang shared a hilarious cordyceps joke for the crowd. He said that someone once asked him: “What kind of disease is so severe that only such an expensive medicine can cure it?” His answer: “The disease that makes a person say ‘I can afford to eat it and you can’t, so there!’ People with this terrible affliction need true wild cordyceps.”