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The Management and Trade of Cordyceps Sinensis in China

DATE:2011-12-27       SOURCE:
 
Cordyceps sinensis is a rare traditional medical ingredient in China, on a par with ginseng and cartialgenous for its well-known clinical efficacy and nourishing effects. As a matter of fact, the cordyceps sinensis for medical use is the result of a parasitic relationship between the fungus Cordyceps and the larva of the ghost moth, including the remains of the insect and the fruit-body of fungus.

 

The ancient Chinese people had a considerable knowledge of the medical value of Cordyceps sinensis, as was shown by the early records of the fungus in books on traditional Chinese medicine. The Compendium of Material Medica completed as early as 1694 recorded the medical efficacy of Cordyceps as sweet and warm, hemostatic and expectorant; it invigorates the lung and the kidney, and stops phthisical cough. The New Compilation of Materia Medica completed in 1757 also recorded that the Cordyceps is sweet and warm, hemostatic and expectorant, it enters the lung and kidney channels, invigorates the lung and the kidney, nourish the marrow, stops phthisical cough and cures dysphagia. The 2000 Pharmacopeia of the People’s Republic of China records that the Cordyceps is sweet and warm, hemostatic and expectorant, it enters the lung and kidney channels, invigorates the lung and the kidney; and it can be used to treat chronic cough, dyspnea, hemoptysis, impotence, spermatorrhea, waist and knee aches.

 

With the development of modern medicine, more and more studies further proved the multiple efficacies and nourishing effects of Cordyceps. Being effective to the immunity, circulatory and respiratory systems, it has a calming effect, expands blood vessels, arrests bleeding, reduces blood pressure, improves blood supply by cardiac muscle, resists aging, resists immunological rejection after organic transplanting, adjusts human immunity and androgen and protects from deficiency of liver and kidney. It is also a promising medical ingredient for the treatment of lung cancer, lymph cancer, liver cancer and kidney failure.

 

The fungus is endemic on the Tibetan Plateau and mainly grows on grassland above 3000 m altitude up to the snow-line in Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan. According to expert estimation, China has 200,000 kg of Cordyceps and 120,000 kg was harvested. As one of the major exports of Qinghai and Tibet, Cordyceps finds its market in the U.S., Japan, Korea, Europe, South East Asia, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan etc. with an annual export of over 20,000 kg.

 

The Chinese government lays great store by the protection of Cordyceps and lists it as the key wild species under the 2nd grade state protection. A range of laws and regulations including the Grassland Law of the People’s Republic of China and Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Wild Plant Protection were promulgated and implemented to effectively protect sustainable use and development of Cordyceps. Local governments at all levels also released a series of strict rules and regulations on the protection and collection of Cordyceps. The central government decides the annual collection quota and instructs the local governments, which then issue collection permits, control number of collectors and amount of Cordyceps to be collected and identify the collection location based on the quota. Local governments identify the appropriate time for collection based on the growth of Cordyceps. To protect eco-environment of the grassland, competent departments strictly regulate collection tools and request that all pits should be filled and leveled up after digging for Cordyceps.

 

Xining, capital city of Qinghai is presently the largest Cordyceps market in China, attracting Cordyceps dealers from across the world. Qinghai Cordyceps international trading center, a formal and modern fair covering 10,000 m2 and hosting over 1000 dealers, is to be built and put into operation within 2009. The center will adopt a highly-efficient management system and set up information management and collection systems and electronic settlement system so as to upgrade the service functions of the trading center.

 

Given the high price, shortage of and the rising demand for Cordyceps, several national research institutes and enterprises in China have been engaged in the study of Cordyceps cultivation for years; although remarkable achievements were scored, mass production is yet to be attained. The semi-artificial mass cultivation of Cordyceps in the fields is unfolding in some regions, but technical problems need to be tackled before further progress.

 

After years of efforts, the isolated culture of living strains of the fungus is getting mature, with a large amount of strains being isolated and some being mass produced and sold across the world. The annual production value of Cordyceps is as high as tens of millions of RMB.

 

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) conducted all-round biological study of Cordyceps. CAS drew the most comprehensive map of Cordyceps resources based on years of literature and field studies, giving a general picture of its distribution. For years, the research groups paid field visits to the snow mountain and grasslands of over 30 counties on the Tibetan Plateau to collect samples and isolated strains of Cordyceps and established a very comprehensive banks of Cordyceps samples and stains, from which scientists screened and selected a range of superior strains and studied nutritious demand, growth conditions, substrate optimization and activity determination, clarified the disordered names of asexual strains of the fungus, involving 22 scientific names and 13 categories.

 

Natural reserves and field laboratories were established in Xiaojin County in Sichuan and Lhasa, the former is one of the major producing regions. In the benign habitat, local climate, growth environment and human influence on the production of Cordyceps were analyzed. Molecular variation of Cordyceps was studied based on nrDNA-ITS sequencing, the results show ITS sequencing variance among samples from different places of origin, and genetic difference among southern and northern strains. The origin and co-evolution of Cordyceps are further studied.

 

Given the current situation, an international research platform of Cordyceps should be set up at the earliest time possible for strengthened international cooperation; resource conservation and sustainable exploitation should be step up and modern biotechnology should be applied for research and development.

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