Cordyceps not recommended for sexual issues
S'poreans top consumers of cordyceps, say NYT article. TCM doc cautions: It's not recommended for sexual issues
The Himalayan yarsagumba is a big deal here. You might know it by its other name: cordyceps.
And Singaporeans are the biggest consumers, says the New York Times.
Cordyceps, or dongcong xiacao in Chinese, is a parasitic fungus that germinates in the living larva of ghost moths in winter.
Madam Lily Ong, 60, who has been taking cordyceps for almost 10 years, has spent up to $3,600 for just 100g of the herb.
The New Paper understands that prices for cordyceps can range from $800 to $3,500 for 38g of the herb, depending on the grade of the cordyceps.
Madam Ong said: "I take it just for health - to prevent phlegm, to strengthen the lungs and just to build up my overall immune system."
Dr Lim Min Yee, 30, a physician at Nanyang Technological University's Chinese Medicine Clinic, said most Singaporeans take cordyceps as a tonic to improve energy, mental alertness and their immune system.
She added: "Modern research has found that cordyceps have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour effects.
"Animal studies have also shown that cordyceps improve testosterone levels and sperm production in animals.
"In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the kidneys are responsible for sexual and reproductive functions. Cordyceps have an effect on kidney functions (and so they are also said to have) reproductive system improving capabilities as well."
However, Dr Lim would not recommend that those with sexual dysfunction take cordyceps as a remedy.
She said: "It would be better to see a physician. Cordyceps are used more for general health maintenance."
How many pieces of cordyceps should a person take at a time?
Dr Lim said it depends on a person's health, age and other conditions.
"Follow the instructions on the product label and if in doubt, consult someone who is licensed," she said.
Cordyceps are usually taken in a stew comprising three to five pieces that are combined with other herbs.
As to how to tell if a piece of cordyceps is of good quality, Dr Lim said: "It should feel dry and brittle. It should be of a yellowish-brown colour and its legs and rings should be prominent and distinct. It should give off a pleasant aroma."
But be aware of its other effects.
Last year, a 58-year-old woman died from extensive bleeding in the brain after an operation for a benign brain tumourand doctors blamed the cordyceps she had been taking the week before her operation.
Cordyceps has a blood-thinning effect, which lengthens the time for a blood clot to form, according to a report in The Straits Times.
Moreover, herb-drug interactions can occur if a patient takes both at the same time and they react with one another, Ms Lim Ching Hui, senior principal pharmacist at the Singapore General Hospital told the Straits Times.
"These interactions may augment the action of the drug, reduce its effectiveness or cause unexplained side effects," she said.
However, Dr Lim said side effects are rare, especially when one uses it within the right dosage.
A Health Sciences Authority spokesman said it has no current plan to issue any advisory on the use of cordyceps.
The spokesman said: "As a general precautionary measure, it is advisable for individuals scheduled for medical treatment or surgical operation to inform their doctors of any medicines, herbs or supplements which they are taking.
"This is because some of the ingredients might interfere or interact with anaesthetics and other medicines used."
An Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority spokesman said cordyceps are allowed to be used as an ingredient in food.
The spokesman added: "However, the use of traditional Chinese medicinal materials, such as cordyceps, in food is not intended for prevention, treating or alleviating disease conditions. Food traders should ensure that the amount of cordyceps used in food products do not bring about any therapeutic or medicinal effects when consumed."