Book Review

Cordyceps: China's Healing Mushroom
by Georges M. Halpern, MD, PhD

Cover: Cordyceps:China's Healing Mushroom

The Mushroom Growers' Newsletter - May 1999

In past reviews of books by Terry Willard and Kenneth Jones, we have lamented the lack of a western medical perspective. For the most part, these books have focused on the Chinese view and been based upon Chinese studies which never seem to offer enough information for us to judge their scientific credibility. Halpern is Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of California - Davis. He uses his knowledge of Western medicine to identify the most promising studies, still mostly Chinese, and interpret them for this book. At the same time, he tries to explain how the medicinal properties are seen from the viewpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The 116 page book begins with a history of Cordyceps and a one page overview of how it is grown. As far as cultivation goes, Halpern offers few details other than to say that it is the mycelia that is grown using techniques similar to the production of yeasts in brewing. That is to say, fermentation technology. He notes that the Cs-4 strain is preferred by researchers in China and it grows on a basic medium composed of soybeans. The research indicates that the mycelium produced by this strain has essentially the same medicinal properties as the whole fruit bodies of its wild counterpart.

The key medicinal findings that Halpern reports are:

Near the end of the book, Halpern offers guidelines for the use of Cordyceps including dosages for various diseases. He notes that while Cordyceps is considered non-toxic, it can thin the blood and must be used with caution where bleeding is a problem or where blood thinners like aspirin or warfarin are used. The book concludes with four pages of selected references.

Unlike Terry Willard, in his book Reishi Mushroom: Herb of Spiritual Potency and Medical Wonder, Halpern carefully words his endorsements and offers a lot of cautionary background information. Thus, this book strikes us as a much more rational approach to this particular mushroom species and leaves us feeling that it is a credible book.