Dong Chong Xia Cao
English Name: cordyceps
Literal Translation: “winter creeper summer herb”
Pharmaceutical Name: Cordyceps
Medica Category: Yang-Tonifying Herbs
Properties: Dong Chong Xia Cao enters the Lung and Kidney channels; it is sweet in nature and warm in temperature.
What is Dong Chong Xia Cao?:
The Chinese Herb Dong Chong Xia Cao refers to wild cordyceps, which is a fungus that grows into the body of a caterpillar, consuming the entire contents of the animal and leaving behind the fruiting body of the cordyceps mushroom along with the mycelium (the botanical name of this species is Cordyceps chinensis). Wild cordyceps is highly prized and very expensive—it is only found in the highlands of Bhutan and Tibet (in the Himalayan mountains) at elevations over 3000 meters above sea level. It is painstakingly collected under conditions that are often hazardous (e.g. in hard-to-reach places in the high mountains).
Cultivated cordyceps (much more commonly used in both Chinese formulas as well as other dietary supplements) is the mycelium only of Cordyceps militaris, a different species of fungus closely related to C. chinesis that is grown on a medium of brown rice flour (or other starches) on a commercial scale. These products are not necessarily the equivalent of Chinese herb Dong Chong Xia Cao—that is not to say that they do not provide benefits to the user, but neither should they be automatically conflated with the wild cordyceps that has renowned and revered for at least 1500 years for its legendary tonic, energizing, and restorative/anti-aging effects.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Therapeutic Actions of Dong Chong Xia Cao:
Dong Chong Xia Cao tonifies Kidney yang and builds jing (essence) and is ideal for convalescing/extremely weak persons w/spontaneous sweating (i.e. severely qi deficient) who need to be slowly built back up towards health while recovering from long, debilitating illnesses.
Other more general clinical presentations that Dong Chong Xia Cao addresses include impotence, spermatorrhea, and tinnitus. It is also used in China (in modern hospital settings) to treat cancer, hyperlipidema, and hypertension.
In addition to tonifying Kidney Yang and jing (essence), it also enters the Lung channel where it tonifies qi and stops bleeding. This makes it especially useful in treating deficiency cough with dyspnea/wheezing and blood-streaked sputum) as this herb addresses both the root (Kidney deficiency) and branch (Lung deficiency) of the problem.
Use with caution for exterior conditions.