This species really outdoes any other that I’m currently aware of, and on the scale of STRANGE, I give it a 9.8. In some Coryceps species, for the last 48 million years, insects have eaten the spores or the mycelium and the Cordyceps eats the insect from the inside out. Causing the bug to climb, while still alive to the highest place available, the mycelium finally kills the host, and sending up a teeny, tiny baby mushroom out of the bug’s now thoroughly dead head, it sheds its spores of into the breeze to snare more oblivious prey. It would be a public service if we could somehow keep Steven King or Dean Koontz from getting hold of this information, to wit;
Aside from the gory details of its propagation in nature, this bizarre killer has a benign and widespread reputation in many “primitive” cultures for its powerful, ahhh, health promoting properties. As a corporation, we, the Coop, must consistently refrain from any assertion on our part of any “medicinal” properties of any of our products or potential products, because those are The Rules, and we will play by them. We can though, and I will below, make reference to research and literature by others and the reader may draw their own conclusions. I’ll start with Wikipedia and then move on from there with some videos, other publications and pointers to the academic sources. I’ll sum it all up at the end with those items of greatest interest to the Coop.
Those brave souls who search the web on their own will be barraged with a baffling broadside of hyperventilating promotional “information”. I will admit to a very visceral dislike for anything of the sort, and sincerely hope that we can find alternative marketing strategies …oy with the super-duper miracle cures! Caveat quaero; let the searcher beware.
Cordyceps is a genus of ascomycete fungi (sac fungi) that includes about 400 identified species and many yet to be described. All Cordyceps species are endoparasitoids, mainly on insects and other arthropods (they are thus entomopathogenic fungi); a few are parasitic on other fungi. The best known species of the genus is Cordyceps sinensis, first recorded as yartsa gunbu in Tibet in the 15th Century. It is known as yarsha gumba in Nepal. The Latin etymology describes cord as club, ceps as head, and sinensis as chinese. Cordyceps sinensis, known in English commonly as caterpillar fungus, is considered a medicinal mushroom in oriental medicines, such as traditional Chinese medicines and traditional Tibetan medicine.When a Cordyceps fungus attacks a host, the mycelium invades and eventually replaces the host tissue, while the elongated fruiting body (ascocarp) may be cylindrical, branched, or of complex shape. The ascocarp bears many small, flask-shaped perithecia containing asci. These in turn contain thread-like ascospores, which usually break into fragments and are presumably infective.
Some Cordyceps species are able to affect the behavior of their insect host: Cordyceps unilateralis causes ants to climb a plant and attach there before they die. This ensures the parasite’s environment is at an optimal temperature and humidity, and that maximal distribution of the spores from the fruiting body that sprouts out of the dead insect is achieved. Marks have been found on fossilised leaves which suggest this ability to modify the host’s behaviour evolved more than 48 million years ago. The genus has a worldwide distribution and most of the approximately 400 species have been described from Asia (notably Nepal, China,Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand). Cordyceps species are particularly abundant and diverse in humid temperate and tropical forests. The genus has many anamorphs (asexual states), of which Beauveria (possibly including Beauveria bassiana, Metarhizium, and Isaria) are the better known, since these have been used in biological control of insect pests.
Some Cordyceps species are sources of biochemicals with interesting biological and pharmacological properties, like cordycepin; the anamorph of Cordyceps subsessilis (Tolypocladium inflatum) was the source of ciclosporin—a drug helpful in human organ transplants, as it suppresses the immune system (Immunosuppressive drug).
And here’s a little video on how the do it in the Himalayas, talk about dedication to the proposition!