The Intriguing Origins Of Cordyceps In New Zealand

The Intriguing Origins Of Cordyceps In New Zealand

There are a number of well-known medicinal mushrooms of the genus (group) Cordyceps that have been utilised for centuries by indigenous and local populations across the globe to treat a wide range of ailments, including cancer and diabetes. 

The Māori people first used Cordyceps in New Zealand. Cordyceps robertsii was used in traditional Māori tattooing or Tā moko.

There are hundreds of species under the Cordyceps genus, but in recent years two particular species ‒ Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris ‒ have taken centre stage. 

A Curious Case Of Mummified Caterpillars

Ophiocordyceps robertsii is an entomopathogenic fungus that kills or severely disables insects by acting as a parasite and infecting their nervous systems. Cordyceps robertsii infects the larvae of leaf-litter dwelling moths and transforms them into mummified fungal vessels sending up a fruiting spike from beneath the forest floor to discharge spores in order to complete the next stage of its life cycle.

Caterpillars feed on leaf litter and devour its spores. The dried remnants of the host caterpillar will eventually be found with little brown stems that protrude from its head and out above from the forest floor.

Magnificent Black Ink For Traditional Tattooing

The earliest recorded cultural use of Cordyceps robertsii stems from around the 1800s by the Māori people. Traditionally known as āwheto or vegetable caterpillar, it was instrumental in traditional tattooing. When burned, āwheto makes black instead of grey ash. Tā moko ink was made by combining the dark soot with animal fat and dark berries to create an ink with a magnificent dark black stain.

Māori also foraged the vegetable caterpillar for food; it's said to have a nutty taste, and there is also evidence of traditional medicinal use (rongoa).

The First Fungus Named In New Zealand

The Cordyceps genus contains various species of entomopathogenic fungi, which means they are always derived from an insect host.

Cordyceps robertsii is the largest and most well documented of approximately 15 Cordyceps species recorded in New Zealand. It was also the first fungus to be discovered and named a new species in New Zealand in 1836.

A Multitude Of Potential Benefits

In recent years, two of the species in the Cordyceps genus - Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris - have been the focus of various trials and studies owing to their many potential health benefits and usage in traditional Chinese medicine.

Cordyceps is shown to have several benefits when used as a supplement, including:

  • Short-term athletic endurance and performance; often considered a great prework out.
  • Long-term maintenance of vitality and longevity.
  • Improved blood flow and oxygen absorption, making it an excellent supplement for increasing alertness and energy.
  • Antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties.
  • Improved sexual health and libido; it supports hormonal health and balance.

Cordyceps is a truly fascinating genus because of the way it demonstrates its survival instinct by assuming control of an insect host to complete its life cycle. This is possibly why it makes such an excellent performance-enhancing supplement and has many properties that aid in longevity and vitality.

Long revered in ancient Chinese herbal medicine and with a riveting back story right here in New Zealand, the Cordyceps mushroom is genuinely something special.

Flow State aims to make the benefits of numerous functional mushroom species, including Cordyceps in NZ, as accessible as possible in easy to use, lab-tested extracts, capsules and powdered supplements. 

Browse our Cordycep products, and begin your journey towards increased vitality and supercharged performance and cognition today.


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