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Taiwan makes breakthrough on substitute for valuable herbal medicine

2012/05/14 22:49:39

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) A university in central Taiwan has developed a technology to cultivate a substitute for a valuable worm-like Chinese medicine that could have a NT$600 million (US$20.32 million) global market, according to a professor at the school.

The substitute, called "cordyceps militaris," could be produced in large quantities using the technology to replace the rare Chinese worm-like medicine, known as "cordyceps sinensis," said Hsu Tai-hao, the head of the College of Biotechnology and Bioresources at Da-Yeh University in Changhua County.

The new technology will help substantially reduce the growing costs of the medicine.

The fungus "cordyceps sinensis," called Tung Chung Hsia Tsao in Chinese, has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and is quite rare because it is only naturally grown on highlands 3,000-5,000 meters above sea level.

The yields of Tung Chung Hsia Tsao, which has a global market of NT$60 billion, have dropped significantly since the worm-like fungus was dug up on a massive scale, leading to a substantial increase in its price, Hsu said.

Hsu said at a press conference Monday that cordyceps militaris was the most common substitute for cordyceps sinensis, and one of its ingredients has been used in medicine that treats cancers.

He explained that the research team discovered an LED spectrum combination that was most suitable for growing the fungus substitute.

The selling price of the substitute is lower than the traditional substance, and scientific records have proved its effectiveness, which should help it gradually take over the market of the traditional worm-like Chinese medicine, Hsu said.

(By Hsu Chih-wei and Nell Shen)