Ambien is out, Chinese fungus, drug epidemic

Millions of people have trouble sleeping. For some, the main problem is falling asleep. Others report difficulty staying asleep. One reader who wakes up too early and can’t fall back to sleep wonders if a Chinese fungus might help.

Will a Chinese Fungus Work Against Insomnia?

Q. Staying asleep is a constant problem for me. I have been strongly advised to try Xylaria nigripes (Wulinshen). What do you know about it?

A. Xylaria nigripes is a medicinal Chinese fungus found in termite nests. Known as Wu Ling Shen, it was traditionally used to treat insomnia and help people recover from trauma (Liaw et al, International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, vol. 19, no. 10, 2017).

There is not a great deal of research on this fungus. However, a placebo-controlled trial conducted in China showed that it was no more effective than placebo in treating insomnia (Lin et al, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Jan. 9, 2013).

What Else Can Help You Sleep Better?

Without better research supporting its use, we can’t recommend this Chinese fungus. On the other hand, we offer a number of non-drug alternatives for overcoming insomnia in our (electronic) eGuide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. It is available in the Health Guides section of

You might find outdoor exercise during the day helps to reset your body clock so you can stay asleep more readily. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can also be helpful.

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  1. Suzanne

    I have tried it. It did help with sleep but made my legs ache.

  2. Carol
    Spokane, WA

    I am wondering about kimchi. If it is heated, does it kill the good probiotics?

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