Chinese herbs for Altitude Sickness

condor 1
Condor at Canyon de Colca

Peru was our first high altitude trip.  In Peru, we went to the Canyon del Colca, the towns on top of Canyon de Colca are at 3700 meters.  At this height, altitude sickness is an concern.

We had come from Arequipa, a colonial city in the Mountains, resting at about 2300 so there was some time for our bodies to adjust. We took a 6 hour bus ride over dirt roads with the locals and their smaller farm animals, chickens and a baby lamb.

There, on top of the Canyon de Colca, we met Remijio, our guide for the three day hike.  Remijio made walking into an art, with his graceful steps.  He knew much about the local herbs, remedies for diarrhea, stomach pain, and gynecological disorders.

At the onset of the hike, we ascended to the highest point over the canyon, 3700 meters, but then descended over 1000 meters.  Remijio kept reminding us “Despacio, descpacio (slowly, slowly). ” We were feeling ok overall, no headache, naseau, or other symptoms of altitude sickness.


The Chinese herb called Cordyceps is a mushroom that is known to grown on the bodies of worms and insects in the Tibetian pleateu. Cordyceps is known to warm the body and boost yang qi.

Traditionally, cordyceps is used for asthma and allergies, cancer support, boosting immune functions, and pain and fatigue.  It is now a prized supplement for athletes as a energy booster.

Doctors of Chinese Medicine have also used it for altitude sickness.

Our Hike

After the three day hike, we did not have altitude sickness at all.  We had been taking the cordyceps for 2 weeks prior.  Yang qi warms and give the body energy helping to prevent altitude sickness.

Some have theorized that cordyceps help the body to better utilize the oxygen in the blood, therefore helping to prevent sickness.  Another theory is that these herbs actually help you produce more red blood cells giving the body the ability to carry more oxygen in the blood and prevent altitude sickness.

I have since used cordyceps on trips to Mexico and elsewhere.  Giving yourself time to acclimate and following an experienced guide is the most important action to stay healthy and safe.  Chinese herbs have helped to reduce my symptoms of altitude sickness.

Chinese herbs are also good for preventing digestive issues while traveling.

About Buying Cordyceps

Wild cordyceps is very expensive because it is very rare.  Wild cordycpes is gathered in the fields of the Tibetian plateu.

Sadly the high price tag has lead to a black market and much adulterating of the product.  I recommend finding a quality company that grows natural organic cordyceps.  I like Peaceful Harvest Mushrooms.

This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advise. Ask your health care professional before taking herbal supplements.

Photo: chrisaut

Joseph Alban

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.

Joseph Alban is a Doctor of Acupuncture, New York Licensed Acupuncturist, and NCCAOM Board Certified Herbalist providing the highest quality Acupuncture and Chinese medicine care tailored to your needs.

you might also be interested