Cordyceps sinensis
October 30, 2011

Cordyceps sinensis (dong chong xia cao; 冬蟲夏草)
Cordyceps sinensis, a well-known and valued traditional Chinese medicine, is also called DongChongXiaCao (winter
worm summer grass) in Chinese. In herbal medicine, it is commonly used to replenish the kidney and soothe the lung
and it is belived to benefit fatigue, night sweating, hyposexualities, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, asthemia after
severe illness, respiratory disease, renal dysfunction and renal failure, arrhythmias and other heart disease, and liver
disease. As the rarity and upstanding curative effects of natural Cordyceps, several mycelial strains have been
isolated from natural Cordyceps and manufactured in large quantities by fermentation technology, and they are
commonly sold as health food products in Asia. [8]

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Cordyceps sinensis Key Ingredients
Cordyceps sinensis contains protein (amino acids), sterols (ergosterol), polyamines (spermine, spermidine,
putrescine, 1,3-diaminopropane), fatty acids (oleic, linoleic, palmitic, stearic acid), nucleosides: 3-deoxyadenosine
(cordycepin) and saccharides (D-mannitol, galactomannin).
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Research on Cordyceps sinensis

Oxidants
Cordyceps sinensis showed anti-oxidative activities in different studies. [5, 37-40]. Researchers from Chia Nan
University of Pharmacy and Science, Taiwan, demonstrated the protective effects of cultured Cordyceps militaris and
natural Cordyceps sinensis against oxidative damage of biomolecules in a vitro study. They both have free radical
scavenging abilities. [5]

Inflammation
In order to explore the anti-inflammatory principles of the mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis, the crude extract and
partially purified fractions were examined for their inhibition of superoxide anion generation and elastase release.
Researchers found that 1-(5-Hydroxymethyl-2-furyl)-β-carboline displayed the most significant inhibition of superoxide
anion generation and elastase release with IC50 values of 0.45±0.15 and 1.68±0.32 μM, respectively. ]B2]

Liver Issues
Cordyceps sinensis may have benefits on people at risk of liver issues. Researchers from Shanghai University of
Traditional Chinese Medicine proposed the use of Cordyceps sinensis on liver fibrosis. In a study, they induced liver
fibrosis in rats with dimethylnitrosamine and then they treated the rats with Cordyceps sinensis. They found that the
content of metalloproteinases-2 in Cordyceps sinensis-treated group was significantly higher than that in the
untreated group. Thus, cordyceps sinensis promoted collagen degradation. [1] Cordyceps sinensis may be able to
adjust the T lymphocyte subsets level and to treat hepatic fibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis. In the study, the
researchers supplied cordyceps sinensis to 25 patients suffered from chronic hepatitis for three months. They found
CD4 and CD4/CD8 ratio increased significantly(P < 0.05), while HA and PC III decreased significantly(P < 0.05)
compared with the control. [L1] In another study of rats, researchers from Korea demonstrated four weeks of
administration of extracellular biopolymers from mycelial liquid culture of Cordyceps militaris has a beneficial effect in
rats with liver fibrosis. [L2]

Cancer
The aqueous extract of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs), one of the traditional Chinese medicines, has been demonstrated to
benefit a wide range of disorders in either animal or test-tube studies. [9-31] Here are some most recent animal or in
vitro studies suggesting its benefits in cancers.

Researchers from Nanjing University shouls that a polysaccharide extracted from a cultivated Cordyceps sinensis
fungus significantly enhanced superoxide dismutase activity of liver, brain and serum as well as glutathione
peroxidase activity of liver and brain in tumor-bearing mice. It also inhibited H22 tumor growth in the mice.

Cordyceps sinensis mycelium was found to induce MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cell death. Researchers from Taiwan
found that Cordyceps sinensis induced MA-10 cell apoptosis by activating caspase-8-dependent and caspase-9-
independent pathways and downregulating NF-?B protein expression. [9]

Hong Kong researchers demonstrated that an ethanol extract of cultivated mycelium of a Cordyceps sinensis fungal
mycelium has strong anti-tumor activity on four cancer cell lines MCF-7 breast cancer, B16 mouse melanoma, HL-60
human premyelocytic leukemia and HepG2 human hepatocellular carcinoma. In an animal test, the EtOAc extract
showed significant inhibiting effect on B16-induced melanoma in C57BL/6 mice, causing about 60% decrease of
tumor size over 27 days. In contrast, this extract had much lower cytotoxicity against normal mouse bone marrow cells.
Researchers reported that it contained mainly carbohydrates, adenosine, ergosterol and trace amount of cordycepin.
[10]

Cordyceps may help body defense, against infections and inflammation. Cordyceps may modulate immunity. [2, 4, 32,
42-47]

Immunity
Cordyceps sinensis is believed to be an immunomodulator.Hong Kong researchers demonstrated that a cultivated
strain of Cordyceps sinensis induced the production of interleukin(IL)-1beta, IL-6, IL-10 and tumor necrosis factor
alphaalpha from PBMC, augmented surface expression of CD25 on lymphocytes in a vitro study. [2] While,
researchers from Zhejiang University, China, desmonstrated increased ovalbumin-specific IgG, IgG1 and IgG2b
serum levels after treating the mice with edible mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis. [4]

A rat study has shown that a Cordyceps sinensis mycelium extract protected mice from group A streptococcal
infection. It increased IL-12 and IFN-gamma expression and macrophage phagocytic activities. [32]

Memory Deficits
The extract of Cordyceps ophioglossoides protected the Abeta-induced neuronal cell death and memory loss through
free radical scavenging activity. [34]

Testosterone levels
Researchers from Taiwan noticed the stimulating effects of Cordyceps sinensis extracts on the secretion of
testosterone in mice; this effect is in dose- and time-dependent relationships. They are hoping this effect may offer
benefits to those with reproductive problems. [35]

Cholesterol-Levels
Cordyceps sinensis may have benefits on people at risk of high cholesterols. [36,40] In a study, researchers fed mice
with cholesterol-enriched diet. They found that the serum total cholesterol (TC) of all mice groups administered
Cordyceps sinensis extracts with the cholesterol-enriched diet decreased more than in the control group. [36]

Cardiovascular Issues
Extracts of the fruiting bodies of cultured Cordyceps sinensis has been shown to exert beneficial effects on the
formation of the atherosclerotic lesion induced by oxidative stress with few side effects in a study of mice. In the study,
researchers fed mice with an atherogenic diet and treated with the extracts for 12 weeks. Mice fed the atherogenic
diet showed marked increases in serum lipid and lipid peroxide levels and also aortic cholesterol levels, particularly
cholesteryl ester level, a major lipid constituent in atherosclerotic lesions. According to the authors, the extracts
significantly suppressed the increased serum lipid peroxide level but not other lipid levels in a dose-dependent
manner. WECS also suppressed the increased aortic cholesteryl ester level in a dose-dependent manner. [C1]

Researchers isolated a macromolecule from Cordyceps sinensis and they found this molecule has blood pressure
lowering and vaso-relaxing effects. The researchers explained that the vasorelaxation was mediated by the
endothelium possibly by stimulating the release of the nitric oxide and endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor. [C2]

Kidney
In a recent study cordyceps improved renal function in patients with chronic allograft nephropathy. [B4]
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The Polysaccharide from Cordyceps sinensis
A polysaccharide from Cordyceps sinesis has been identified. This Cordyceps sinensis polysaccharide enhances
immunity activity in mice treated by ionizing radiation, through reducing oxidative injury and modulating the secretion
of cytokine IL-4, IL-5 and IL-17. The average molecular weight of this Cordyceps sinensis polysaccharide is 12kD.
The polysaccharide was composed of mannose, rhamnose, arabinose, xylose, glucose and galactose. [B1]

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Vanadium-Enriched Cordyceps sinensis
In a study, rats were administered with vanadium-enriched Cordyceps sinensis, a significant reduction in blood
glucose levels was observed and the levels of serum insulin increased significantly. At the same time, the study
revealed a significant decrease in immobility with a corresponding increase in the swimming and climbing behavior in
hyperglycemic rats following vanadium-enriched Cordyceps sinensis treatment. Thus, researchers believe that
vanadium-enriched Cordyceps sinensis is a contemporary treatment approach that advocates an aggressive stance
toward both diabetes and depression management. [B3]

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Cordyceps sinensis Dosage
According to DRUGS.COM (October 30, 2011), Cordyceps sinensis dosage of 3 to 6 g/day has been used in patients
with long-term renal failure for periods ranging from days to years. While, Cordyceps sinensis dosage of 3.15 g daily
has been used for clinical trials evaluating effect on physical performance.
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CORDYCEPS SINENSIS SIDE EFFECTS
The side effects of Cordyceps sinensis are limited for recommended dosages. [48] Side effects such as diarrhea, dry
mouth, and nausea, has been reported in clinical studies. [DRUGS.COM]
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Reference
Memorial Slan-Kettering Cancer Center, October 31, 2011.
Drugs.com, October 31, 2011
Cordyceps Reference
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