Cordyceps extract supplements benefits, side effects and dosages
November 1, 2011
Quick Reviews - Cordyceps Extract

Cordyceps is a genus of ascomycete fungi and some of its members including Cordyceps mycelium are commonly
used in herbal medicine. The popular species in commercial products are Cordyceps sinensis, Cordyceps
ophioglossoides, tonic and medicinal purposes in eastern Asia, while,
Cordyceps sinensis (dong chong xia cao; 冬蟲夏
草) has been suggested to possess anti-tumor, immunostimulant and antioxidant activities. Cordyceps sinensis, a well-
known and valued traditional Chinese medicine, is also called DongChongXiaCao (winter worm summer grass) in
Chinese. In herbal medicient, it is commonly used to replenish the kidney and soothe the lung and it is believed 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] This article reviews the potential health benefits and side effects of Cordyceps extract


Cordyceps extract supplements have been used in the elderly group to improve weakness, impotence, and fatigue
associated with aging. Direct scientific evidence supporting this claim is limited, but Cordyceps extracts' anti-oxidative
activities have been shown in some studies [5, 37-40]. The protective effects of cultured Cordyceps militaris and
natural Cordyceps sinensis against oxidative damage of bio-molecules have been shown. They both have free radical
scavenging abilities. [5] Further, Cordyceps extracts may benefit people suffered from memory deficits, the extracts
protected the Abeta-induced neuronal cell death and memory loss through a free radical scavenging mechanism. [34]

Liver Issues
Liver issues are not necessary related to aging, while some of us start to have liver issues at middle age or even
earlier. Cordyceps extract supplements may benefit people at risk of liver issues. The use of Cordyceps extracts has
been proposed on liver fibrosis. In a study, liver fibrosis in rats was induced and then the rats were treated with
Cordycep extracts. It was found that cordyceps extracts promoted collagen degradation. [1] Cordyceps extracts may
also be able to adjust the T lymphocyte subsets level and to treat hepatic fibrosis in patients suffered from chronic
hepatitis. [L1, L2]

Cordyceps extract supplements may benefit people at risk of diabetes.  A polysaccharide of molecular weight
approximately 210kDa was isolated from cultured Cordyceps mycelia. This extract was found to have a strong
antioxdant activity and a hypoglycemic effect on normal and alloxan-diabetic mice and streptozotocin (STZ)-diabetic
rats. When administered at a dosage of higher than 200mg/kg body wt. daily for 7 days, the extract produced a
significant drop in blood glucose level in both STZ-induced diabetic rats and alloxan-induced diabetic mice. [3] The
blood glucose lowering effects of a polysaccharide extracted from the fruiting bodies and mycelia of Cordyceps
militaris were also observed in a rat study. The hypoglycemic effect of this Cordyceps militaris extract was dose-
dependent. [7] In a separate study, a water-extract of Cordyceps ameliorated insulin resistance by enhancing glucose
utilization in skeletal muscles of rats. [33]

Cordyceps extract supplements may offer benefits to those suffered from certain cancers. An Cordyceps extract has
been demonstrated to benefit a wide range of disorders in either animal or test-tube studies. [9-31]  Cytotoxic effects
of cultivated fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris extracts against the proliferation of the human premyelocytic
leukemia cell HL-60 was reported to be via the activation of caspase-3. [6] A polysaccharide extracted from a
cultivated Cordyceps sinensis 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. Cordyceps sinensis induced
MA-10 cell apoptosis by activating caspase-8-dependent and caspase-9-independent pathways and downregulating
NF-?B protein expression. [9] 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.

Alteration of testosterone levels
Not sure if it is a benefit? 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 Profiles
Cordyceps extract supplements may benefit people with cholesterol-lowering effects. [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.

Heart and Circulation Issues
Cordyceps extract supplements may offer benefits of cardiovascular protection. 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] A macromolecule from Cordyceps sinensis
was extracted and this molecule was found to have blood pressure lowering and vaso-relaxing effects. The
vasorelaxation was propably mediated by the endothelium possibly by stimulating the release of the nitric oxide and
endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor. [C2]

Immunity, Kidney Functions etc.
Cordyceps extract supplements may help body defense, against infections and inflammation. Cordyceps may
modulate immunity. [2, 4, 32, 42-47] Cordyceps sinensis is believed to be an immunomodulator. 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, increased ovalbumin-
specific IgG, IgG1 and IgG2b serum levels after treating the mice with edible mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis were
demonstrated. [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]
Cordyceps may also have beneficial effects on kidney, but, more studies are needed to understand the mechanism.


Cordyceps Extract Dosage
It is unclear what exact dosages are needed to achieve the therapeutic effects. But, points out that
dosage of 3-6 g/day has been used in patients suffered from long-term renal failure, while dosage of 6 g/day was used
in conjunction with chemotherapy in clinical studies. Further, daily dosage of 3.15 g was used in a study on physical

Cordyceps Extract Safety, Side Effects and Toxicity
All herbs, medicine have side effects. Cordyceps is probably safe for healthy users at low doses. For details, please,
Cordyceps side effects.

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accurate. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is important to seek the
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