Cordyceps Reviews
November 1, 2011
Cordyceps [Caterpillar fungus, Deer fungus parasite, Chongcao]
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, Cordyceps capita, and Cordyceps. militaris. Cordyceps militaris is a traditional herbal ingredient
frequently used for 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.

The chemical constituents for most species include cordycepin (3'-de-oxyadenosine) and its derivatives, ergosterol,
polysaccharides, a glycoprotein and peptides containing alpha-aminoisobutyric acid. [11] Their benefits are suggested
to include anti-tumour, anti-metastatic, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, insecticidal, antimicrobial,
hypolipidaemic, hypoglycaemic, anti-ageing, neuroprotective and renoprotective effects. Polysaccharide accounts for
the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumour, anti-metastatic, immunomodulatory, hypoglycaemic, steroidogenic and
hypolipidaemic effects. Cordycepin contributes to the anti-tumour, insecticidal and antibacterial activity. Ergosterol
exhibits anti-tumour and immunomodulatory activity. [11]

Scienific Studies on Cordyceps Members
A few members of Cordyceps are popularly used in herbal medicine and they have been scientifically studied to
various extent. This section reviews some interesting finding on these members.

Cordyceps militaris
Cordyceps militaris is a well-known medicinal mushroom used for treatment of asthma, and other bronchial and lung
inflammatory diseases. [CC6]

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] Researchers from China Agricultural University, Beijing, also
noticed the blood glucose lowering effects of a polysaccharide extracted from the fruting bodies and mycelia of
Cordyceps militaris in a study of rats. The hypoglycemic effect of this polysaccharide-enriched Cordyceps militaris
extract was dose-dependent. [7] Korean researchers showed a water-extract of Cordyceps militaris ameliorated insulin
resistance by enhancing glucose utilization in skeletal muscles of rats. [33]

Cordyceps militaris has been used in a anticancer herbal formula, combined with Panax notoginseng. [CC3] Cytotoxic
effects of cultivated fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris extracts against the proliferation of the human premyelocytic
leukemia cell HL-60 via the activation of caspase-3. [6] Cordyceps militaris culture broth suppressed cellular tyrosinase
activity and total melanin content in cultured B16F0 melanoma cells without any significant effects on cell proliferation
in  a study [CC2] Exposure of both MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 human breast cancer cells to cordycepin resulted in dose-
responsive inhibition of cell growth and reduction in cell viability. [CC4]

Cordyceps militaris extract has anti-inflammatory activity in DSS-induced acute colitis by down-regulating production
and expression of inflammatory mediators. [CC6]

Liver Issues
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]

Lipid-lowering Effects
Cordycepin is a bioactive component of the fungus Cordyceps militaris. Levels of serum total cholesterol, triglyceride,
low density lipoprotein cholesterol and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol increased markedly in the two animal
models by feeding high-fat diet. Meanwhile, cordycepin reduced levels of serum TC, TG, LDL-C, VLDL-C as well as
LDL-C/HDL-C (high density lipoprotein cholesterol) and TC/HDL-C ratios. [CC8]

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

A galactosaminoglycan (CO-N) isolated from Cordyceps ophioglossoides culture, has a direct cytotoxicity against tumor
cells. High performance liquid chromatographic analysis revealed that CO-N shows a broad molecular weight
distribution with an average molecular weight of 33000. A potent antitumor activity of CO-N was observed in the higher-
molecular-weight fraction on gel filtration, and the low-molecular-weight fraction below 6600 showed a weak activity.

Cordyceps sinensis
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 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] [For details, please, review
Cordyceps sinensis]

Cordyceps sobolifera
A novel serine protease, designated as cordysobin, was purified from dried fruiting bodies of the mushroom Cordyceps
sobolifera. This protease manifested significant inhibitory activity toward HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT) with an IC
(50) value of 8.2×10(-3)μM, which is the highest anti-HIV-1 RT activity of reported mushroom proteins. [CC1]

Cordyceps Sobolifera may ameliorate nephrotoxicity-induced renal dysfunction in the rat via antioxidant, anti-
apoptosis, and anti-autophagy mechanisms. [CC5]

Cordyceps members are wonderful herbs. You may want to know more their side effects and benefits:

Reference \ Cordyceps Side Effects \ Cordyceps Benefits
Different people may experience different side effects and benefits of a product. You are encouraged to report adverse
side effects to FDA, its website is, or report the adverse side effects to the manufacturer, you should be
able to find the contact information on the label.

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