CORDYCEPS (Cordyceps militaris)
Dehydrated, finely ground Cordyceps mycelium cultured on organic whole oats
There are many species of Cordyceps mushrooms distributed throughout the world. Two species, C. sinensis and C. militaris, have attracted considerable attention from the medical community in recent years due to their potent medicinal qualities. Both of these species are parasites on the larvae of caterpillars of moths. C. sinensis is native to remote, high elevations of Tibet and southern China. Traditional Chinese medicine generally involves the consumption of both the mushroom fruitbody and the parasitized larvae. The fruitbodies are small, blade-like and difficult to find and thus are rare and expensive. Additionally, there are concerns regarding microbial contamination when consuming dead carcasses of larvae. Scientists have developed techniques to culture and ferment the mycelia of these species. Culture of the mycelia without the caterpillar has enabled the production of consistant products with equal or greater potency than the natural form.
Known Active Constituents
*Cordycepic acid *Sterols: ergosterol
Medicinal Properties and Modes of Actions:
In Traditional Chinese medicine, Cordyceps has a long history of use as a lung and kidney tonic, to increase sperm production and for the treatment of chronic bronchitis, asthma, tuberculosis and other diseases of the respiratory system. Chinese herbalists believe that Cordyceps replenishes Yin and Yang Jing and restores the deep energy expended as a result of extreme exertion or stress or from aging. Cordyceps captured the attention of the West in 1993 during the Chinese National Games where a team of nine Chinese women runners shattered 9 world records, including breaking the 10,000 meter run by an astounding 42 seconds. The athletes' coach attributed their performance in part to the use of Cordyceps (Steinkraus et a. 1994).
Lou et al. (1986) reported that Cordyceps increased the survival times of mice kept in low oxygen environments. Cordyceps appeared to help the mice utilize oxygen more efficiently and increased oxygen absorption by as much as 40%. This activity may help to explain the extraordinary performance the Chinese athletes.
Regular ingestion of Cordyceps appears to ameliorate the effects of aging. In placebo-controlled clinical studies of elderly patients with fatigue and other senescence-related symptoms (Cao & Wen, 1993; Zhang et al., 1995), patients receiving Cordyceps exhibited clinical improvements including significant alleviation of fatigue, cold intolerance, dizziness, frequent nocturia, tinnitus, hyposexuality, and amnesia. Placebo-treated patients exhibited no improvement in symptoms.
The fruitbody and mycelia of Cordyceps have been shown to be potent immunopotentiators. Several studies have demonstrated the Cordyceps has a wide range of immunostimulating and immunomodulating activities (Koh et al, 1994; Kuo et al, 2005; Ng et al, 2005). In a clinical study of 36 patients with advanced breast and lung cancer, Cordyceps restored immunological function (Zhou & Lin, 1995).
Many researchers have studied and reported on the anti-cancer and anti-tumor activities of Cordyceps (Chen et al., 1997; Kuo et al., 1994; Yoshida, 1989). Li et al. (2001) reported strong anti-oxidation activity in Cordyceps and that the activity in cultured mycelium was equal or greater to that in the natural form.
Cordyceps has also been shown to have cholesterol-reducing and general cardiotonic properties (Chiou et al., 2000; Lou et al., 1986; Yamaguchi, et al. 2000). Cordyceps appears to inhibit cholesterol deposition in the aorta by inhibiting LDL oxidation. Geng et al. (1985) in a 2 month long controlled clinical study of 273 patients with hyperlipdemia, reported that Cordyceps reduced total cholesterol blood level by 17.5% and triglyceride level by 9.9%. No serious side effects were reported.
The long history of use of Cordyceps in Traditional Chinese Medicine to restore and enhance sexual function has been validated by research. Wan et al. (1988), conducted a clinical trial with 189 patients who reported decreased sex drives. Those patients receiving Cordceps reported significant improvement when compared to those patients receiving placebos. In another trial involving 22 male patients with impotence (Guo, 1986), after treatment with Cordyceps more than one-third of the patients were able to engage in sexual intercourse and more than one-half experienced improvement. Yang et al. (1995), in another clinical trial reported that treatment with Cordyceps significantly increased the sex drive of patients with low libido. Several animal studies involving Cordyceps have demonstrated the significant enhancement of sexual function in mice and rabbits. Lin et al. (2007) reported that supplementation of the diet with Cordyceps militaris mycelium significantly improved sperm quality and quantity in subfertile boars.
Chen, Y.J., 1997. "Effect of Cordyceps sinensis on the proliferation and differentiation of human leukemic U937 cells." Life Sciences 60 (25):2349-2359.
Halpern, G.M., 1999. "Cordyceps: China's Healing Mushroom" Avery Publishing Group, Garden City Park, New York
Koh, J.H., K. Yu, H. Suh, Y. Choi, & Y. Ahn, 2002. " Activation of macrophages and the intestinal immune system by an orally administered decoction from cultured medium of Corydyceps sinensis". Biosci Biotechno Biochem Feb; 66(2)407-411.
Kuo, Y.C., W. Tsai, M. Shiao, C. Chen, C. Lin, 1996. "Cordyceps sinensis as an immunomodulatory agent". American Journal of Chinese Medicine, vol. XXIV, No. 2, pp. 111-121
Li, S.P., P. Li, T. Dong, & K. Tsim, 2001. "Anti-oxidation activity of different types of natural Cordyceps sinensis and cultured Cordyceps mycelia". Phytomedicine May; 8(3)207-212. View Article
Lin, Wen-Hung, & Mun-Ta Tsai, 2007. "Improvement of sperm production in subfertile boars by Cordyceps militaris supplement". American Journal of Chinese Medicine 35(4)631-641.
Ng, T.B. & HX Wang, 2005. "Pharmacological actions of Cordyceps, a prized folk medicine". J. Pharm Pharmacol. Dec; 57(12): 1509-1519.
Steinkrauss, D. C. & J. Whitfield, 1994. " Chinese caterpiller fungs and world records". American Entomologist Winter 235-239. Won, S.Y and Eun-Hee Park. "Anti-inflammatory and related pharmacological activities of cultured mycelia and fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris". 2005. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 96(3): 555-561.
Yu, Hui Mei et al. 2006. "Comparison of protective effects between Cordyceps militaris and natural Cordyceps sinensis against oxidative damage". J. Agric. Food Chem. 54(8) 3132-38.
Zhou, D. H. & L. Lin, 1995. "Effect of Jinshubao capsule on the immunological function of 36 patients with advanced cancer" Chung-Kuo-Chung-His-I-Chieh-Ho-Tsa-Chih Aug: 15:8):476-478.
Zhu, J.S., G.M. Halpern, & K. Jones. 1998. "The scientific rediscovery of an ancient Chinese herbal medicine: Cordyceps sinensis Part I". The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 4(3): 289-303.
Zhu, J.S., G.M. Halpern, & K. Jones. 1998. "The scientific rediscovery of an ancient Chinese herbal regimen: Cordyceps sinensis Part II". The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 4(4): 429-457.
This information is intended for information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from a physician or other health care professional and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. Taking natural products should be a decision based upon personal research and the advice of health care professionals and be based upon a thorough understanding of the role food-derived medicinally-active compounds play in health and wellbeing. A health care professional should be consulted before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. Do not discontinue any other medical treatments without first consulting your doctor