Cordyceps sinensis Herbal Medicine

This article discusses the medicinal uses, health Benefits, side effects and warnings of Cordyceps.

Cordyceps sinensis has been used for centuries in traditional Asian medicine and Chinese medicine, Cordyceps is commonly used in China to promote general wellbeing and health. The lists of health benefits from Cordyceps are impressive.


Scientific Name: Cordyceps Sinensis

Also knows as:

Cordyceps mushroom, Caterpillar fungus (English), dong zhong chang cao, dongchongxiacao (China),  semitake (Japan), zhongcao,  and chongcao (China).

Cordyceps sinensis also known as caterpillar fungus is commonly mistaken as a mushroom but is actually a parasitic fungus, indigenous to China and Tibet. Cordyceps sinensis is formed when the fungus attacks moth caterpillars infecting it with spores during fall then germinates over the winter. When spring comes, the fungus has completely killed and mummified the caterpillar growing and producing a long slender fruiting body.

The fruiting body which is composed the remains of the caterpillar and the fungus are then hand collected, dried and preserved to be used as an herbal medicine.

Cordyceps sinensis has been used for centuries in traditional Asian medicine and Chinese medicine, although only as of late that the western medicine has taken notice for its medicinal benefits.

Cordyceps Sinensis Traditional Health Benefits

Cordyceps sinensis has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to promote general wellbeing and health. The claimed health benefits from Cordyceps are just simply amazing.

Cordyceps is widely believed to promote overall vitality and longetivity. It is used to slow down aging and promote youthful strength and stamina.

Cordyceps boosts physical energy and endurance. Widely recommended for energy demanding activities such as in sports. It is believed to strengthen the respiratory system, increasing the oxygen intake thereby providing the much needed power and stamina.

Cordyceps is used to strengthen the cardiovascular system. It is believed to improve the blood circulation while regulating the blood pressure and inhibiting the formation of blood clots. irregular heartbeat, anemia and high cholesterol level.

Cordyceps is used as a healing tonic to speed up recovery from illness and injuries and from weakness and fatigue.  Used as a recovery supplement during chemotheraphy.

Cordyceps is used to enhance libido for men and women. It also counters erectile dysfunction in men while strengthening the reproductive organs of women.

Cordyceps is used to strengthen the renal function. Cordyceps acts by preventing excess toxins from accumulating in the body, acting as a diuretic.

The Cordyceps fungus is used to treat chronic bronchitis, coughs and asthma.

Cordyceps has a powerful anti-inflammatory activity and anti-oxidant properties. It is mostly used in prevention and treatment of cancer. It is believed to shirk tumours and prevent secondary illness and infections.

The Cordyceps fungus boosts the  Immune system. By promoting the antibody production, it strengthens the body’s resistance against virus and bacteria related illness and infection.

Cordyceps is used in the treatment of Malaria, Yellow Fever

Cordyceps Sinensis is very effective to counter Opium addiction.

Cordyceps is used to treat liver related problems such as Hepatitis.

Scientific Studies: Cordyceps Sinensis Herbal Medicine

Cordyceps has a broad range of pharmacological and biological actions that include treatment of respiratory disorders such as coughs, chronic bronchitis and asthma. Cordyceps is also used to treat kidney disorders, sexual dysfunction and nighttime urination. Cordyceps is also used to treat heart and blood related ailments such as irregular heartbeat, anemia and high cholesterol level. It is also used for liver disorders such as hepatitis B.  Cordyceps is known to improve the immune system, boost energy and endurance and enhances stamina. The following are some of the scientific studies that may support such claims.

Cordyceps Sinensis has Anti-oxidant health benefit

Cordyceps has been found to possess antioxidant properties in some clinical studies. Cordyceps extracts has been tested to inhibit the oxidation of linoleic acid as well as its scavenging activity against other oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide, superoxide anion and others.

The antioxidant property of Cordyceps sinensis may be attributed to the polyphenolic and flavonoid constituents found therein. These constituents have been established in other scientific studies to protect against free radical scavengers.

Cordyceps has Anti-inflammatory health benefit

In a study published in “Journal of Natural Products, September 2011” entitled “Anti-inflammatory principles from Cordyceps sinensis” showed that Cordyceps sinensis extract has inhibition activity against superoxide anion generation and elastase release. This result suggested that Cordyceps sinensis extract maybe a natural alternative to prevent inflammation.

Cordyceps has Antitumor and Anticancer health benefit

According to a report published in “Japanese Journal of Experimental Medicine, August 1989”, entitled “Antitumor activity of an extract of Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc. against murine tumor ell lines” showed that the warm water extract of Cordyceps sinensis has significantly reduced the tumor caused by Ehrlich ascites carcinoma cells in mice. Other similar studies have been made and they consistently showed that extracts of Cordyceps have activity against broad cancer cell lines including lymphocytic, hepatoma, prostate, colonic and breast cancer cells.

Cordyceps has an Anti-fatigue and anti-stress health benefit

In a report published in Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin of May 2003, entitled “Antifatigue and antistress effect of the hot-water fraction from mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis” have shown that hot water extract of Cordyceps sinensis when administered  to mice has significantly improved its swimming endurance capability from 75 min to 90 minutes. Likewise when the mice were put under stress, stress indicators were suppressed suggesting that the mice experience less stress if compared to a control group.

Another interesting evidence to suggest that Cordyceps may be useful as a performance enhancer, improving endurance and stamina happened in 1992 Olympics where the consistent outstanding performances of Chinese athletes were attributed to Cordyceps supplement.

Cordyceps offers Antiasthma health benefit

Cordyceps has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine for a variety of respiratory problems that included upper respiratory infections, bronchitis and asthma. Cordyceps is believed to increase the oxygen absorption capability of the body, thereby improving the respiratory functions.

Recently, this activity of Cordyceps has been studied and the results was published in China Journal of Chinese Materia Medica, Sept 2001, entitled “Effects of fermented Cordyceps powder on pulmonary function in sensitized guinea pigs and airway inflammation in sensitized rats”, This study showed that Cordyceps significantly inhibited bronchial challenge of ovalbumin-induced change in rats and inhibited antigen-induced increase of eosinophils. The study suggested that powdered Cordyceps extract may be a natural alternative for the prevention and cure of asthma.

Health benefits of Cordyceps for the Heart

In a study published in Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, 2010, entitled “Cordycepin prevents hyperlipidemia in hamsters fed a high-fat diet via activation of AMP-activated protein kinase”, the effect of Cordyceps extract was investigated against hyperlipidemia.

Hyperlipidemia is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. It was found that in hamsters fed with high fat diet, the accumulation of total cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in blood were reduced when administered with Cordyceps extract. It also increased the levels of phospho-AMP-activated protein kinase and phospho-acetyl-CoA carboxylase in liver and retroperitoneal adipose tissues. These results indicate that cordycepin prevents hyperlipidemia via activation of AMPK. Experiments on abnormal metabolic mice indicated that cordycepin can also improve insulin sensitivity effectively.

Health Benefits of Cordyceps for Diabetes Patients

In a report published in “Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal, Sept 2010, entitled “A Contemporary Treatment Approach to Both Diabetes and Depression by Cordyceps sinensis, Rich in Vanadium” suggested that Cordyceps enriched with vanadium may be a potential strategy for contemporary treatment of depression and diabetes.

In another study published in American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2006 entitled “Anti-hyperglycemic activity of natural and fermented Cordyceps sinensis in rats with diabetes induced by nicotinamide and streptozotocin”, the study showed that Cordyceps extract has attenuated diabetes-induced weight loss, polydipsia, and hyperglycemia in rats.

Cordyceps improve the body’s immune response.

In a study published in International Immunopharmacology, 2011, entitled “Immunostimulating activity of the polysaccharides isolated from Cordyceps militaris”, the signaling mechanism of the polysaccharides isolated from fruiting body of Cordyceps militaris was investigated in macrophages to evaluate its immuno-stimulating properties in rats.  Results suggested that Cordyceps extract may potentially regulate the immune response.

Cordyceps Sinensis Usage, Dosage

Where can I buy Cordyceps?

Authentic wild cordyceps is extremely expensive and comes at a variety of grades. As a reference, an authentic wild cordyceps may fetch from $3000/kg and up depending on grade and can be bought from huge and reputable Chinese herbal pharmacy. Because of the prohibitive cost, commercially grown cordyceps in labs are becoming popular. These are available in most health stores, Chinese herbal stores, and even online as in Amazon such as Cordyceps Capsules.

However, when buying cordyceps, be cautious as there are a lot of fake ones that circulates in the market. It is best to buy reputable brands.

Cordyceps Use Warnings and Side Effects

Cordyceps is generally safe in recommended dosage and no major side effects were reported.

Pregnancy and Breast feeding mothers. There are no sufficient studies that establishes the safe use of Cordyceps in pregnant and breast feeding mothers. Use is discouraged.

Contra Indications. Cordyceps can boost the immune system therefore it is not recommended for people suffering from auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions.

Cordyceps may also interact with immune system depressants such as Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar), Prednisolone, or other immunosupressant drugs.

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Article last reviewed: 10.18.2016