Although Cordyceps sinensis is often described as an herb, it’s actually a combination of a parasitic fungus and the larvae of a moth (a caterpillar). The fungus attacks the caterpillar and destroys it from within. The remaining structures of the caterpillar along with the fungus are dried and sold as cordyceps.
Cordyceps has a long history of use in China as a “tonic,” a substance said to generally strengthen the body, particularly following illness. It was also used to treat bronchitis, kidney failure, and tuberculosis.
Cordyceps is widely marketed today as treatment for many conditions. However, there is no reliable scientific evidence that it actually provides any medical benefits.
Most research on cordyceps was done in China and is not up to modern scientific standards. In general, double-blind
Weak evidence hints that cordyceps may modulate the immune system, which means that it stimulates some aspects of the immune system while suppressing others.
Other test-tube studies hint that cordyceps may stimulate production of hormones, such as cortisone and testosterone.
Typical traditional recommended doses of cordyceps range from 5-10 grams per day. Concentrated extracts are also available, taken at a lower dosage.
Use of cordyceps does not generally cause apparent side effects. However, comprehensive safety studies have not been reported. In addition, there are two case reports in which cordyceps products contained enough lead to cause lead poisoning. 34 Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
7. Colson SN, Wyatt FB, Johnston DL, et al. Cordyceps sinensis and Rhodiola rosea -based supplementation in male cyclists and its effect on muscle tissue oxygen saturation. J Strength Cond Res . 2005;19:358-63.
8. Chen DM, Zhang SL, Li ZN, Cheng ZQ, Liu XP. Effect of natural cordyceps and the cultured mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis on murine immune organs and functions of mononuclear phagocyte system. Chin J lntegr Trad West Med . 1985;5:4241.
10. Koh JH, Yu KW, Suh HJ, Choi YM, Ahn TS. Activation of macrophages and the intestinal immune system by an orally administered decoction from cultured mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis . Biosci BiotechnolBiochem . 2002;66:407-411.
20. Kiho T, Ookubo K, Usui S, Ukai S, Hirano K. Structural features and hypoglycemic activity of a polysaccharide (CS-F10) from the cultured mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis . Biol Pharm Bull . 1999;22:966-970.
22. Kiho T, Ookubo K, Usui S, Ukai S, Hirano K. Structural features and hypoglycemic activity of a polysaccharide (CS-F10) from the cultured mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis . Biol Pharm Bull . 1999;22:966-970.
33. Wang SM, Lee LJ, Lin WW, Chang CM. Effects of a water-soluble extract of Cordyceps sinensis on steroidogenesis and capsular morphology of lipid droplets in cultured rat adrenocortical cells. J Cell Biochem . 1998;69:483-489.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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