Cordyceps sinensis (caterpillar fungus) is traditionally used in medicine or as a tonic by the Chinese for centuries because of its many and varied health benefits.
The fungus’s use was relatively unknown in the United States until it was lauded for the success of Chinese female athletes at the 1993 National Games in Beijing. Suspicion was attracted because three of the five winning runners were all on the same team but they tested negative for banned substances. Why? Because they were taking all-natural cordyceps.
This fungus has been used extensively for many years in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Traditional Tibetan Medicine.
Chinese people in the past thought that Cordyceps sinensis (Dong chong xiz cao) were worms. After many years of study, it was discovered that it is actually a fruiting body by the Cordyceps sinensis fungus on dead caterpillars of the Hepilus fabricius Ghost moth.
Cordyceps sinensis spores grow inside the caterpillars as they infect it and take over the central nervous system of the host. The spores then fill the caterpillar with hyphae or filaments.
As the caterpillar dies off, the endoparasitoid fungus produces a fruiting body that is stalked, in which the fruiting body produces spores, which are spread through the air to caterpillars. There have already been about 400 species of these endoparasitoid fungi discovered. How many more are there?
What does cordyceps sinensis mushroom look like?
The Cordyceps sinensis mushroom’s fruiting body or ascocarp starts at the base on an insect larval host and ends at the club-like cap, which includes the stroma and the stipe.
The fruiting body ranges from a dark brown to black color. The organism’s ‘root,’ the caterpillar’s body that is occupied by the Cordyceps sinensis’s mycelium, appears yellow to brown.
Where do cordyceps sinensis mushrooms grow?
Cordyceps sinensis mushroom appears annually and its usual harvesting period is from the months of April to August.
Cordyceps sinensis only thrives at altitudes over 3.8T meters above sea level. It grows in the alpine, grassy, cold meadows in the high-altitude Himalayan Plateau of modern-day Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and some Chinese provinces, including Gansu, Sichuan, Zhejiang, Hubei, Yunnan, Qinghai, and Guizhon.
The caterpillar manifests signs of fungal infection while underground during spring. During this time, the mycelium starts to decompose the caterpillar host until fruiting of the Cordyceps sinensis is stimulated.
Natural Cordyceps sinensis mushroom chemical constituents include glutamic acid, cordycepic acid, polyamines, amino acids, sugar derivatives and saccharides, cyclic dipeptides, nucleosides and nucleotides sterols, 28 unsaturated and saturated fatty acids, inorganic elements, fatty acid derivatives, vitamins and inorganic compounds.
- Cordycepin (has very potent anti-disease, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities)
- Polysaccharides (improve function of immune system and possess anti-hyperglycemia, liver protection, anti-tumor, hyperlipidemia, and antioxidant activities)
- Nucleosides (antidisease, antiviral)
- Amino acids (sedative)
- Sterols (cytotoxic, anti-tumor activity)
- Aurantiamides (analgesic, anti-inflammatory)
- Peptides (cytotoxic against Hela, A375, and L-929 cells; neuroprotective; immune inhibitor)
- Melanin (antioxidant)
- Cordysinins (anti-inflammatory)
- Lovastatin, ergothionene, and GABA (y-aminobutyric acid) (antioxidant, hypotension, hypolipidemia activity)
Top Health Benefits of Cordyceps Sinensis Mushroom
Some of the caterpillar fungus’s health benefits include its ability to increase oxygen uptake, improve respiratory health, detoxify the body, boost heart health, slow aging, prevent certain diseases, improve immunity, and increase energy – making it effective in the fight against adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Researches on the effects of the caterpillar fungus have discovered many exciting results, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health. A study indicated that patients who took Cordyceps extract powder supplements were found less likely to have heart failure. This effect is primarily due to the antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties of the Cordyceps sinensis, which may help complications like heart arrhythmias.
When it comes to anti-aging, some of the more reliable research is on the caterpillar fungus, which has potent concentrations of age-defying compounds that can help eliminate dying or dead cells, rejuvenate the skin, and improve the appearance of age spots, wrinkles, and blemishes, shaving effectively years off your face and life.
Cordyceps sinensis may have a positive impact on men’s sexual dysfunction.Evidence shows that Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris can both improve reproductive activity and restore impaired reproductive function.
Numerous rounds of cordyceps sinensis research has indicated that men with poor libido or low levels of sexual energy saw apparent improvement after taking cordyceps sinensis herbal supplements. Increased testosterone levels through Cordyceps supplementation in mice has also been demonstrated.
As published in The Open Nutraceuticals Journal, the researching doctors believe “that the anti-tumor activity of these cordyceps sinensis might be related to an immuno-stimulating function.
The ethyl acetate extract of C. sinensis mycelium was found to have strong anti-tumor activity on four disease cell lines, MCF-7 breast disease, B16 mouse melanoma, HL-60 human premyelocytic leukemia and HepG2 human hepatocellular carcinoma.”
Although there has yet to be conclusive evidence from human trials the research so har has shown some very significant antidisease benefits of the fungi.
Studies have shown that cordyceps has antitumor activity in various diseases through several pathways. Both natural and cultured cordyceps have revealed powerful anti-tumor effects.
Aside from the above benefits, Cordyceps sinensis (caterpillar fungus) does have a small effect on lowering sugar levels in the blood. This may be detrimental to diabetics, who should be aware of such risks before integrating Cordyceps sinensis into their regimen. The caterpillar fungus is also a blood thinner, and one should not take it post-surgery.
The fungus that thrives in the mountain regions of the Tibet, China, and Nepal is really one of a kind because of how the fungus develops and how it can help treat diseases.
The caterpillar fungus is also used to treat chronic bronchitis, coughs, kidney disorders, respiratory disorders, male sexual problems, nighttime urination, irregular heartbeat, anemia, liver disorders, high cholesterol, weakness, dizziness, unwanted weight loss, opium addiction, and ringing in the ears, among other disorders. It’s highly anti-viral and effective against viruses like Bird Flu, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus and Herpes. In fact, some claim it’s more powerful than Ribavirin.
Because of its benefits to humans, the production of Cordyceps sinensis is also safeguarded. All possible measures have been carried out to make sure that a healthy environment is sustained so that adequate harvesting can be done for the medicinal plants and fungi. This provides adequate income for rural residents and folk healers.
Khan MA, Tania M, Zhang D, Chen H; Tania; Zhang; Chen (May 2010). “Cordyceps Mushroom: A Potent Antidisease Nutraceutical”. The Open Nutraceuticals Journal. 3: 179–183.