Cordyceps is a fungus that grows on caterpillar larvae. The parasitic mushrooms grow on moth caterpillars. In China, it is referred to as “winter worm, summer grass.” Cordyceps is found at high altitude in the mountains of China, Nepal, and Tibet. The wild Cordyceps mushroom found in the Tibetan plateau is regarded as the King of Cordyceps. The wild form of Cordyceps sinensis is rare and expensive; therefore, a strain isolated from the wild form (Cs-4) is cultivated industrially and more commonly used.
What is Cordyceps Cs-4?
The wild fruiting form of Cordyceps is extremely rare in the wild and of this it is very expensive. Chinese experts spent many years looking for a vegetative form of Cordyceps that would produce the same active compounds as the fruit body; the result of that research is the Cordyceps strain Cs-4. In 1985, the Institute of Materia Medica in Beijing developed a fermentation method for the commercial production of Cordyceps Cs-4. In 1987, it was the first class 1 traditional treatment to be approved by the Chinese Ministry of Health. All of the scientific research reported in the last years is based on hot water extracts of the Cordyceps Cs-4 mycelium cultivated in this manner.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cordyceps extracts are considered to be in the supreme class of tonic herbs, balancing and strengthening the body’s internal systems. In vitro and animal studies show antitumor, radioprotective, and antidiabetic properties. A number of polysaccharides found in Cordyceps are believed to play an significant role in enhancing the immune system. Several studies of Cordyceps sinensis have especially focused on Natural Killer cells and Cordyceps effect on them and cancer formation.
Two of the primary mechanisms of actions for Cordyceps sinensis are its capability to increase oxygen capacity and increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels. This medicinal mushroom increases the effectiveness of the spleen to help it filter out harmful substances in the blood. It increases the DNA, RNA and proteins in the spleen to promote faster healing. Cordyceps could help to protect kidney damage caused by certain medications like cyclosporin and gentamycin.
Cordyceps sinensis stimulates the number of T helper cells, prolongs the survival of lymphocytes, improves TNF-alpha and interleukin 1 production. “Hunan Medical University” has conducted a study on the effect of Cordyceps to stimulate natural killer cell activity in 1992. Researchers found definite activation of NK (natural killer) cells in cell cultures and in animals. Body’s ability to fight infections and tumors depends on the availability of Natural Killer Cells.
Cordyceps sinensis has been found to stimulate the number and activity of immune-system antibodies called T-helper cells and natural killer cells in the body. In addition prolongs the survival of lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that play a critical role in immunity. Research shows C. sinensis effect to significantly improve immune system functioning in cancer patients and destroy cancer cells. The Cordyceps boosts the body’s immune system and it increases the power and the effectiveness of the immune system T cells and macrophages. Chinese Integrated Traditional Western Med showed that Cordyceps enhanced the NK (natural killer) cell activity of normal patients by 74% and increased the NK activity of leukemia patients by 400% and similar improvements of NK cell activities was found in big melanoma cancer. In one study with 50 lung cancer patients administered Cordyceps sinensis mycelium in conjunction with chemotherapy, tumors reduced in size in 46% of patients.
Hepatoprotective properties of cordyceps have been demonstrated in animal models. Studies conducted in patients with active hepatitis and posthepatic cirrhosis reported improvements in liver function tests. Researchers from “Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine” proposed the use of C. sinensis on liver fibrosis. C. sinensis may assist with the cure of hepatitis B by increasing serum gamma globulin levels and bolstering the immune system. Research clinical studies on 33 patients with Hepatitis B and on another 8 patients with cirrhosis taking cordyceps extract showed 71.9% improvement on Thymol Turbidity Test and 78.6% improvement in SGPT Test both of these are enzyme test showing improving functions of the liver. Other study involving 22 patients with post-hepatic cirrhosis showed significant improvement in liver function tests after 3 months of consuming 6–9g per of Cordyceps per day.
Research conducted on kidney patients who suffer from disorders of blood pressure showed that after one month of treatment with cordyceps sinensis their blood pressure lowered by 15 percent. Also, they noticed an increasing of superoxide dismutase which, together with established reducing of lipoperoxyde serum, suggests the possibility of neutralizing the free radicals, resulting in less damage to kidney cells. Professor Li Shuo Shin discovered that Cordyceps can prevent kidney damage caused by antibiotics and other remedies without reducing their antibiotic effect. Other clinical study involved 57 patients with gentamicin-induced kidney damage, who were either treated with 4.5g of cordyceps sinensis per day or by other more conventional methods. After six days, the group that received Cordyceps had recovered 89% of their normal kidney function compare to a 45% recovery rate in the other group.
Extracts of Cordyceps has been shown to exert useful effects on the formation of the atherosclerotic lesion induced by oxidative stress with few side effects in a study of mice. C.sinensis increases blood flow in coronary vessels to the heart, the vessels of the brain and in peripheral vessels. In 1994, a clinical trial was conducted on 38 elderly patients with arrhythmia . After 3 months of receiving Cordyceps (3g/day); ventricular arrhythmias success rate 80%, supraventricular arrhythmia success rate was observed in 83%.
Cordyceps enhances respiratory function. Several studies have demonstrated the effects of C. sinensis in alleviating the symptoms of several respiratory illnesses including chronic bronchitis and asthma. C.sinensis increases the body’s rate of respiration and improves lung function by improving blood circulation. Dilates airways in the lungs to oxygenate the blood that delivers oxygen to every cell, and the body utilizes oxygen better, and the lungs function better. One study of asthma patients showed C.sinensis had an efficacy rate of 81.3% in 5 days of use while typical antihistamine usage had an efficacy rate of 61% with symptoms subsiding in 9 days. The April, 1996, Taiwan pediatric Journal published that Cordyceps is highly effective for asthma and chronic bronchitis in both adults and children. In 117 cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Cordyceps was effective in 63 of the patients after one month of use.
C. sinensis increases energy level. Has the capability to increase ATP production in human cells increasing your energy level.”The University of Iowa” reported that consumption of cordyceps sinenes by lab animals increased the liver’s production of adenosine triphosphate, necessary for energy release, by as much as 55 %. In addition, increased oxygen utilization in mice by 30 to 50 percent. In a study reported in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” in 2010, daily intake of cordyceps appeared to improve exercise performance of older adults. In other study, Cordyceps improved shortness of breath and reduced fatigue in patients suffering from chronic heart failure.
C.sinensis has been used for in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat male and female sexual dysfunction, such as hypolibidinism and impotence. There are two compounds within Cordyceps , which are deoxyadenosine and mannitol, that have effects to raise the levels of the sex drive. It has been shown that treatment with cordyceps sinensis was over three times more strong in increasing libido of men with decreased sex drive, compared to a placebo. One of the test tube studies indicated that C.sinensis acted to stimulate certain male sex hormones as testosterone. Three separate Chinese double blind and placebo-controlled studies with over 200 men with “reduced libido and other sexual problems” showed remarkably parallel findings. 64% of the Cordyceps users reported important development at the conclusion of the experimental period compared with 24% of the placebo group.
Typical traditional recommended doses of cordyceps range from 2 g to 9 g per day. Concentrated Cordyceps extracts are also available, taken at a lower dosage.
Cordyceps Side Effects
Use of C.sinensis does not generally cause blatant side effects. But, there have been reports of nausea, upset stomach and dry mouth. It is recommended that individuals with a known allergy to cordyceps, mold, or fungi, avoid using it. Cordyceps may cause hypoglycemia, therefore individuals with diabetes should use it with caution. If you take diabetes medications, it might be necessary to make dosage adjustments to avoid low blood sugar. Do not take cordyceps if you have a hormone-sensitive cancer, such as breast cancer or prostate cancer. Animal studies show proliferation of progenitor red blood cells; for this reason, Cordyceps should not be used by those with myelogenous type cancers.