Cordyceps benefits
side effects, diabetes, antioxidant activities, research - ZHION.COM
Cordyceps Quick Review [Caterpillar fungus, Deer fungus parasite, Chongcao]

Cordyceps is a genus of ascomycete fungi and some of its members including Cordyceps mycelium are commonly used
in herbal medicine. The popular species in commercial products are
Cordyceps sinensis, Cordyceps ophioglossoides,
Cordyceps capita, and Cordyceps. militaris. Cordyceps militaris is a traditional herbal ingredient frequently used for tonic
and medicinal purposes in eastern Asia, while, Cordyceps sinensis (dong chong xia cao; 冬蟲夏草) has been suggested
to possess anti-tumor, immunostimulant and antioxidant activities.

The chemical constituents for most species include cordycepin (3'-de-oxyadenosine) and its derivatives, ergosterol,
polysaccharides, a glycoprotein and peptides containing alpha-aminoisobutyric acid. [11] Their benefits are suggested
to include anti-tumour, anti-metastatic, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, insecticidal, antimicrobial,
hypolipidaemic, hypoglycaemic, anti-ageing, neuroprotective and renoprotective effects. Polysaccharide accounts for
the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumour, anti-metastatic, immunomodulatory, hypoglycaemic, steroidogenic and
hypolipidaemic effects. Cordycepin contributes to the anti-tumour, insecticidal and antibacterial activity. Ergosterol
exhibits anti-tumour and immunomodulatory activity. [11]

More about Cordyceps sinensis
Cordyceps sinensis, a well-known and valued traditional Chinese medicine, is also called DongChongXiaCao (winter
worm summer grass) in Chinese. In herbal medicient, it is commonly used to replenish the kidney and soothe the lung
and it is belived to benefit fatigue, night sweating, hyposexualities, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, asthemia after severe
illness, respiratory disease, renal dysfunction and renal failure, arrhythmias and other heart disease, and liver disease.
As the rarity and upstanding curative effects of natural Cordyceps, several mycelial strains have been isolated from
natural Cordyceps and manufactured in large quantities by fermentation technology, and they are commonly sold as
health food products in Asia. [8]


Liver Issues
Cordyceps may benefit people suffered from liver issues. Researchers from Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese
Medicine proposed the use of Cordyceps sinensis on liver fibrosis. In a study, they induced liver fibrosis in rats with
dimethylnitrosamine and then they treated the rats with Cordyceps sinensis. They found that the content of
metalloproteinases-2 in Cordyceps sinensis-treated group was significantly higher than that in the untreated group.
Thus, cordyceps sinensis promoted collagen degradation. [1] Cordyceps sinensis may be able to adjust the T
lymphocyte subsets level and to treat hepatic fibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis. In the study, the researchers
supplied cordyceps sinensis to 25 patients suffered from chronic hepatitis for three months. They found CD4 and
CD4/CD8 ratio increased significantly(P < 0.05), while HA and PC III decreased significantly(P < 0.05) compared with the
control. [L1]

In another study of rats, researchers from Korea demonstrated four weeks of administration of extracellular biopolymers
from mycelial liquid culture of Cordyceps militaris has a beneficial effect in rats with liver fibrosis. [L2]

Cordyceps may benefit people at risk of diabetes. Researchers from University of Macau, China, isolated a
polysaccharide of molecular weight approximately 210kDa was isolated from cultured Cordyceps mycelia. This isolated
polysaccharides, CSP-1, has a strong antidant activity and a hypoglycemic effect on normal and alloxan-diabetic mice
and streptozotocin (STZ)-diabetic rats. When administered at a dose of higher than 200mg/kg body wt. daily for 7 days,
CSP-1 produced a significant drop in blood glucose level in both STZ-induced diabetic rats and alloxan-induced diabetic
mice. [3]

Researchers from China Agricultural University, Beijing, also noticed the blood glucose lowering effects of a
polysaccharide extracted from the fruting bodies and mycelia of Cordyceps militaris in a study of rats. The hypoglycemic
effect of this polysaccharide-enriched Cordyceps militaris extract was dose-dependent. [7] Korean researchers showed
a water-extract of Cordyceps militaris ameliorated insulin resistance by enhancing glucose utilization in skeletal muscles
of rats. [33]

Anti-oxidative Activities
Cordyceps has antioxidant activities. [5, 37-40] Researchers from Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science,
Taiwan, demonstrated the protective effects of cultured Cordyceps militaris and natural Cordyceps sinensis against
oxidative damage of biomolecules in a vitro study. They both have free radical scavenging abilities. [5]

Cordyceps may offer benefits to those suffered from certain cancers. The aqueous extract of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs),
one of the traditional Chinese medicines, has been demonstrated to benefit a wide range of disorders in either animal or
test-tube studies. [9-31] Here are some most recent animal or in vitro studies suggesting its benefits in cancers.

Korean researchers reported cytotoxic effects of cultivated fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris extracts against the
proliferation of the human premyelocytic leukemia cell HL-60 via the activation of caspase-3. [6]

Researchers from Nanjing University shouls that a polysaccharide extracted from a cultivated Cordyceps sinensis fungus
significantly enhanced superoxide dismutase activity of liver, brain and serum as well as glutathione peroxidase activity
of liver and brain in tumor-bearing mice. It also inhibited H22 tumor growth in the mice.

Cordyceps sinensis mycelium was found to induce MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cell death. Researchers from Taiwan
found that Cordyceps sinensis induced MA-10 cell apoptosis by activating caspase-8-dependent and caspase-9-
independent pathways and downregulating NF-?B protein expression. [9]

Hong Kong researchers demonstrated that an ethanol
extract of cultivated mycelium of a Cordyceps sinensis fungal
mycelium has strong anti-tumor activity on four cancer cell lines MCF-7 breast cancer, B16 mouse melanoma, HL-60
human premyelocytic leukemia and HepG2 human hepatocellular carcinoma. In an animal test, the EtOAc extract
showed significant inhibiting effect on B16-induced melanoma in C57BL/6 mice, causing about 60% decrease of tumor
size over 27 days. In contrast, this extract had much lower cytotoxicity against normal mouse bone marrow cells.
Researchers reported that it contained mainly carbohydrates, adenosine, ergosterol and trace amount of cordycepin.

Cordyceps may help body defense, against infections and inflammation. Cordyceps may modulate immunity. [2, 4, 32,

Cordyceps sinensis is believed to be an immunomodulator.Hong Kong researchers demonstrated that a cultivated strain
of Cordyceps sinensis induced the production of interleukin(IL)-1beta, IL-6, IL-10 and tumor necrosis factor alphaalpha
from PBMC, augmented surface expression of CD25 on lymphocytes in a vitro study. [2] While, researchers from
Zhejiang University, China, desmonstrated increased ovalbumin-specific IgG, IgG1 and IgG2b serum levels after treating
the mice with edible mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis. [4]

A rat study has shown that a Cordyceps sinensis mycelium extract protected mice from group A streptococcal infection. It
increased IL-12 and IFN-gamma expression and macrophage phagocytic activities. [32]

Cordyceps may benefit people suffered from memory deficits. The extract of Cordyceps ophioglossoides protected the
Abeta-induced neuronal cell death and memory loss through free radical scavenging activity. [34]

Alteration of testosterone levels
Not sure if it is a benefit? Researchers from Taiwan noticed the stimulating effects of Cordyceps sinensis extracts on the
secretion of testosterone in mice; this effect is in dose- and time-dependent relationships. They are hoping this effect
may offer benefits to those with reproductive problems. [35]

Cholesterol Profiles
Cordyceps may benefit people with cholesterol-lowering effects. [36,40] In a study, researchers fed mice with cholesterol-
enriched diet. They found that the serum total cholesterol (TC) of all mice groups administered Cordyceps sinensis
extracts with the cholesterol-enriched diet decreased more than in the control group. [36]

Heart and Circulation Issues
Cordyceps may offer benefits of cardiovascular protection. Extracts of the fruiting bodies of cultured Cordyceps sinensis
has been shown to exert beneficial effects on the formation of the atherosclerotic lesion induced by oxidative stress with
few side effects in a study of mice. In the study, researchers fed mice with an atherogenic diet and treated with the
extracts for 12 weeks. Mice fed the atherogenic diet showed marked increases in serum lipid and lipid peroxide levels
and also aortic cholesterol levels, particularly cholesteryl ester level, a major lipid constituent in atherosclerotic lesions.
According to the authors, the extracts significantly suppressed the increased serum lipid peroxide level but not other lipid
levels in a dose-dependent manner. WECS also suppressed the increased aortic cholesteryl ester level in a dose-
dependent manner. [C1]

Researchers isolated a macromolecule from Cordyceps sinensis and they found this molecule has blood pressure
lowering and vaso-relaxing effects. The researchers explained that the vasorelaxation was mediated by the endothelium
possibly by stimulating the release of the nitric oxide and endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor. [C2]

Cordyceps may also have beneficial effects on kidney, but, more studies are needed to understand the mechanism.


All herbs, medicine have side effects. Cordyceps is probably safe for healthy users at low doses. For details, please,
Cordyceps side effects.

[1] Li FH, et al,Effects of Cordyceps sinensis on dimethylnitrosamine-induced liver fibrosis in rats. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao. 2006 Sep;4(5):514-7.[2] Ka Wai
Lee S,et al, Immunomodulatory activities of HERBSnSENSES Cordyceps -- in vitro and in vivo studies.Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2006;28(2):341-60. [3]
Li SP, et al, Hypoglycemic activity of polysaccharide, with antioxidation, isolated from cultured Cordyceps mycelia.Phytomedicine. 2006 Jun;13(6):428-33.
Epub 2005 Sep 19. [4] Wu Y, et al,Effect of various extracts and a polysaccharide from the edible mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis on cellular and humoral
immune response against ovalbumin in mice. Phytother Res. 2006 Aug;20(8):646-52. [5] Yu HM, et al, Comparison of protective effects between cultured
Cordyceps militaris and natural Cordyceps sinensis against oxidative damage. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Apr 19;54(8):3132-8. [6] Lee H, et al, Induction of
apoptosis by Cordyceps militaris through activation of caspase-3 in leukemia HL-60 cells.Biol Pharm Bull. 2006 Apr;29(4):670-4. [7] Zhang G, et al,
Hypoglycemic activity of the fungi Cordyceps militaris, Cordyceps sinensis, Tricholoma mongolicum, and Omphalia lapidescens in streptozotocin-induced
diabetic rats.Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2006 Mar 31. [8] Li SP, et al, Quality control of Cordyceps sinensis, a valued traditional Chinese medicine.J Pharm
Biomed Anal. 2006 Aug 28;41(5):1571-84. Epub 2006 Feb 28. [8] Chen J, et al, Morphological and genetic characterization of a cultivated Cordyceps sinensis
fungus and its polysaccharide component possessing antioxidant property in H22 tumor-bearing mice.Life Sci. 2006 May 1;78(23):2742-8. Epub 2006 Feb 21. [9]
Yang HY, et al, Cordyceps sinensis mycelium induces MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cell apoptosis by activating the caspase-8 pathway and suppressing the NF-
kappaB pathway.Arch Androl. 2006 Mar-Apr;52(2):103-10. [10] Wu JY, Zhang QX, Leung PH.Inhibitory effects of ethyl acetate extract of Cordyceps sinensis
mycelium on various cancer cells in culture and B16 melanoma in C57BL/6 mice.Phytomedicine. 2006 Jan 16. [11] Ng TB, et al, Pharmacological actions of
Cordyceps, a prized folk medicine.J Pharm Pharmacol. 2005 Dec;57(12):1509-19. [12] Yang J, et al, Effects of exopolysaccharide fraction (EPSF) from a
cultivated Cordyceps sinensis fungus on c-Myc, c-Fos, and VEGF expression in B16 melanoma-bearing mice. Pathol Res Pract. 2005;201(11):745-50. Epub 2005
Oct 19. [13] Park C, et al, Growth inhibition of U937 leukemia cells by aqueous extract of Cordyceps militaris through induction of apoptosis.Oncol Rep. 2005
Jun;13(6):1211-6. [14]  Ishurd O et al, Structure analysis and antitumor activity of (1-->3)-beta-d-glucans (cordyglucans) from the mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis.
Planta Med. 2005 Apr;71(4):381-4. [15] Wang BJ, et al, Free radical scavenging and apoptotic effects of Cordyceps sinensis fractionated by supercritical carbon
dioxide.Food Chem Toxicol. 2005 Apr;43(4):543-52.[16] Buenz EJ et al, The traditional Chinese medicine Cordyceps sinensis and its effects on apoptotic
homeostasis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Jan 4;96(1-2):19-29. [17] Zhang W et al, Immunomodulatory and antitumour effects of an exopolysaccharide fraction from
cultivated Cordyceps sinensis (Chinese caterpillar fungus) on tumour-bearing mice.Biotechnol Appl Biochem. 2005 Aug;42(Pt 1):9-15. [18] Zhang Q et al,
Induction of HL-60 apoptosis by ethyl acetate extract of Cordyceps sinensis fungal mycelium.Life Sci. 2004 Oct 29;75(24):2911-9. [19] Chen YC, et al,Cordyceps
sinensis mycelium activates PKA and PKC signal pathways to stimulate steroidogenesis in MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cells, Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2005 Jan;37
(1):214-23. [20] Yoo HS, et al, Effects of Cordyceps militaris extract on angiogenesis and tumor growth.Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2004 May;25(5):657-65. [21]
Nakamura K, et al, Combined effects of Cordyceps sinensis and methotrexate on hematogenic lung metastasis in mice.Receptors Channels. 2003;9(5):329-34.
[22] Kuo YC, et al,Activation and proliferation signals in primary human T lymphocytes inhibited by ergosterol peroxide
isolated from Cordyceps cicadae.
Br J Pharmacol. 2003 Nov;140(5):895-906. Epub 2003 Sep 22. [23] Shin KH, et al,Anti-tumour and immuno-stimulating activities of the fruiting bodies of
Paecilomyces japonica, a new type of Cordyceps spp. Phytother Res. 2003 Aug;17(7):830-3. [24] Huang BM, et al, Cordyceps sinensis and its fractions stimulate
MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cell steroidogenesis.J Androl. 2001 Sep-Oct;22(5):831-7. [25] Huang BM, et al, Effects of extracted Cordyceps sinensis on
steroidogenesis in MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cells.Biol Pharm Bull. 2000 Dec;23(12):1532-5. [26]Chiu JH, et al, Cordyceps sinensis increases the expression of
major histocompatibility complex class II antigens on human hepatoma cell line HA22T/VGH cells.Am J Chin Med. 1998;26(2):159-70. [27] Liu J, et al,
Anticarcinogenic effect and hormonal effect of Cordyceps militaris Link.Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 1997 Feb;22(2):111-3. [28] Chen YJ, et al, Effect of
Cordyceps sinensis on the proliferation and differentiation of human leukemic U937 cells.Life Sci. 1997;60(25):2349-59. [29] Kuo YC et al, Growth inhibitors
against tumor cells in Cordyceps sinensis other than cordycepin and polysaccharides.Cancer Invest. 1994;12(6):611-5. [30] Xu RH, et al, Effects of cordyceps
sinensis on natural killer activity and colony formation of B16 melanoma.Chin Med J (Engl). 1992 Feb;105(2):97-101. [31] Yoshida J, et al, Antitumor activity of
an extract of Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc. against murine tumor cell lines.Jpn J Exp Med. 1989 Aug;59(4):157-61.  [32] Kuo CF, et al, Cordyceps sinensis
mycelium protects mice from group A streptococcal infection.J Med Microbiol. 2005 Aug;54(Pt 8):795-802. [33] Choi SB, et al, Improvement of insulin
resistance and insulin secretion by water extracts of Cordyceps militaris, Phellinus linteus, and Paecilomyces tenuipes in 90% pancreatectomized rats.Biosci
Biotechnol Biochem. 2004 Nov;68(11):2257-64. [34] Jin DQ, et al, Mycelial extract of Cordyceps ophioglossoides prevents neuronal cell death and ameliorates
beta-amyloid peptide-induced memory deficits in rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2004 Jul;27(7):1126-9. [35] Hsu CC et, In vivo and in vitro stimulatory effects of
Cordyceps sinensis on testosterone production in mouse Leydig cells. Life Sci. 2003 Sep 5;73(16):2127-36. [36] Koh JH, et al, Hypocholesterolemic effect of hot-
water extract from mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis. Biol Pharm Bull. 2003 Jan;26(1):84-7. [L1] Gong HY, et al, Effects of cordyceps sinensis on T lymphocyte
subsets and hepatofibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis B Hunan Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2000 Jun 28;25(3):248-50. [L2] Nan JX, et al, Antifibrotic effect of
extracellular biopolymer from submerged mycelial cultures of Cordyceps militaris on liver fibrosis induced by bile duct ligation and scission in rats. Arch Pharm
Res. 2001 Aug;24(4):327-32. [C1] Yamaguchi Y, et al, Inhibitory effects of water extracts from fruiting bodies of cultured Cordyceps sinensis on raised serum lipid
peroxide levels and aortic cholesterol deposition in atherosclerotic mice. Phytother Res. 2000 Dec;14(8):650-2. [C2]Chiou WF, et al, protein constituent
contributes to the hypotensive and vasorelaxant activities of Cordyceps sinensis. Life Sci. 2000 Feb 25;66(14):1369-76. [37] Yamaguchi Y, et al, Antioxidant
activity of the extracts from fruiting bodies of cultured Cordyceps sinensis. Phytother Res. 2000 Dec;14(8):647-9. [38] Li SP, et al, Anti-oxidation activity of
different types of natural Cordyceps sinensis and cultured Cordyceps mycelia. Phytomedicine. 2001 May;8(3):207-12. [39] Shin KH, et al, Antioxidant and
immunostimulating activities of the fruiting bodies of Paecilomyces japonica, a new type of Cordyceps sp. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Apr;928:261-73. [40] Li SP,
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2003 Sep 26;73(19):2503-13. [41]Kiho T, et al, Polysaccharides in fungi. XXXVI. Hypoglycemic activity of a polysaccharide (CS-F30) from the cultural
mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis and its effect on glucose metabolism in mouse liver.Biol Pharm Bull. 1996 Feb;19(2):294-6. [42] Kuo YC, et al, Cordyceps
sinensis as an immunomodulatory agent. Am J Chin Med. 1996;24(2):111-25. [43] Yang LY, et al, Efficacy of a pure compound H1-A extracted from Cordyceps
sinensis on autoimmune disease of MRL lpr/lpr mice. J Lab Clin Med. 1999 Nov;134(5):492-500. [44] Kuo YC, et al, Regulation of bronchoalveolar lavage fluids
cell function by the immunomodulatory agents from Cordyceps sinensis. Life Sci. 2001 Jan 19;68(9):1067-82. [45] Koh JH, et al, Activation of macrophages and
the intestinal immune system by an orally administered decoction from cultured mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2002 Feb;66(2):407-
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79-85. [47] Kim KM, Methanol extract of Cordyceps pruinosa inhibits in vitro and in vivo inflammatory mediators by suppressing NF-kappaB activation. Toxicol
Appl Pharmacol. 2003 Jul 1;190(1):1-8. [48] Lu L. Study on effect of Cordyceps sinensis and artemisinin in preventing recurrence of lupus nephritis Zhongguo
Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2002 Mar;22(3):169-71.
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