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Cordyceps Sinensis - any Health Benefits ?

Updated on April 24, 2015
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I have a B.A. and a PGCE from the University of Oxford and many years experience trading the stock market.

Cordyceps Sinensis Benefits

The Health Benefits of Cordyceps Sinensis

Update : According to Arthritis Research UK as quoted in the Daily Express cordyceps may be useful in blocking painful arthritis pain and possibly even providing a cure!

Cordyceps in its variety known as Cordyceps Sinensisis a weird fungus or mushroom, used in traditional Oriental medicine, that appears to have enormous medical benefits when taken as a health supplement and is being cultivated now in the West and sold in health stores and on the Internet as an extract or in tablets, with numerous claims about its ability to increase your vitality !.

Cordyceps, is also referred to as 'winter worm summer grass'. Some say it originates from the mountain ranges in southwest China, but it is also used in Tibetan medicine as well as Chinese medicine. Cordyceps is a genus of ascomycete fungi, that is made up of around 400 distinct speciesm the best known of which is Cordyceps sinensis, which is used and sold now in the West too as a health supplement.

This all sounds fine but cordyceps sinensis also a very scary aspect, as it is a parasite that grows inside animals, attacks their nervous systems and actually takes over their brains and directs them to do what the cordyceps fungus wants them to do not what the animal wants to do! How weird is that ? Like something out of a sci-fi movie. In fact I'm sure Hollywood could come up with a great film about cordyceps controlling and enslaving humans. To see what I mean take a look at this weird video by the BBC and see what cordyceps sinensis does to ants.

Cordyceps in Ant Video

All Cordyceps species are known as endoparasitoids, and live mainly on insects and other arthropods ; a few live as parasites on other fungi. They also cost a small fortune to buy. Why would you want to buy a parasitic fungus ? Because of its health properties.

In the West cordyceps was largely unknown until 1993 when three female Chinese athletes, broke five world records for 1,500, 3,000 and 10,000 meters in Beijing, China. The women were tested after the races for anabolic steroids, but the tests proved negative. Their coach Ma Junren told reporters however that the runners had been taking cordyceps, which was not an illegal substance.

The best known of the Cordyceps family of fungi is cordyceps sinensis, known in English commonly as caterpillar fungus as it is known to grow insdie caterpillars and take them over. It has long been considered a medicinal mushroom in oriental medicines, such as Chinese and Tibetan medicine.

Cordyceps Sinensis Mushroom Growing in A Caterpillar

Cordyceps Sinensis Fungus Growing in a Caterpillar
Cordyceps Sinensis Fungus Growing in a Caterpillar

So what are the claimed benefits of cordyceps mushrooms ?

Well, recently, scientists from Nottingham University in the UK say they have documented how Cordiceps can fight cancer - see

In Traditional Chinese and Tibetan Medicine it is used to increase energy, the libido, sports and work performance. It is increasing in popularity and is used for its health-promoting qualities.

Claimed benefits of Cordyceps - Bear in mind that these are just claims

Strengthen the immune system
Prevent tumor activity
Regulate sleep problems and improves sleep quality
Reduce severity of nocturia
Improve blood circulation
Regulate blood pressure
Reduce triglycerides and cholesterol level and therefore promote cardiovascular heath
Improve sexual fuction in men
Fight infertility in women
Increase vitality and stamina.
May alleviate fatigue, enhance physical endurance and mental acuity
Combat liver, lung and kidney dysfunction
Help with respiratory problems
Reduce pains in loins and knees
Neutralize side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy
Slow the effect of ageing

So pretty incredible if any or all of it is true

It is also claimed that cordyceps has no side effects

Collecting cordyceps in the wild is very time consuming but it fetches a lot of money once collected and provides a great income for the Tibetan peasants who collect it.

But as it is so expensive, labs have been studying ways of cultivating it in the laboratory. The attempts have been successful and now there are laboratory grown cordyceps which is even stronger than the original wild version.

Cordyceps has also been used for centuries to treat male and female sexual dysfunction, such as hypolibidinism and impotence. It is said to stimulate the supra renal glands and increase hormonal secretions and blood flow; strengthen body and mind ; increase primary ‘motive’ force for life activities ; replenish expended energy from exertion, stress and aging ; improve lung capacity and efficiency ; restore physical stamina and recuperative ability ; improve appetite.

History of Cordyceps Cultivation

The first successful Cordyceps culture was isolated by the Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1972. This strain was named CS-4 and was introduced in China as a prescription medicine in 1988 under the name Jin Shui Bao.

Although CS4 was the best option at the time, it does not mean it is the best choice now. A company called Aloha Medicinals has now developed a revolutionary method of hybridization for mushrooms that has been granted a U.S. patent and they now make the only cultivated Cordyceps that is genetically Bio-Identical to the naturally occurring wild Cordyceps.

Despite this the Cordyceps grown in cultivation was still not as potent as wild Cordyceps but in May and June of 2006 Aloha Medicinals after extensive research in Tibet developed new methods of cultivation, which have resulted in the cultivation of Cordyceps that has resulted in a quantum leap in Cordyceps cultivation, reducing costs and increasing the quality.

Aloha Medicinals has also made some fantastic discoveries and is currently examining a newly discovered class of antiviral compounds isolated from these recently identified Cordyceps strains. The goal is to produce new antiviral medications for use in treating viral infections including HIV and Hepatitis.

I haven't actually tried cordyceps yet, but given what I have just learned I think I will get out to my local health food store to see what I can find ! It would also appear that cordyceps is becoming increasingly well-known as I've just seen a TV documentary all about it. So watch this space!


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    • Singular Investor profile image

      Singular Investor 18 months ago from Oxford

      Hi Neil, Yes, it does look pretty creepy but cordyceps sinensis is very powerful and worth a lot of money apparently

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 18 months ago from England

      Hi, Never heard of it before, but to be honest after watching the film with the ants above, I don't think I would want to touch it! you never know it could turn us into zombies! LOL! no, joking of course, but scary stuff and interesting too!

    • profile image

      steelers jersey 5 years ago

      it is very good,thanks for sharing

    • Singular Investor profile image

      Singular Investor 7 years ago from Oxford

      Hi Morgan thanks for taking the time to comment and the info. re. Cordyceps and its health benefits - I will give it a go

    • profile image

      Morgan 7 years ago

      No reason to fear Cordyceps. Several people I know, including me, take Cordyceps regularly and feel much better because of it. The mushroom is perfectly safe. If it were not, there would have been negative reports(not a single one that I can find) and it would not be on the shelves of health food stores. Just because it's a parasite for another kind of animal, does not mean it would be for humans. I understand that it sounds a little weird, but it really is nothing to be afraid of. Shit, eating animal brains is REALLY healthy, but most people would think this to be twisted and disgusting.

    • Singular Investor profile image

      Singular Investor 7 years ago from Oxford

      Yup what I can say ? Cordyceps is weird stuff but good for you as a health supplement apparently

    • profile image

      Discount Insurance 7 years ago

      Yeah that Cordyceps stuff is weirder than fluff ! It gets everywhere if you let it !

    • Singular Investor profile image

      Singular Investor 7 years ago from Oxford

      I had never heard of Cordyceps either till I stumbled upon the video on youtube - it certainly is strange and scary, also strange that it has benefits as a health supplement - I'm tempted to buy some myself to test it out

    • Benjimester profile image

      Benji Mester 7 years ago from San Diego, California

      I'm surprised I've never heard of this mushroom. It sounds like research is becoming really interesting. I liked the video a lot.

    • Singular Investor profile image

      Singular Investor 8 years ago from Oxford

      Hi - thanks for the comment and the compliment