Cordyceps Mushroom

Cordyceps Mushroom

Monograph: Cordyceps Mushroom

Botanical Scientific Name: Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps) Sinensis

Chinese Name: Dong Chong Xia Cao, Dong Chong Zia Cao

Other Names: Caterpillar Fungus, Caterpillar Mushroom, Champignon Chenille, Chinese Caterpillar Fungus, Cs-4, Hsia Ts’Ao Tung Ch’Ung, Jinshuibao Jiaonang, Jinshuibao Pian, Tochukaso, Vegetable Caterpillar, Winter worm summer grass 

Cordyceps Sinensis, referred to also as the Chinese Caterpillar Mushroom, is first mentioned during the Tang Dynasty, as a strange creature that lives high in the Tibetan mountains, and can transform from an animal to a plant and back to an animal again.

Cordyceps is a parasitic mushroom that grows in high Himalayan mountains and in other high mountains ranges in Nepal, Tibet and China.

The meaning of the name in Latin is: cord is a stick and ceps is a head.  The mushroom has many strains and it infiltrates different insects such as ants, grasshoppers, cockroaches, bees, centipedes, beetles and others, and grows inside and on them.

The meaning of the name in Chinese is: winter worm that transforms into a plant in the summer.

The fruiting body of the mushroom looks like an actual caterpillar, or like a thin stem 4-10 cm. in length.

According to the legend, the mushroom was discovered by yak shepherds who noticed in spring, after the snow had melted, when they led the yaks into the high mountains of Tibet and Nepal, that after the yaks dug their hooves into the earth and remaining snow, exposing fresh new grass, they became more sexually active. They wondered what was causing the beasts to increase their sexual activity.  Sharp shepherds observed that the yaks exposed with their hooves not only grass but also the mushroom that looks like a caterpillar.  One brave shepherd decided to try and eat the mushroom and felt sexual desire and clarity of thought. His friends then ate the mushroom. They felt that their endurance improved, that their libido increased, and that their energy level soared.  The rumor spread quickly, and shortly after the Chinese Caesar and his doctors heard about the mushroom.  When they realized its effectiveness, the Caesar coveted the mushroom and he issued a royal decree that the use of the mushroom was forbidden outside of the Caesar’s courtyard, and anyone who finds the mushroom was ordered to bring it to him.  In the years that followed, the mushroom was used by the nobility and close associates to the Caesar, and only in the last few decades has the mushroom been available to the general public in the world.

The Cordyceps mushroom is the most expensive mushroom due to it scarcity, and it has been declared “The Caesar’s mushroom” due to its unique characteristics and the difficulty to locate it in nature.  Today it grows as a cultivated mushroom, and the strain that is most researched and contains the most important therapeutic properties is CS-4, a mycelia fermentation of the mushroom.

Parts of the mushroom for use:


Route of Administration:


TCM Characteristics:

Temperature: Warm

Humidity: Neutral

Taste: Sweet

Meridians: Lungs, kidneys

Bioactive Ingredients:


  • Exopolysaccharide fraction (EPSF)
  • Acid polysaccharide (APS)
  • Polysaccharide CS-F30
  • Polysaccharide CS-F10
  • Polysaccharide CPS-1
  • Polysaccharide CPS-2
  • polysaccharide CME-1
  • Polysaccharide CS-F10
  • Cordyglucans
  • Cordysinocan


  • Rhamnose
  • Ribose
  • Arabinose
  • Xylose
  • Mannose
  • Glucose
  • Galactose
  • Fructose
  • Sorbose
  • Mannitol
  • Cordyceptic acid
  • Monosaccharide saponins


  • Ergosterol
  • H1-A
  • glycoside derivatives of sterols


  • Cordycepin
  • 3’-deoxyadenosine


  • spermine
  • Spermidine
  • Putrescine
  • 1,3-diaminopropane


  • uridine
  • Adenosine
  • Guanosine


  • Vitamins from the B-complex family


  • Potassium
  • Sulfur
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Barium
  • Chromium
  • Boron
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Strontium

Fatty Acids:

  • Oleic acid
  • Linoleic acid
  • Palmitic acid
  • Stearic acid
  • Docostatetraenoic acid
  • Lignoceric acid
  • Myristic acid
  • Behenic acid

Amino Acids:

  • Tryptophan
  • Cysteic acid
  • Aspartic acid
  • Methionine
  • Threonine
  • Serine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Proline
  • Glycine
  • Alanine
  • Valine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Tyrosine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Lysine
  • Histidine
  • arginine

Unique Proteins:

  • Proteases
  • CSDNase
  • Serine Protease CSP
  • Cordymin
  • Cordycedipeptide A
  • Cordyceamides A,B


Studied Activities:

Bronchodilation, improvement of kidney function, adaptogen, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, improvement of peripheral blood flow, immunomodulatory (immune system balance), anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial, improvement of sexual function, improvement in athletic performance, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, hypotensive (balances blood pressure), thyroid balance, hepatoprotection, and prebiotic.

Uses supported by clinical research:

Asthma, COPD, cough, pneumonia, kidney failure, immune weakness, bacterial and viral infections, cancer, autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune hypothyroid), Grave’s disease (autoimmune hyperthyroid), stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue and general infirmity, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), type II diabetes, hyperlipidemia (excess of blood lipids), high blood pressure, improvement in athletic performance, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).


Traditional uses that have yet to be supported by clinical evidence:

Impotence, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, lack of libido (low sex drive), ADHD, liver disfunction, hepatitis (liver infection), and thrombocytopenia.


Effects according to Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Strengthens the Yang in the kidneys and nourishes the essence (Jing).

Nurtures and supports Yin of the lungs, stops bleeding, spreads moisture and halts coughing.

Fortifies and supports protective Qi (Wei Qi), defends against the infiltration of external pathogens.

Sustains the blood and liver Yin.


Manners of use and recommended dosage according to the literature:

Liquid extract (tincture): at a concentration of 1:3, 45% alcohol, 6-18 ml per day.

Dry extract: standardized extract 30:1 at a concentration of 10% polysaccharides, 300-2,000 mg per day.

Decoction: 2-5 grams per day.

As part of a formula: 20-30%


Safety, Toxicity, Interactions, and Side Effects:

The Cordyceps mushroom is safe to use.

People allergic to mushrooms should avoid eating the mushroom or consuming the mushroom as a food supplement.

Due to its immunostimulant activity, transplant patients should not use it.

Men having prostate cancer should avoid using this mushroom.

Seven days before undergoing a surgical procedure, the use of the mushroom should be discontinued and may be resumed two days following the procedure.

Cordycepin (the active ingredient in the Cordyceps mushroom) has antiplatelet activity in platelets, but since it is a small amount, this clinical finding is irrelevant.

There is lack of data to support the safety of use during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Stop use if hypersensitivity/allergy occurs.



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