Exotic mushroom which has unique healing properties. The mushroom is called “the Chinese Caterpillar mushroom” since it grows on larvae, adult insects or certain types of truffles (truffles Elaphomyces). This rare mushroom was kept secret for thousands of years in China, which in addition to its many virtues is difficult to locate in nature. The fresh mushrooms grow in rocky areas of the Himalayan, and only 20 years ago it was revealed to the world at large. Since 1980 the mushroom is being grown on substrates that do not contain insects. Furthermore, no differences were found in the composition or the medicinal properties of mushrooms that were grown in controlled conditions as compared to wild mushrooms (3).
Nowadays, 680 species of Cordyceps are known which are growing in six continents (1-2).
In traditional Chinese medicine the Cordyceps mushroom is used to create a balance in the body (homeostasis), for prevention and treatment of diseases of the respiratory system: asthma, cough, bronchitis and pneumonia, cold, flu, allergies and hay fever, kidney disease, strengthening the liver, heart and blood vessels diseases and decrease in sexual libido and as an aphrodisiac for both men and women.
Weakness, fatigue, is used for treating chronic pain, especially in the elderly.
Increases the ability of the body to handle infection, used as a supplement for people who receive cancer treatment (chemotherapy, surgery and radiation) (1).
The mushroom composition:
Compared to other mushrooms, the dry extract of Cordyceps contains the highest concentration of proteins. The dry extract contains 20-25% proteins and nucleic acids (nucleotides), where the protein contains 18 amino acids. Glutamic acid, arginine, aspartic acid, tryptophan and tyrosine can also be found in high concentrations (4).
Cordyceps contains a wide and unique range of nucleic acids. One of the most studied and unique nucleic acid produced by the Cordyceps mushroom is Cordycepin (3-deoxyadenosine). This nucleic acid integrates into the genetic material of human cells, and in this way prevents damage to the duplication of the genetic material (10).
Sugar-bound proteins of the Lectins type. The Lectins structure in the Cordyceps mushroom is unique and allows the body to recognize and treat damaged cells and even strengthen healthy or healing tissues.
The Cordyceps mushroom contains some essential steroidal structures: ergosterol (pro-vitamin D), phytosterols (1). Unique steroid component were discovered by a mushroom researcher named Chen.
H1-A sterol was found to be effective in cases of autoimmunity.
Twenty eight saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, with blood lipids reduction activity and protection from cardiovascular disease (7).
Essential etheric fatty structures can also be found that react with the polyphenols of the mushroom which suppress excessive immune activity, especially autoimmune activity. Within these structures the Cyclosporine is a well known component which is used in medicine in order to prevent rejection of transplanted organs (14).
Vitamins: B2, B1, K, E, and B12. Minerals and trace elements (2,5).
Complex carbohydrates which are built from many simple mono-sugar molecules, and are interconnected by glycosides links. The Chitin found in the cell-wall of mushrooms is a polysaccharide (7).
The Cordyceps contains high concentration of polysaccharides that can compose up-to 8% of its total weight. Four types of β-D-Glycan (8), mannose, galactose and some glucose were isolated.
Reports on pharmacological findings for the following situations:
Immuno-modulator, anti-tumor, anti-oxidation, anti-inflammation, insecticide, anti-microbial, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, anti-aging, neuroprotective, renal protective (2).
1. Bensky D, Clavey S, St ‥oger E. In: Chinese Herbal Medicine:Materia Medica, 3rd ed. Seattle: Eastland Press, 2004:770.
2. Holliday J, Cleaver M. Medicinal value of the caterpillar fungi species of the genus Cordyceps (Fr.) Link (Ascomycetes). A review. Int J Med Mushrooms 2008; 10(3):219–234.
3. Mizuno T. Medicinal effects and utilization of Cordyceps (Fr.) Link (Ascomycetes) and Isaria Fr. (Mitosporic fungi) Chinese caterpillar fungi, “Tochukaso” (review). Int J Med Mushrooms
4. Holliday J, Cleaver P, Loomis-Powers M, et al. Analysis of quality and techniques for hybridization of medicinal fungus Cordyceps sinensis. Int J Med Mushrooms 2004; 6:147–160.
5. Zhou X, Gong Z, Su Y, et al. Cordyceps fungi: Natural products, pharmacological functions and developmental products.J Pharm Pharmacol 2009; 61:279–291.
6. KimSW, Hwang HJ, Xu CP, et al. Optimization of submerged culture process for the production of mycelial biomass and exo-polysaccharides by Cordyceps militaris C738. J Appl Microbiol 2003; 94:120–126.
7. Chen SZ,ChuJZ.NMRand IR studies on the characterization of cordycepin and 2’deoxyadenosine [in Chinese]. Zhongguo Kang Sheng Su Za Zhi 1996; 21:9–12.
8. Segelken R. Cyclosporin molds ‘sexual state’ found in New York forest Cornell students’ discovery could target additional sources of nature-based pharmaceuticals. Cornell University Science News, Sept 16, 2002.