Cordyceps

History

Cordyceps sinensis are so highly valued in Traditional Chinese Medicine that they were exclusively available to the emperor’s family in ancient China. TCM traditionally used Cordyceps as an adaptogen and immunosupportive herb, to support the kidney and lung systems.* Cordyceps grows wild in the Himalayan foothills of Tibet and Bhutan, where it infects and then devours the pupal stage (or caterpillar) of ghost moths. From this caterpillar, it grows a grass-shaped fruiting body, which then releases spores for reproduction. Due to the unique nature of its development, the Chinese named it “winter worm summer grass.” Wild C. sinensis is both expensive and rare.

Recently, cultivated varieties (Cordyceps militaris) have been developed. These Cordyceps fruiting bodies are cultivated on nutritious barley substrate, and they are therefore vegan. Research has shown that C. militaris and C. sinensis provide similar support, and they are used interchangeably in TCM and other branches of herbalism.*

A mushroom goes through many stages during its life cycle, just like any plant or animal. Each part of a mushroom has unique attributes that support wellness and serve a different purpose for the organism, but it’s the fruiting bodies that receive the most attention and are the most familiar. Fruiting bodies emerge from the substrate on which they grow — such as trees or fallen logs — to become the part of the mushroom we recognize. They’re the above-ground part that we can see when we walk through the woods, and they’re also what have been traditionally foraged and consumed, in food and supplements.

Function

Modern herbalists use Cordyceps to support healthy stamina and physical energy levels.* It is considered to be an immune modulator and adaptogen that promotes overall endocrine health, and it is used to support the liver and kidneys.* Cordyceps provides antioxidant support, and it also has been used to support normal, healthy male fertility.* Cordyceps’ diverse functions make it similar to a conductor within the body, supporting the communication between the adrenals (they control the body’s natural stress response) and a number of aspects of the immune system.*

The fruiting bodies of this mushroom contain polysaccharides, specifically a type called beta-glucans, which have been studied to support immune health and overall wellness, as well as normal, healthy cell growth and turnover.* The fruiting body extracts we use contain these polysaccharides, without unnecessary fillers or starches.

Uses of Cordyceps

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Polysaccharides; Beta (1>3),(1>6)-glucans; Cordycepin 

Parts Used

  • Fruiting bodies

Important precautions

Additional Resources

  • Liu Y., et al. The Chemical Constituents and Pharmacological Actions of Cordyceps sinensis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:575063
  • Zhao J., et al. Advanced development in chemical analysis of Cordyceps. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2014 Jan;87:271-89.
  • Zhou X., et al. J Pharm Pharmacol. Cordyceps fungi: natural products, pharmacological functions and developmental products. 2009 Mar;61(3):279-91.

Herb Reference Guide

 
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Ecologically Harvested is a term that describes all herbs sold by Gaia Herbs that are not Certified Organic. Ecologically Harvested herbs include herbs that are harvested in their natural habitat, (i.e., wild harvested) according to specific guidelines for harvesting these herbs (i.e., away from roads and industry, as well as guidelines to avoid overharvesting). Our term, Ecologically Harvested, also includes herbs that are grown in managed woodland areas, fields designated for specific herbs, and herbs that are grown by indigenous growers, such as Kava Kava. All Ecologically Harvested herbs pass pesticide and heavy metal testing as well as microbial testing, prior to release.