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Cordyceps sinensis is a unique ascomycete fungus that grows parasitically on a caterpillar found in the high altitudes of Tibet and China, killing the caterpillar. The annual ‘crop’ of infected caterpillars gathered in Tibet is a major source of income for this country. Related species also parasitise a number of other insects but are not generally used medicinally.

Cordyceps preparations (the caterpillar plus the fungus) have traditionally been used as a tonic for improving performance and vitality, and for conditions involving decreased lung function, such as asthma and bronchitis.

Some research is available that indicates that it may improve oxygen usage resulting in increased energy levels, physical strength and endurance. This of course would also explain its efficacy for breathing problems.

Cordyceps may also modulate immune function and optimise endocrine systems, and has been reported to decrease proliferation and differentiation of cancerous cells. It has been used for decreasing the renal toxicity of various toxins, and in individuals with chronic renal failure.

Cordyceps is an antioxidant that increases serum levels of the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), increasing free radical scavenging ability. It has also been reported to positively affect blood lipid metabolism, making it potentially useful in atherosclerosis.




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