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Cordyceps Sinensis: Miracle Mushroom from the Orient

One of the most unusual of the Chinese traditional herbal medicines is a fungus called Cordyceps sinensis.

What’s so unusual about it?

Aside from it’s potent healing properties, which we’ll get to in a moment, it is also one of the most curious natural substances used in healing. It’s found in nature as a parasitic fungus growing on the bodies of caterpillars in the mountains of Tibet above 14,000 feet. That’s pretty unusual.

It’s such a powerful substance, and so rare, that Tibetan mushroom hunters can earn up to $900 an ounce for gathering it. Again, not something you can say about any other medicinal mushroom.

In fact, in 1993, three Chinese runners were tested for anabolic steroids after breaking five world records. No steroid use was discovered, but all three had been training using Cordyceps.

As interesting as these facts are, the most amazing properties of this mushroom come from its use in traditional herbal medicine. Here is a short list of the known research findings on Cordyceps:

  • Supports Cardiovascular Health – used to combat hypertension, abnormal blood clotting & hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • Supports Kidney Function and Detoxification – chronic kidney disease
  • Powerfully Strengthens the Immune System – inhibits several types of cancer, enhances NK lymphocytes (natural killer cells), useful for treating the autoimmune disease Lupus
  • Strengthens the Body in Numerous Ways – antioxidant, improves athletic performance, lowers high blood sugar, reduces cholesterol, protects the liver, increases energy production, alleviates fatigue, increases stamina
  • Regulates the Nervous System – alleviates depression & stress
  • Helps Lung Function – reduces asthma symptoms, bronchitis & tuberculosis
  • Helps Correct Infertility & Impotence – improves testosterone levels & sperm count, alleviates female menopause symptoms, improves performance

Impressed? I know I am.

Modern herbalists have developed a cultivated form of Cordyceps that can be grown on a culture of rice. It’s not nearly as expensive as the naturally found form, but works just as well.

The only caution for the use of Cordyceps is for those already on prescription anticoagulants. Because it decreases blood clotting time, it can increase the effectiveness of these drugs to dangerous levels.

When taken by itself, the most common dosage ranges from 750 mg to 3,000 mg. Because it can have a stimulating effect, most people take it in the morning and noon rather than later in the day. It can take a month or more to see results, although some people notice changes sooner.


Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008.

Yamaguchi, Y., et al. Inhibitory effects of water extracts from fruiting bodies of cultured Cordyceps sinensis on raised serum lipid peroxide levels and aortic cholesterol deposition in atherosclerotic mice. Phytotherapy Research. 14(8):650-652, 2000.

English, J., et al. Treatment of mild to moderate hypertension with shark cartilage and Cordyceps sinensis. Vitamin Research News. 15(11), 2001.

Cordyceps Monograph. Institute for Natural Products Research.

Jones, K. Mushrooms: Sports supplements of tomorrow. Healthy & Natural Journal. February/March 1996:50-52.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Tony @ Alternative Medicine NotesJanuary 23, 2010, 7:12 pm

    Great post– there’s also a lot of great info about this mushroom in Paul Stamets’ excellent book “Mycelium Running.” It’s got some of the most powerful health benefits outside the agaricon mushroom.

    I’ve linked to you from my blog, too. You have a lot of really helpful information here…

  • drbruceJanuary 23, 2010, 8:07 pm

    Hi Tony,

    Thanks for the positive comments. You’re right, there are some very useful medicines among the mushrooms. Thanks for the book reference and the link.

    Dr. Bruce

  • Daniel WinklerMarch 21, 2010, 12:56 am

    Great page!
    Did you see the latest research on Cordycepin from Nottingham University. I have a link on my blog. On my http://www.mushroaming.com webpages i have tons of stuff on Cordyceps sinensis in Tibet including many photos and its ethno-mycology. It wa salready known in the 14 hundreds as yartsa gUnbu, its current name. the Chinese name dong chong xia cao is probably translated from Tibetan. I also organize Cordyceps tours in Tibet, but we make sure we see not only fungi, but everything else worth going to Tibet as well.
    best regards, daniel

  • drbruceMarch 21, 2010, 6:09 am

    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for stopping by and for sharing this interesting information. Your website is a great resource, particularly for people interested in modern Tibet and especially their traditional medicine.

    Dr. Bruce

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