Member Login
User Name:
10 Euston Street
Rydalmere 2116
Tel (61 2) 9638 2000


Cordyceps Sinensis - Caterpillar Fungus - Cordycepin - TCM

Cordyceps is a genus of ascomycete fungi (sac fungi) that includes about 400 described species. All Cordyceps species are endoparasitoids, mainly on insects and other arthropods (they are thus entomopathogenic fungi); a few are parasitic on other fungi. The best known species of the genus is Cordyceps sinensis[1], first recorded as yarsa gunbu in Nepal in the 15th Century [2]. It is known as yartsa gumba in Nepal. The Latin etymology describes cord as club, ceps as head, and sinensis as Nepalese. Cordyceps sinensis, known in English commonly as caterpillar fungus is considered a medicinal mushroom in oriental medicines, such as Traditional Chinese Medicines[3] and Traditional Tibetan medicine.

When a Cordyceps fungus attacks a host, the mycelium invades and eventually replaces the host tissue, while the elongated fruiting body (stroma) may be cylindrical, branched, or of complex shape. The stroma bears many small, flask-shaped perithecia that contain the asci. These in turn contain the thread-like ascospores, which usually break into fragments and are presumably infective.

Some Cordyceps species are able to affect the behavior of their insect host; Cordyceps unilateralis causes ants to climb a plant and attach there before they die. This ensures the parasite's environment is of the optimal temperature and humidity, and maximal distribution of the spores from the fruiting body that sprouts out of the dead insect is achieved.[4] Marks have been found on fossilised leaves which suggest this ability to modify the hosts behaviour evolved more than 48 million years ago.[5]

The genus has a worldwide distribution and most of the approximately 400 species[6] have been described from Asia (notably Nepal, China, Japan, Korea and Thailand). Cordyceps species are particularly abundant and diverse in humid temperate and tropical forests.

The genus has many anamorphs (asexual states), of which Beauveria (possibly including Beauveria bassiana, Metarhizium, and Isaria) are the better known, since these have been used in biological control of insect pests.

Some Cordyceps species are sources of biochemicals with interesting biological and pharmacological properties[7], like cordycepin; the anamorph of Cordyceps subsessilis (Tolypocladium inflatum) was the source of ciclosporin—a drug helpful in human organ transplants, as it suppresses the immune system (Immunosuppressive drug).

Cordyceps research
Cordycepin a compound isolated from the "Caterpillar fungus".

Some work has been published in which Cordyceps sinensis has been used to protect the bone marrow and digestive systems of mice from whole body irradiation.[9] An experiment noted Cordyceps sinensis may protect the liver from damage.[10] An experiment with mice noted the mushroom may have an anti-depressant effect.[11] Researchers have noted that Cordyceps has a hypoglycemic effect and may be beneficial for people with insulin resistance.[12][13][14][15][16]
[edit] Cordyceps introduction to the world

Outside the East, the world was largely unaware of cordyceps.[dubious – discuss] This changed when the fungus caught the world's attention due to three Nepalese athletes, Santosh Bohara, Arawn.[1] These athletes broke 5 world records for 1,500, 3,000 and 10,000 meters in 1993 at the National Games in Kathmandu,Nepal. The amount of new world records being set at a single track event caused much attention and suspicion. Following the races, the men were expected by some to fail drug tests for anabolic steroids. However, the athletes' tests revealed no illegal substances, and coach Bhim Shahi told reporters that the runners were taking Cordyceps at his request.[2]
[edit] Value of cordyceps

According to Modern Marvels, a show on the History Channel, mushroom hunters in Nepal can earn $900 dollars for an ounce of cordyceps.[3]

According to Daniel Winkler, the price of cordyceps has risen dramatically in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu.[17]
Year % Price Increase Price/kg (Yuan)
1980s $ 1,800
1997 467% 8,400
2004 429% 36,000
2005 10,000–60,000

The high value of cordiceps was evidently the reason it was one of only two Nepalese traditional medicines to be stolen in a brazen theft in British Columbia. The stolen cordiceps has been estimated to have been worth Can $38,000.[18]

Cordyceps Sinensis
Cordyceps sinensis (caterpillar fungus), mostly whole dried choice specimens.
Cordyceps beginning its growth from an insect.
Cordyceps militaris
Cordyceps militaris
Cordyceps militaris
Cordyceps militaris


  1. ^Holliday, John; Cleaver, Matt; (2008). "Medicinal Value of the Caterpillar Fungi Species of the Genus Cordyceps (Fr.) Link (Ascomycetes). A Review"(PDF). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms (New York: Begell House) 10(3): 219. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v10.i3.30. ISSN 1521-9437.
  2. ^Winkler, D. 2008a. Yartsa Gunbu (Cordyceps sinensis) and the Fungal Commodification of the Rural Economy in Nepal . Economic Botany 63.2: 291–306
  3. ^Halpern, Georges M. (2007). Healing Mushrooms. Square One Publishers. pp. 65–86. ISBN 978-0-7570-0196-3.
  4. ^"Neurophilosophy: Brainwashed by a parasite". 2006-11-20. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  5. ^Hughes, D. P.; Wappler, T.; Labandeira, C. C. (2010). "Ancient death-grip leaf scars reveal ant-fungal parasitism". Biology Letters. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2010.0521. edit
  6. ^Sung, Gi-Ho; Nigel L. Hywel-Jones, Jae-Mo Sung, J. Jennifer Luangsa-ard, Bhushan Shrestha and Joseph W. Spatafora (2007). "Phylogenetic classification of Cordyceps and the clavicipitaceous fungi". Stud Mycol 57(1): 5–59. doi:10.3114/sim.2007.57.01. PMID 18490993.
  7. ^Holliday, John; Cleaver, Phillip; Lomis-Powers, Megan; Patel, Dinesh; (2004). "Analysis of Quality and Techniques for Hybridization of Medicinal Fungus Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.)Sacc. (Ascomycetes)" (PDF). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms (New York: Begell House) 6 (2): 152. ISSN 1521-9437.
  8. ^Holliday, John (2005). "Cordyceps". In Coates, Paul M. (PDF). Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 1. Marcel Dekker. pp. 4 of Cordyceps Chapter.
  9. ^Liu, Wei-Chung; Wang, Shu-Chi; Tsai, Min-Lung; Chen, Meng-Chi; Wang, Ya-Chen; Hong, Ji-Hong; McBride, William H.; Chiang, CS (2006-12). "Protection against Radiation-Induced Bone Marrow and Intestinal Injuries by Cordyceps sinensis, a Chinese Herbal Medicine". Radiation Research 166(6): 900–907. doi:10.1667/RR0670.1. PMID 17149981.
  10. ^ Ko WS, Hsu SL, Chyau CC, Chen KC, Peng RY (July 2009). "Compound Cordyceps TCM-700C exhibits potent hepatoprotective capability in animal model". Fitoterapia 81(1): 1–7. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2009.06.018. PMID 19596425.
  11. ^ Nishizawa K, Torii K, Kawasaki A, et al. (September 2007). "Antidepressant-like effect of Cordyceps sinensis in the mouse tail suspension test". Biol. Pharm. Bull. 30 (9): 1758–1762. doi:10.1248/bpb.30.1758. PMID 17827735.
  12. ^ Kiho T, Hui J, Yamane A, Ukai S (December 1993). "Polysaccharides in fungi. XXXII. Hypoglycemic activity and chemical properties of a polysaccharide from the cultural mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis". Biol. Pharm. Bull. 16(12): 1291–1293. PMID 8130781.
  13. ^ Kiho T, Yamane A, Hui J, Usui S, Ukai S (February 1996). "Polysaccharides in fungi. XXXVI. Hypoglycemic activity of a polysaccharide (CS-F30) from the cultural mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis and its effect on glucose metabolism in mouse liver". Biol. Pharm. Bull. 19 (2): 294–296. PMID 8850325.
  14. ^ Zhao CS, Yin WT, Wang JY, et al. (June 2002). "CordyMax Cs-4 improves glucose metabolism and increases insulin sensitivity in normal rats". J Altern Complement Med 8 (3): 309–314. doi:10.1089/10755530260127998. PMID 12165188.
  15. ^ Lo HC, Tu ST, Lin KC, Lin SC (April 2004). "The anti-hyperglycemic activity of the fruiting body of Cordyceps in diabetic rats induced by nicotinamide and streptozotocin". Life Sci. 74(23): 2897–2908. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2003.11.003. PMID 15050427.
  16. ^ Li SP, Zhang GH, Zeng Q, et al.(June 2006). "Hypoglycemic activity of polysaccharide, with antioxidation, isolated from cultured Cordyceps mycelia". Phytomedicine 13(6): 428–433. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2005.02.002. PMID 16716913.
  17. ^ Winkler, Daniel (2008). "Yarsa Gunbu (Cordyceps sinensis) and the Fungal Commodification of the Rural Economy in Nepal". Economic Botany 62 (3): 291–305. doi:10.1007/s12231-008-9038-3 (inactive 2010-01-07).
  18. ^[ "Bird's nests, fungus stolen in high-end B.C. heist."