The Fungus Formerly Known As…
In 2007, Cordyceps sinensis was reclassified and dubbed Ophiocordyceps sinensis when molecular analysis revealed the need to create a new family, Ophiocordycipitaceae.
The diverse health benefits of this unique sac fungus are impressive. For thousands of years in Asia, traditional healers have used cordyceps for a variety of conditions, including energy, appetite, stamina, libido, endurance and sleeping disturbances as well as general tonic.1
In terms of energy and stamina, we are often looking for options to help reduce fatigue while we work with patients to identify and address the underlying factors contributing to their symptoms. Cordyceps has been shown to improve exercise performance (metabolic and ventilatory thresholds) in healthy elderly subjects after just 12 weeks.2 One possible mechanism of action could be explained in animal models that showed cordyceps extract treatment leads to an increase in the ATP/inorganic phosphate ratio (increased energy) in the liver after just three weeks.3
There are numerous studies that illustrate the benefits of cordyceps on our immune system. The anticancer and antimetastatic activity of cordyceps is well documented, specifically in breast cancer, prostate and liver cancer.4, 5,6 One study postulated that the anticancer action might be due to one of the constituents, possibly cordycepin, by a promotion of an adenosine deaminase inhibitor. The same study also found antimetastatic properties “through inhibiting platelet aggregation induced by cancer cells and suppressing the invasiveness of cancer cells via inhibiting the activity of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 and accelerating the secretion of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1 and TIMP-2 from cancer cells.”7 In a mouse study, cordyceps administration led to decreased bacterial growth and dissemination of group A streptococcal (GAS) infection, increased macrophage phagocytosis and increased survival rates.8
While you might want to consider using cordyceps as a singular agent for those patients struggling with fatigue and low immune function, there are thousands of studies citing the efficacy of reishi, turkeytail, maitake and many others medicinal mushrooms. For this reason, mushrooms are often used in combination formulas to add multiple potential mechanisms of action to give the patient the synergistic benefits of many “fun guys.”
Tina Beaudoin, ND
- Panda, A.K. & Swain, K.C. “Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim.” J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011 Jan-Mar; 2(1): 9–13.
- Cehn, S., Zhaoping Li., et al. “Effect of Cs-4® (Cordyceps sinensis) on Exercise Performance in Healthy Older Subjects: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May; 16(5): 585–590.
- Manabe, N., Sugimoto, M., et al. “”Effects of the mycelial extract of cultured Cordyceps sinensis on in vivo hepatic energy metabolism in the mouse.” Jpn J Pharmacol. 1996 Jan;70(1):85-8.4
4 Lin, S. et al. MHP-1 inhibits cancer metastasis and restores topotecan sensitivity via regulating epithelial-mesenchymal transition and TGF-β signaling in human breast cancer cells. Phytomedicine. 2016 Sep 15;23(10):1053-63.
- Shao, L.W. Cordycepin induces apoptosis in human liver cancer HepG2 cells through extrinsic and intrinsic signaling pathways. Oncol Lett. 2016 Aug;12(2):995-1000.
- Jeong, J.W. Inhibition of migration and invasion of LNCaP human prostate carcinoma cells by cordycepin through inactivation of Akt. Int J Oncol. 2012 May;40(5):1697-704.
- Nakamura, K et al. “Anticancer and antimetastatic effects of cordycepin, an active component of Cordyceps sinensis.” J Pharmacol Sci. 2015 Jan;127(1):53-6.
- Kuo, C.F. et al. Cordyceps sinensis mycelium protects mice from group A streptococcal infection. J Med Microbiol. 2005 Aug;54(Pt 8):795-802.