The mushroom species Cordyceps sinensis has long been used in folk medicine throughout the Orient. It has only been in the last few years however that Science has had the ability to thoroughly analyze this mushroom, and identify the bioactive compounds present. In the course of our research with cultivated Cordyceps strains over the last five years, we have noted that there is perhaps a greater biodiversity of compounds within different strains of this single species, than in almost any other organism we have analyzed. Due to the great difference in the concentration of native compounds, a wide range of quality is found in Cordyceps cultivated from different strains and utilizing different culture methodology.
This article looks at the techniques and methods we have used in the development of hybridized strains of Cordyceps sinensis, and the modifications of their culture parameters such as light, oxygen concentration, temperature, substrate and mineral composition, with the goal of producing artificially cultivated Cordyceps for the health supplement trade, which contains the maximum content of scientifically recognized bioactive compounds. The techniques and methods detailed in this article offer great promise in allowing cultivators of Cordyceps sinensis and other Cordyceps species to take their artificially cultivated products to a higher and more consistent level of quality.
Studies with CORDYCEPS sinensis
Much of what is known about Cordyceps sinensis we owe to the research of Dr. Georges Halpern, a physician and professor emeritus with the University of Hong Kong, and author of several books about Cordyceps.
Cordyceps improves the internal balance mechanism, thus making the utilization of OXYGEN more efficient. These properties may account for the overall physical enhancement, the added endurance, and the anti-fatigue effects which are seen in humans using the Cordyceps supplement.
1. Cordyceps Improves the Respiratory Function.
Several scientific studies have demonstrated the benefits of Cordyceps sinensis in alleviating the symptoms of several respiratory illnesses including chronic bronchitis and asthma (Reference 2, Chapter “Effects on the Respiratory System”, pages 429-432). In a double blind, placebo controlled study with 30 elderly volunteers Cordyceps significantly improved the maximum amount of oxygen these people were able to assimilate (Reference 4).
2. Cordyceps increases cellular Oxygen Absorption by up to 40%
(Lou Y, Liao X, Lu Y. Cardiovascular pharmacological studies of ethanol extracts of Cordyceps mycelia and Cordyceps fermentation solution. Chinese Traditional and Herbal Drugs 1986;17(5):17-21,209-213) Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases improvement of 40% after Cordyceps supplement. (Wang WQ. J. Administration Traditional Chinese Med 1995;5 (supp;):24)
3. Cordyceps Improves the Functioning of the Heart.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of Cordyceps sinensis on heart rhythm disturbances, such as cardiac arrhythmias and chronic heart failure (Reference 2, Chapter “Effects on the Cardiovascular System”, pages 436 – 441).
An even more vigorous study was conducted using “in vivo” mouse model induced acute Pulmonary Edema (Pneumonia) which causes systemic lack of oxygen, acidic body, and death. Research results show that animals taking Cordyceps had a significantly greater survival rate of 20% mortality vs. 80% mortality in 30 minutes. This is a startling 400% improvement. (From Wan F, Zhang S. Clinical observations of fermented Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in antitussive, expectorant, and antathematic effects. Collection on the Basic Medicinal and Clinical Studies of Submerged Culture Cordyceps sinensis. Beijing, Nanchang, China:Jiangxi TCM/IMM, 1985:35-39)
4. Cordyceps Helps Maintain Cholesterol..
Four excellent studies have demonstrated that Cordyceps sinensis helps to lower total cholesterol by 10 to 21% and triglycerides by 9 to 26%. At the same time it helps to increase HDL-cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) by 27 to 30% (Reference 1, Chapter “Effects on blood lipid metabolism and arteriosclerosis”, pages 299 – 301).
Blood Cells – Improves Blood Cell Viability & Function.
Genetic – Promotes DNA Repair
Liver Protection - Improves Liver Functions, helps with Hepatitis and Cirrhosis Sub chronic and chronic hepatitis on related liver diseases are more prevalent than most people think. Liver is the living filter of the human body, cleaning the blood and all other fluids of impurities. There is no way for you to survive, much less feel healthy, without a functioning liver.
Research clinical trials on 33 patients with Hepatitis “B” and on another 8 patients with cirrhosis taking Cordyceps supplement showed 71.9% improvement on “Thymol Turbidity Test” and 78.6% improvement in” SGPT Test” both of these are enzyme test showing improving functions of the liver. (Zhou LT, Yang YZ, Xu YM, Zhu QY, Zhu YR, Ge XY, Gao JD. Short term curative effect of cultured Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc. Mycelia in chronic hepatitis B. China J Chinese Materia Medica 1990;15(1):53-55)
(3) Chronic kidney diseases improvement of 51% after only one month with Cordyceps supplement.(Jiang JC, Gao YF. J Administration Traditional Chinese Med 1995;5(suppl):23-24)
6. Cordyceps Reduces Tumor Size in Cancer Patients.
Several clinical studies have been conducted in China and Japan with cancer patients (References 1 and 2). The studies were done with CSE (Cordyceps sinensis mycelium) using a therapeutic dose of 6 grams per day (= 4 capsules twice daily). In one study with 50 lung cancer patients administered CSE in conjunction with chemotherapy, tumors reduced in size in 46% of patients. A study in cancer patients with various types of tumors found CSE (6 g/day for over 2 months) improved subjective symptoms in the majority of patients. White blood cell counts were maintained and tumor size was significantly reduced in about half of the patients. Researchers in Japan reported that CSE enhances the general reactivity of the immune system in individuals with cancer. To discover this, they subcutaneously injected mice with cancerous (lymphoma) cells and then orally administered CSE. This lead to a reduction of tumor size and prolongation of the host survival time. CSE also improved the antibody responses.
7. Immune System
Increases NK cell activity, makes more MUSCLE – Increases Power, builds better/younger cells.
Recharge the Protective Army of NK cells – Your body’s ability to fight infections and tumors depends on the availability of Natural Killer (NK) Cells. These are essential first lines of defense for our body’s protection mechanisms commonly known as the Immune System.
Several scientific studies of Cordyceps have especially focused on Natural Killer (NK) cells and Cordyceps effect on them and cancer formation. One such in-vitro study demonstrated Cordyceps adding significant enhancement of NK cell activity in normal individuals as well as leukemia stricken individuals. (Liu C, Lu S, Ji MR, Xie Y. effects of Cordyceps sinensis on in-vitro natural killer cells.
Chinese J Integrated Traditional Western Med (Chung-Kuo Chung His I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih) 1992;12(5):267-269) showed that natural Cordyceps enhanced the NK cell activity of normal patients by 74% and increased the NK activity of leukemia patients by 400% and similar improvements of NK cell activities was found in big melanoma cancer (Xu RH, Peng XE, Chen GZ, Chen GL. Effects of Cordyceps sinensis on natural killer activity and colony formation of B16 melanoma. Chinese Med J 1992;105(2):97-101)
8. Improvements in the Immune System.
The improvements in the Immune System were so impressive that Dr. Zhu at the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1998 stated: “Because of the above profound influence on immune functions, natural Cordyceps products have been used in many clinical conditions in patients with altered immune functions.”
The First Anti-Aging Supplement Known to Mankind......
It’s An Anti-Aging Fighter with clinical research proof in controlled studies which showed that elderly patients suffering from fatigue and some senility related symptoms reported. (1) Improvements in the reduction of fatigue 92%, of feeling cold 89%, in dizziness 83%, after taking Cordyceps for 30 days. Patients with respiratory/breathing problems felt physically stronger and some were able to jog for 600 ft. (Cao A, Wen Y. J Applied Traditional Chinese Med 1993;1:32-33)
10. Cordyceps Protects against Free Radical Damage.
Several studies have shown that Cordyceps sinensis protects against the damages caused by free radicals, and as such has powerful antioxidant properties (Reference 1, Chapter “Äntisenescence and Oxygen-Free Radical Scavenging Activity”)
11. Cordyceps Reduces Fatigue.
Several studies with animals have demonstrated that Cordyceps sinensis increases the cellular energy production and oxygen supply. A double blind, placebo controlled investigation showed a marked reduction in fatigue in elderly patients when they were given three grams of Cordyceps daily. In another study, Cordyceps sinensis improved shortness of breath and reduced fatigue in patients suffering from chronic heart failure (Reference 1, Chapter “Improvement of physical performance and quality of life”, pages 293 – 295).
12. Cordyceps Helps Discomforts from Tired Legs.
Several studies have shown that Cordyceps sinensis improves the flow of blood in the body by relaxing the smooth muscles of the blood vessels allowing them to expand. Cordyceps also improves the functioning of the heart and lungs (see above). Cordyceps therefore prevents or reduces the contraction of blood vessels which interferes with the flow of blood vessels in the legs, the main cause of tired legs (Reference 2, Chapter “Effect on the Cardiovascular System”, pages 436 – 441).
13. Endurance & Stamina
Reduces muscle Soreness, Enhances Recovery, Promotes Better Oxygen efficiency,
Increases ATP Synthesis, Promotes Faster Energy Recovery, Reduces Fatigue, Improves Physical Function, Provides More Stamina.
15. Cordyceps Improves Stamina and Athletic Performance.
Several studies with animals have shown that Cordyceps sinensis increases the cellular energy production and oxygen uptake ( Reference 1, Chapter “Improvement of physical performance and quality of life”, pages 293 – 295). A study with mice demonstrated their improved swimming capabilities after six weeks of Cordyceps supplementation compared with a control group (Reference 3, page 260).
16. Cordyceps radically increases cellular energy.
Cellular energy, which is also known scientifically as the ATP/IP ratio. Cordyceps has been clinically proven to increase cellular Bio-Energy by as much as 55% (Reported XU C.F et al in ZHU J-S, Halpern GM, Jones K. The Scientific rediscovery of a precious ancient Chinese herbal regimen: Cordyceps sinensis: Part I. J Alt Comp Med 1998;4(3):289-303.)
17. Cordyceps Combats Sexual Dysfunction
Three separate Chinese double blind and placebo-controlled studies with over 200 men with “reduced libido and other sexual problems” showed remarkably similar results. On average, 64% of the Cordyceps-users reported significant improvement at the conclusion of the experimental period compared with 24% of the placebo group. In another double blind, placebo controlled study conducted with 21 elderly women with similar complaints, 90% reported improvements of their condition following the use of Cordyceps, compared with none in the control group (Reference 1).
18. Hormones – Adrenal Thymus, Mitochondrial energy.
Dramatic Natural Improvements are seen in endocrine hormone levels, in fertility, and in Sexual Libido for men and women.
19. Sexual Function
Improves Libido and Quality of Life in Men & Women, Fights infertility, Increases Sperm Count, Increases Sperm Survival.
(1) Research on animal studies shows cordyceps increases natural sex hormones(Wan F, Guo Y, Deng X. Chinese Traditional Patented Med 1988;9:29-31)
(2) Prevention and improvement of adrenal glands and thymus hormones, and infertile sperm count improve by 300% after cordyceps supplement.(Huang Y, Lu J, Zhu B, Wen Q, Jia F, Zeng S, Chen T, Li Y, Xheng G, Yi Z.. Zhongchengyao Yanjiu 1987;(10):24-25)
(3) Human clinical studies involving both men and women of 189 patients with decreased libido and desire showed improvement of symptoms and desire of 66% (Wan F, Guo Y, Deng X. Chinese Traditional Patented Med 1988;9:29-31) and
(4) Another double blind study by the Institute of Materia Medica in Beijing, China showed a woman improvement of libido and desire at 86%. (JIA-SHI ZHU, M.D., Ph.D. The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, Vol.4, Number 3, 1998, pp.289-303)
(5) The most dramatic physical proof came from Fertility Study (Guo YZ. J Modern Diagnostics Therapeutics 1986;(1):60-65) involving a clinical research of 22 males showed that cordyceps supplement increased clear evidence of 33% increase in sperm count, decreased 29% incidence of sperm malformations, and a 79% increase in survival rate after 8 weeks of cordyceps supplement. READY? GET YOURS NOW
BACKGROUND AND QUALITY ANALYSIS OF CORDYCEPS
Cordyceps sinensis is an insect parasitizing fungus of the ascomycetes family, found at high altitudes on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. This fungus lives primarily in the larvae of one particular species of moth, Hepialus armoricanus. It is occasionally found growing on other moth species as well. The normal range of this fungus is above 2000 meters elevation, and it has been found as high as 6000 meters. There are also many other species of the genus Cordyceps, which all seem to have potent biologically active compounds present. The genus has been shown to produce some potent antibiotics, immune stimulants and antitumor agents. (Zhou, Halpern and Jones, 1998 ; Hobbs, 1986)
There is debate among many scientists at present whether the species of the genus Cordyceps are in fact single organisms or if they are symbiotic colonies of more than one organism. Perhaps what we are calling Cordyceps sinensis today, will one day be known as a fungal/bacterial symbiosis. DNA sequencing has proven inconclusive in this regard as the DNA sequence tends to change with time, as if the fungus were incorporating some of the insect DNA into its own DNA code for the initiation of its fruitbody form, then losing the insect DNA when it goes back into its mycelial form. Microscopic examination of growing Cordyceps mycelium reveals some very interesting morphology, including the concurrent anamorphs of filamentous mycelium and rapidly moving single celled yeast-like morphological forms. This has been seen in other Cordyceps species as well, such as Cordyceps sobolifera. Many times we have observed what appears to be an inner-cellular symbionts, a small, spherical, rapidly moving, apparently single celled organism living within the long, bamboo-like hyphal strands. When we observe this growth form, these secondary cells occur in about 70-80% of the mycelial cells observed, with anywhere from one to five individually moving spheres per mycelial cell. These are easily observed in the living culture under 1000-power magnification with normal back lighting.
Cordyceps sinensis, known to the Chinese as “DongChongXiaCao” and to the Japanese as “Tochukaso” has been used in medicine for a very long time. The first known written record of this herbal medicine was in the Ben-Cao-Cong-Xin (New Compilation of Materia Medica) by the author Wu-Yiluo. Written around the year 1757 AD during the Qing Dynasty, this early medical text lists the traditional usage of Cordyceps as going to the Lung and Kidney meridian and being useful as a “Lung Protectorate”, for “Kidney Improvement” and as a “Yin/Yang double invigorant”. Cordyceps in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was and usually still is prepared by cooking the whole caterpillar/fruitbody combination in chicken or duck soup. It has been used this way for the treatment of many conditions, such as respiratory diseases, renal dysfunction, hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia.( Zhou, Halpern and Jones, 1998  )
This would seem to be a lot of medicinal claims for a single substance. But the observation of many generations of medical practitioners has lead to this belief. As people tend to be very good observers of nature, and especially when the observations are proven over a long period of time, as is the case with Cordyceps, there was sufficient background for further research into this herbal substance for use in modern medicine.
With many long years of successful use, modern science has been looking into this natural medicine since the 1950s.
MODERN CULTIVATION OF CORDYCEPS SINENSIS:
Since native Cordyceps (wild Cordyceps sinensis) is rare and very expensive, there has been a lot of research into methods for cultivation of this fungus. The strain that is known as CS-4 was one of the first commercial strains of Cordyceps isolated in 1982 at the Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. Known by the Latin name of Paecilomyces hepiali Chen, the aseptically fermented mycelium of this strain underwent extensive human testing and clinical trials during the 1980’s and resulted in a commercial product with wide usage in China, known as JinShuiBao capsules. More than 2000 patients were involved in the clinical trials with CS-4 and the chemical composition, therapeutic activity and toxicity are very well known for this strain. (Bau, 1995)A number of other strains have been isolated from wild Cordyceps since then. These are each so different from the original starting Cordyceps and from each other that they are given many different Latin Genus/species names. Even though the parent fungus is the same in each case, the resultant asexual mycelial growth forms are characteristically different enough in taxonomy and chemistry that they are considered different species by many taxonomists. Table 1 lists some of the different strains isolated from wild Cordyceps sinensis. (Yin and Tang 1995; Zhao, Wang, Chen, Li and Qu, 1999) ...you need MORE! Better yet : GET YOURS NOW