Chemical constituent, inorganic elements and properties of cordyceps sinensis - a review

Chemical Constituent, Inorganic Elements and Properties of
Cordyceps sinensis - a Review
(Cordyceps sinensis - a Review)
Arvind Kumar Bhandari*1, J.S. Negi 1, V.K. Bisht1, C.S. Rana1, M.K. Bharti1 and Narayan Singh2
1Herbal Research and Development Institute, Mandal-Gopeshwar (Chamoli), Pin-246401,
2National Mission on Medicinal Plant, Mandal-Gopeshwar (Chamoli), Pin-246401, Uttarakhand (India)
Author for corresponding: Arvind Kumar Bhandari, Project Scientist, Herbal Research and Development Institute, Mandal-Gopeshwar (Chamoli), Pin-246401, Uttarakhand (India)
Key words: Cordyceps sinensis, clavicipitales, herbal Viagra, caterpillar, fungus
ABSTRACT: This review looks in depth at the history and medicinal value of the Cordyceps species, especially C.
In Uttarakhand Himalayan region Cordyceps ted by Keera jari). Thymology describes cord as club, ceps as head, and sinensis as Chinese. Cordyceps
, known as in English commonly and considered as in oriental
medicines, such. When a Cordyceps fungus
attacks a host, the s and eventually replaces the host tissue, while the elongated fruiting body
may be cylindrical, branched, or of complex shape. The stroma bears many small, flask-shaped
. These in turn contain the thread-lik, which usually break into fragments and are
presumably infective. The best known of the cordyceps family of fungi is Cordyceps sinensis, known in English
commonly as caterpillar fungus as it is known to grow inside caterpillars and take them over. While cordyceps
may be the species of cordycepes that is most well known throughout the world, there are many other
species of cordyceps in which modern science has found valuable medicinal properties in as well. A few studies
have shown cordyceps feeding to increase the ratio of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to inorganic phosphate (Pi) in
the liver. [Nature and Science 2010;8(9):253-256]. (ISSN: 1545-0740).

Key words:
Cordyceps sinensis, clavicipitales, herbal Viagra, caterpillar, fungus.

central Himalayan region. Because of the rarity and Cordyceps is a fungus of subphylum shot duration of harvesting (45 days) this highly ascomycotina, class pyrenomycetes, order medicinal species of Cordyceps has always been clavicipitales, and family claviupitaceae. Cordyceps one of the most valuable (Kobayasi, 1982). It has is a rare and exotic medicinal mushroom known in been a well regarded cornerstone of Chinese china for centuries. People in the west have come to medicine for centuries; one that reportedly has a know this medicine in only last two decade or so. The number of far reaching medicinal values (Mizuno name Cordyceps come from Latin words cord and 1999). Cordyceps sinensis found in the alpine region ceps, meaning “club” and “head” respectively. The of the Himalaya at an altitude of more than 3500 Latin word-conjunction accurately describes the meters. Most of people in the Indian Himalayan appearance of these club fungi, whose stroma and region have only come to know about Cordyceps fruit body extend from the mummified carcasses of sinensis within the last 20 years. In Indian Himalayan insect larvae, usually that of the Himalayan ghost region Cordyceps sinensis is locally known as “keera jari” (Figure 1-2). Traditionally Cordyceps sinensis armoricanus). The term “Cordyceps” usually refer to the specific species Cordyceps sinensis, but there are also many other species that come under the genus HISTORY AND CONVENTIONAL USES
Cordyceps (Mizuno 1999). Cordyceps sinensis has A member of the largest subdivision of true been known and used for many centuries in fungi, Ascomycotina, hundreds of species of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In nature it is Cordyceps were reported in all six continents and in found only at alpine pastures in north –west and many climatic zones with different habitats, feeding off a range of hosts Kirk and Halpern (2007). The complex polysaccharides, proteins, sterols, first written evidence of the Cordyceps species comes nucleosides, and macro- and microelements such as from China, in the year AD 620, at the time of the K, Na, Ca, Mg, Fe, Cu, Mn, Zn, P, Se, Al, Si, Ni, Sr, Tang Dynasty (AD 618–AD 907), bringing substance Ti, Cr, Ga,V, and Zr (Hobbs 1995, Holliday to the once intangible allegorical narrative, which 2004 and Holliday 2005). The presence of spoke of a creature whose annual existence alluded to a transformation from animal to plant, in summer, polysaccharides, vitamins and trace elements in may and then again from plant to animal, in winter (Zhou be cause of well known effects of Cordyceps et. al., 1998). Webster (1980) reported more than 310 species of Cordyceps while Sarbhoy (1983) had reported 150 species of Cordyceps. At present, there PROTEINS AND NITROGENOUS
are more than 680 species are recognized world wide COMPOUNDS
for Cordyceps (Holliday et al., 2005). Out of these, Cordyceps spp. contains proteins, peptides, three species are well known for their medicinal poly-amines, and all essential amino acids. In value and among them, Cordyceps sinensis is highly addition, Cordyceps spp. contains some uncommon cyclic dipeptides, including cyclo-[Gly-Pro], cyclo- [Leu-Pro], cyclo-[Val-Pro], cyclo-[Ala-Leu], cyclo- MARKET VALUE OF CORDYCEPS SPECIES
[Ala-Val], and cyclo-[Thr-Leu]. Small amounts of polyamines, such as 1,3-diamino propane, “infectious” agent that attacks the Himalayan ghost cadaverine, spermidine, spermine, and putrescine, have also been identified (Mizuno 1999). armoricanus), still it is worth noting that the entomo- pathogenicity of the Cordyceps spp. is disputed (Zhou et. al.1998). This stands to logical reason, considering the remote and inhospitable environment been found in Cordyceps spp.: ergosterol, Delta-3 in which the Cordyceps/moth pairing occurs. Nature ergos-terol, ergosterol peroxide, 3-sitosterol, tends to select against a parasite because a parasite daucosterol, and campeasterol (Zhou 1998). usually results in the death of the host (Dai 2001). In nature, Cordyceps often exhibits a single- COMERCIAL USES
celled, yeast-like anamorphic growth stage (Suh Cordyceps have high efficiency and potency 2001 ). Globally many species of Cordyceps being in therapeutic in various diseases, it is well known as harvested for medicinal purposes includes C. a significant nourishing boost. However, as the sinensis, C. militaris, C. sobolifera, C. subssesilus, C. resource and collection of the Cordyceps is rare and ophioglossoides, and others (Hobbs 1995 and Mizuno difficult, so its supply often falls short of demand. 1999). In U.S market it was sold at $75,000 per At least two chemical constituent cordycepin kilogram in 2008 while in India, Uttarakhand is the (deoxyadenosin) and cordycepic acid are found highest producer of Cordyceps which was traded to which results in an increase of cellular ATP (Dai contractor at Rs 3 lakhs per kg (Singh 2010). 2001) and it is highly used by trained professional athletes for stamina (Parcell 2004). PROPERTIES OF CORDYCEPS
This powerful, Cordyceps, effectively prevents and treats a wide variety of diseases, such as asthma, consumption of Cordyceps in China and Taiwan is tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, Kideny dilemma, shown toxic property (Wu 1996). A separate Heart problems including cardiovascular disease and practice of adulteration, long practiced by the Hypertension, Leukopenia Insominia, fatigue, stress, collectors of natural Cordyceps, introduces excessive nervous system, Acute and chronic hepatitis, lead into the organism. In its natural state, Cordyceps is attached to the mummified body of the caterpillar Strengthening body resistsnce to bacteria and virus. from which it arose. It is harvested from field and (Zhou 1998). Cordyceps has proven to be a than dried whole, supplied into the bazaar and sold nontoxic fungal substance (Huang by weight (Holliday et. al.2004). Presence of lead and other active-ingredient in the growth medium REGULATORY STATUS
certainly could be absorbed by any growing organism. Cordyceps cultivated by any of the usual Cordyceps remains, in many nations through-out the modern practices is very safe from any heavy metal world, an unrecognized substance. Other than contamination. In addition, it contains many sugars, import/export taxes and restrictions, which vary from including mono-, di-, and oligosaccharides, and many country to country (many of which ban the import of any such substance), most governments do not require a prescription to purchase or use Cordyceps. There are a few countries that do require a doctor’s prescription: Portugal, Romania, and Austria, to name a few. Many governments require that vendors obtain a special license to distribute any product relating to human health In the United States, Cordyceps is marketed privately and considered by the FDA as a dietary supplement. Generally recognized as safe applications referring to the status of Cordyceps as a food additive are unavailable; however, a premarket notification to the FDA regarding information relating to preclinical trials and
toxicology studies, has been available to the public
via the FDA website since 1999


Natural product such as Cordyceps has such a long history of use, it seems logical that there is quite Figure 1. Cordyceps sinensis in its natural habitat
likely some truth behind the myths. Our dispute in (3550 meters) in Valley of flower biosphere reserve, the present era is to scientifically unravel the many claims and conflicts. Through Cordyceps, this challenge has been greater than with many other
natural herbals due to the vast cost and scarcity of the
substance. Cordyceps still has many secrets in store
for us. More research is needed on these and other
species of medicinal mushrooms. Awareness and
scientific knowledge must be necessary for extensive
scenario regarding to conserve
The authors are thankful to the Director, H.R.D.I. Mandal, Gopeshwar for providing facilities
to carry out the research.

Figure 2. Close up of wild Cordyceps sinensis
showing spore bearing surface and slight insect-
feeding damage at the tip.

fungus Cordyceps sinensis. I. J. Med. Cleaver, P., J.C. Holliday and M.L. Powers, 2006. Novel method for growing Cordyceps Huang, Y., J. Lu, B. Zhu, Q. Wen, F. Jia, S. Zheng, sinensis on a substrate and novel method for T. Chen, Y. Li, G. Cheng and Z. Yi, 1987. hybridizing different strains of Cordyceps Toxicity study of fermentation Cordyceps sinensis. United States patent application US mycelia B414, Zhongchengyao.; 10: 24-5. Kobayasi, Y., 1982. Keys to the texa of genera Dai G.W., T.T. Bao, G.F. Xu, R. Cooper and G.X. Cordyceps and Torrubiella. Trans. Mycol. state bioenergy status in mouse liver. J. Mizuno, T., 1999. Medicinal effects and utilization of Dai, G.W., T.T. Bao, G.F. Xu, R. Cooper and G.X. caterpillar fungi, “Tochukaso”(review). I. J. liver. J. Altern. Complement. Med., 7:231- Narayan Singh, Rakshita Pathak. Arjun Singh, Halpern, G.M., 2007. Healing mushrooms. Effective Collection of cordeycep sinensis (Berk.) treatments for today’s illnesses. Garden City Sacc. in the interior village of Chamoli district in Garhwal Himalaya Uttarakhand Hobbs, C.H., 1995. Medicinal mushrooms: an and its social impacts. Journal of American exploration of tradition, healing, and culture. Parcell, A.C., J.M. Smith, S.S. Schulthies, J.W. Holliday, J., M. Cleaver and S.P. Wasser, Myrer and G. Felling ham, 2004. Cordyceps sinensis (CordyMax Cs-4) supplementation MR, Cragg G, Levine M, Moss J, White J., performance. I. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab., Zhou, J.S., G. Halpern and K. Jones, 1998. The Holliday, J., P. Cleaver, M. Loomis-Powers and D. scientific rediscovery of an ancient Chinese herbal medicine: Cordyceps sinensis. J. techniques for hybridization of medicinal


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