Cordyceps fungi: natural products, pharmacological functions and developmental products

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2009 Mar;61(3):279-91. doi: 10.1211/jpp/61.03.0002.


Objectives: Parasitic Cordyceps fungi, such as Cordyceps sinensis, is a parasitic complex of fungus and caterpillar, which has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries particularly in China, Japan and other Asian countries. This article gives a general idea of the latest developments in C. sinensis research, with regard to the active chemical components, the pharmacological effects and the research and development of products in recent years.

Key findings: The common names for preparations include DongChongXiaCao in Chinese, winter worm summer grass in English. It has many bioactive components, such as 3'-deoxyadenosine, cordycepic acid and Cordyceps polysaccharides. It is commonly used to replenish the kidney and soothe the lung, and for the treatment of fatigue. It also can be used to treat conditions such as night sweating, hyposexuality, hyperglycaemia, hyperlipidaemia, asthenia after severe illness, respiratory disease, renal dysfunction, renal failure, arrhythmias and other heart disease and liver disease. Because of its rarity and outstanding curative effects, several mycelia strains have been isolated from natural Cordyceps and manufactured by fermentation technology, and are commonly sold as health food products. In addition, some substitutes such as C. militaris and adulterants also have been used; therefore, quality control of C. sinensis and its products is very important to ensure their safety and efficacy.

Summary: Recent research advances in the study of Cordyceps, including Cordyceps mushrooms, chemical components, pharmacological functions and developmental products, has been reviewed and discussed. Developing trends in the field have also been appraised.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Products / chemistry*
  • Cordyceps / chemistry*
  • Drug Design*
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • Medicine, East Asian Traditional
  • Quality Control


  • Biological Products