Cordyceps militaris is a mushroom traditionally used for diverse pharmaceutical purposes in East Asia, including China, and has been found to be effective for enhancing immunity through various types of animal testing. The aim of this study is to determine the efficacy of C. militaris for enhancing cell-mediated immunity and its safety in healthy male adults. Healthy male adults were divided into the experimental group (n = 39), given 1.5 g/day of ethanol treated C. militaris in capsules, and the control group (n = 40), given the same number of identical placebo capsules filled with microcrystalline cellulose and lactose for 4 weeks from February 13 to March 14, 2012; the natural killer (NK) cell activity, lymphocyte proliferation index (PI), and T-helper cell 1 (Th1) cytokine cluster (interferon [IFN]-γ, interleukin [IL]-12, IL-2, and tumor necrosis factor [TNF]-α) were measured, along with stability test, at weeks 0, 2, and 4. The C. militaris group showed a statistically significant greater increase in NK200 (P = .0010), lymphocyte PI (P ≤ .0001), IL-2 (P = .0096), and IFN-γ (P = .0126), compared with the basal level, than the placebo group. There was no statistically significant adverse reaction. C. militaris enhanced the NK cell activity and lymphocyte proliferation and partially increased Th1 cytokine secretion. Therefore, C. militaris is safe and effective for enhancing cell-mediated immunity of healthy male adults.
Keywords: Cordyceps militaris; cordycepin; immune response.