The genus Cordyceps: An extensive review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology

Fitoterapia. 2018 Sep:129:293-316. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2018.05.010. Epub 2018 May 24.


The genus Cordyceps has about 750 identified species which are distributed in many regions of the World, but mainly found in South Asia, Europe and North America. The species of the genus are highly priced and are widely used as food and medicine for the treatment of various ailments. This present review compiles literature information on the ethno-medicinal, phytochemistry and pharmacological properties of species in the genus Cordyceps. In addition, the review also suggest recommendations for the future researches. Thirty five Cordyceps species have been reported in the literature to have medicinal properties or has a report on the isolation of bioactive compounds. In vitro and in vivo research studies reporting the validation of the medicinal properties of some species were also reviewed. The phytochemical diversity of this genus was demonstrated with over 200 metabolites including nucleosides, sterols, cyclic peptides, flavonoids, dihydrobenzofurans, bioxanthracenes, polyketide, terpenes, alkaloids and phenolics isolated from various Cordyceps species. Cordyceps sinensis was identified as the most frequently used and most explored member of the Cordyceps genus. Cyclodepsipeptides, nucleosides and polysaccharides were identified as the most studied class of compounds from the genus and they show immunomodulatory, antioxidant, antitumor, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antidiabetic, analgesic, anti-HIV, antibacterial, antimalarial and antifungal activities. Thus, species belonging to the genus Cordyceps showcases an important source of treating various disorders due to the presence of bioactive constituents that displays potent bioactivities and could serve as possible leads in drug discovery.

Keywords: Bioactivity; Clavicipitaceae; Cordyceps; Pharmacology; Phytochemistry; Secondary metabolites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cordyceps / chemistry*
  • Drug Discovery
  • Ethnopharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional