Cordyceps is a fungus that lives on certain caterpillars in the high mountain regions of China. Supplement makers are able to get enough of the product to sell, because cordyceps will reproduce in the laboratory.
Cordyceps is used to treat coughs, chronic bronchitis, respiratory disorders, kidney disorders, nighttime urination, male sexual problems, anemia, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, liver disorders, dizziness, weakness, ringing in the ears, unwanted weight loss and opium addiction.
It is also used for strengthening the immune system, improving athletic performance, reducing the effects of aging, promoting longer life and improving liver function in people with hepatitis B. Some people use cordyceps as a stimulant, a tonic and an "adaptogen," which is used to increase energy, enhance stamina and reduce fatigue.
Further, according to Nathalie Valkov, PhD, LAC and author of Cordyceps: Treating Diabetes, Cancer and Other Illnesses, cordyceps has been used in Eastern medicine for centuries to aid in the treatment of various autoimmune, pulmonary, cardio-vascular and other illnesses.
Valkov wrote, "Recent clinical studies performed in China are now confirming the benefits of cordyceps, providing the clinical proof to practitioners of Western medicine that the herb has some unique medicinal properties. Herbal medicine is also a part of oriental medicine and has also been practiced for thousands of years. Today, prescriptions are based on ancient formulas that have been time tested and that are known to have helped millions of people. The Chinese pharmacopoeia is comprised of hundreds of herbs, minerals and animal products that are combined to suit the constitution, the imbalance and the immediate relief of symptoms of the individual being treated."
Studies have suggested that cordyceps can stimulate progesterone production in animal cells. Other studies show that cordyceps may be effective against tumor cells by down-regulating MHC class II antigen expression. In addition, anecdotal data suggests reduction of cyclosporin and aminoglycoside-induced renal toxicity, although the mechanism of action is not known.
An overview of studies on cordyceps have showed the following:
• Elderly patients with asthenia had significant improvements in fatigue, dizziness and intolerance to cold, tinnitus, frequent nocturia, hyposexuality and amnesia at a dose of 3g.
• There was an improved quality of life in a study of 64 chronic heart-failure patients at a dose of 3-4g of cordyceps.
• Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease had improvements in their pulmonary symptoms, appetite and energy.
• Several studies showed significant improvements in all respiratory symptoms at a dose range of 3-4.5g of cordyceps. Improvements were in shortness of breath, cough and expectoration and sleep.
• There was improved renal function in 30 patients with chronic renal failure. Improvements were seen in creatinine clearance, blood urea nitrogen, serum creatinary protein.
• In patients with lung cancer, cordyceps administered at 2-3g resulted in more patients completing radiation and chemotherapy compared to control group.
Cordyceps: Treating Diabetes, Cancer and Other "Illnesses"