The Emperor’s Fungus for Health and Immortality

If I were an emperor in ancient China and faced against pandemic of Flu-like disease from Wuhan, immediately I would send thousands of soldiers to Tibet to exploit hundreds of tons of Cordyceps there. The soldiers should bring back them all to China. And I gave Cordyceps to my people, because Cordyceps has strong effect to empower immune system and also to improve lung function. These two effects are essential to conquer any types of “Flu”, including COVID-19.

Cordyceps has been shown to increase the activity of natural killer cells and the ability to produce IL-2, and to increase the nonspecific immunity by activating the phagocytic ability of macrophages. Therefore, Cordyceps has devastating effects against any viruses.

Cordyceps is a genus of parasitic fungi that grows on the living larvae of insects. In Japanese it is called “” which means ‘in winter insect, in summer grass’, because Cordyceps is insect-like during the winter and grass-like during the summer. Usually two Cordyceps, “Cordyceps sinensis” and “Cordyceps militaris”, are used to improve our health in Oriental medicine. (Cordyceps sinensis is called now Ophiocordyceps sinensis). Both Cordyceps exert wonderful health effects and have been loved by a lot of people since more than 2000 years ago in Asia.

It grows mainly in the meadows above 3,000 to 4,000 meters in the Himalayan regions such as Tibetan Plateau, Nepal, Bhutan, and also in Sichuan, Yunnan of China. But if you were very lucky, you could find Cordyceps like the picture in your country, too. The photo was taken in Shirakami-Sanchi that is a mountainous area located in northern part of Japan.

I’ve been studying mushrooms for medical use since more than 25 years ago, and have come to the conclusion that this fungus has the most versatile health effects clinically for humans and brings about the quickest effects among so called medicinal mushrooms. Due to its excellent effects for health, in TM (Tibetan Medicine) and in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), doctors have been prescribing Cordyceps. And nowadays even in mainstream medicine doctors began to use Cordyceps as safe adjuvant treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems, etc. Therefore, the demand for Cordyceps is increasing every year, and the natural Cordyceps in Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, Bhutan, Sichuan, Yunnan are over-collected. Consequently, the prices have skyrocketed.

15 years ago I went to Tibet and bought Cordyceps. I don’t remember exactly the price, but I got surprised at the expensiveness compared with the prices of daily commodities. And when I flew back to Japan from Lhasa via Beijing, my precious Cordyceps were all stolen at Beijing Airport!! Cordyceps used to be worth more than 4 times its weight in silver. Now (2020) 1 gram of Cordyceps costs more than $80. It is called ‘Soft Gold’. In addition, lots of fake or very poor quality Cordyceps are on the market in China, making it difficult to get genuine ones. Therefore, various efforts have been done to develop technique for artificial culture of Cordyceps. Finally, in 1993 the team of Japanese and Chinese researchers succeeded in the artificial culture of Cordyceps militaris by using aseptically-cultured silkworms.

In the United States, too, supplements of Cordyceps are sold. But the most of them are mycelia (root part) cultured in a synthetic medium, or fruiting bodies cultured in a medium such as cereals or grains. The mediums are not larvae of insects. However, if the medium is not a living creature, the most important components of Cordyceps for health are missing.

The Japanese new method is infecting living silkworm pupae with fungi of Cordyceps militaris and growing it using the pupae as a medium, similar to the mechanism by which natural Cordyceps grow.

A) Anti-Cancer Effects

Cordyceps has been shown to increase the activity of natural killer cells and the ability to produce IL-2, and to increase the nonspecific immunity by activating the phagocytic ability of macrophages. In addition, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, angiogenesis inhibitory effects, and direct suppression of cancer cell growth have been reported.

The main substance that exerts anti-cancer effect is Cordycepin.(see Fgure) that is contained much more in Cordyceps militaris than in Cordyceps sinensis.

Although in vitro, Cordycepin is proved significantly inhibits cell proliferation in almost all the cancer cell lines such as human lung cancer cell, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, gastric cancer, colon cancer, hepatocellular cancer, brain cancer, leukemia, etc.

The mechanism of antitumor effects has been reported to include DNA and RNA synthesis inhibition, apoptosis induction, inhibition of transcription factor NF-κB activity, and inhibition of cancer cell proliferation signaling. The effect of suppressing metastasis of cancer cells has also been reported. Since Cordycepin is an adenosine derivative, it has been reported that adenosine A3 receptor stimulation may suppress cancer cell growth.
Cordycepin has also been reported to activate AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is activated by adenosine-1-phosphate (AMP). AMPK plays an important role in intracellular signaling that suppresses the growth of cancer cells.

B) Anti -Alzheimer's disease

Cordycepin has a protective effect on the CNS (central nervous system) against excitotoxicity neuronal damage by inhibiting the neuronal hyperexcitability. And a recent study has confirmed that Cordycepin exerts neuroprotective effects by inhibiting Aβ-induced hippocampal neuronal apoptosis via activating adenosine A1 receptor.

Although in vitro, methanol extract of Cordyceps militaris stimulates primary neurite sprouting and extension of Neuro2A cells in a dose-dependent manner. And it alleviates decrease in cholinergic immunoreactivity in the hippocampus.
Cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine) is an adenosine analog. The structure of Cordycepin comprises a purine (adenine) nucleoside molecule attached to a ribose sugar (ribofuranose) moiety via a β-N9-glycosidic bond. These characteristics indicate that the protective effect of Cordycepin on the CNS may be closely associated with A1R.

C) Improve Cardiovascular Health

a) Better Cholesterol Profile

Cordiceps has effects to reduce serum total cholesterol (TC), triglyceride (TG), low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C).
Cordyceps militaris cultured in the body of living pupae usually contains β-glucan 8.04g/100g, ergosterol 757mg/100g. Both substances attribute to reduce cholesterol absorption from the intestine.

b) Anti-Hypertension

Although in rats, Japanese researchers proved that Cordyceps militaris improves the survival of Dahl salt-sensitive hypertensive rats possibly via influences of mitochondria and autophagy functions.
Excessive salt intake causes high blood pressure. This is scientifically well proved, But we are consuming too much salt without even realizing it, because salt is hidden in instant foods and junk foods in particular. Many restaurants also use excess salt to stimulate palatability to attract more customers. We are living in too much ‘Salted Life’. Therefore, Cordyceps can help us from our unhealthy meal environment.

c) Prevent Cardiac Hypertrophy

Cordycepin which is the main ingredient of Cordyceps militalis ameliorates cardiac hypertrophy via activating the AMPKα pathway and attenuates oxidative stress both in vivo in Cordycepin‐treated mice and in vitro in Cordycepin treated cardiomyocytes.
Nowadays heart failure is increasing with aging. To prevent it taking Cordyceps prophylactically is much recommended.

D) Anti-Diabetic Effects

Water extract of Cordyceps militaris improves insulin resistance by enhancing glucose utilization in skeletal muscles such as soleus and quadriceps muscles.

Cordyceps polysaccharide can enhance insulin signaling transduction and glucose metabolism resulting in reducing insulin resistance and hyperglycemia symptom.

Chinese classical Materia Medica, “Ben Cao Bei Yao ” by Wang Ang , published in 1694 wrote that Cordyceps could strengthen the kidney function. In the experiment of rats, extract of fruiting body of Cordyceps militaris was found to reduce membranous glomerulonephritis by attenuating oxidative stress and renal inflammation via the NF-κB pathway. Diabetics often suffer from renal function and may have to undergo dialysis. Therefore, Cordyceps is very much recommended to prevent the progress of diabetes.

E) Reduce Inflammation

A characteristic of blood components common to centenarians is that their CRP (C-reactive protein) value which indicates the degree of inflammation in the body is very low. Its normal range is below 0.3mg/dl, and the lower the better for longevity. When chronic inflammation lasts, it gradually induces deterioration of many organs, causing premature aging. I once saw a woman with 0.03 mg/dl CRP that is only one tenth of the normal level. She was 101 years old and very healthy, working in her shop every day.
Cordycerebroside A, the new cerebroside, along with soyacerebroside I and glucocerebroside inhibited the accumulation of pro-inflammatory iNOS protein and reduced the expression of COX-2 protein in LPS-stimulated RAW264.7 macrophages.

Cordycepin that is the most important substance contained in Cordyceps militaris is reported to suppresses the NF-κB (nuclear factor-kappaB), Akt, and MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinases) signaling pathways that induces inflammation.
In addition, Cordycepin functions as a polyadenylation inhibitor to reduce inflammation.

F) Improve Exercise and Sexual Performance

Since hundreds of years ago Cordyceps has been used as an excellent remedy for weakness and fatigue by the residents in Tibetan Plateau, Nepal, and Bhutan to give them energy. The people know empirically its energy enhancing effects of Cordyceps. The key substance for energy production is Cordycepin. It is also called 3′-deoxyadenosine, and has a structure in which the hydroxyl group (OH group) has been deleted from the 3 ‘position of adenosine.

Adenosine is one of the nucleosides consisting of adenine and ribose, and is involved in energy transport as part of ATP and ADP, and in signaling as cyclic AMP. Therefore, one of the mechanisms of action of Cordycepin has an effect on the function of adenosine. So, Cordycepin is said to increase ATP by 30%, and athletes often take Cordyceps to enhance their endurance during exercise.

During convalescence of diseases, patients are recommended to take Cordyceps to recover from exhaustion of physical strength.
In both TM (Tibetan Medicine) and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Cordyceps has been used to improve fertility treatment in men. Cordyceps exerts the positive effect on sperm productivity, motility, kinematics, morphology, and enhancement of sexual activity. It contains various spermatogenic factors. Therefore, Cordyceps is called Himalayan aphrodisiac.

In addition, Cordyceps improves kidney function due to its capability to elevate 17-ketosteroid and 17-hydroxycorticosteroid levels, and protects sodium pump activity of tubular cells, accelerates tubular cells regeneration. Strong kidney function is one of the most important factors that improve sexual performance. Decreased renal function often results in ED (erectile dysfunction) and reduced fertility.


Anti-Cancer Effects : 1)~8)

Anti -Alzheimer’s disease:1)~5)

Improve Cardiovascular Health :1)~3)

Anti-Diabetic Effects:1)~6)

Reduce Inflammation:1)~5)

Improve Exercise Performance:1) ~3)

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