Caterpillar Fungus for Greater Overall Health

chinese caterpillar fungus

Cordyceps sinensis is a type of fungus that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. Cordyceps is also known as Chinese catepillar fungus, because it is a parasite that grows on the Tibetan caterpillar until the caterpillar dies, at which point it sprouts a mushroom. (Don’t worry; most cordyceps produced commercially in Western countries is actually grown on plant sources, such as soybeans.)

Traditionally, it is cultivated in the Chinese highlands and also in Nepal and Tibet, at altitudes above 10,000 feet. The Chinese have long used cordyceps to promote overall good health. It’s hard to imagine that it ever got noticed and discovered, let alone that it’s now become one of the most sought after medicinal mushrooms in the world.

Since the time of Christ, Oriental physicians have administered Cordyceps sinensis to improve physical as well as sexual prowess and stamina. The earliest written record of this can be found in the book The Classic Herbal of the Divine Plowman from around 200 A.D.

The normal life cycle of the “Caterpillar fungus” consists of parasitizing on non-vital tissue of the silk-worm caterpillar. In the end, it overwhelms its host (the caterpillar), kills it, and sprouts out of the dead carcass. That doesn’t sound like anything you would want to put in your mouth, does it? Well, have no fear. With modern technology, Cordyceps sinensis mycelium can now be grown on a bed of rice medium. The extract of the fungus grown in this way contains the same compounds as wild harvested specimens. An additional perk is that it is much less likely to contain any traces of other types of fungi, bacteria, or heavy metals.

Cordyceps sinensis has a reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac. Recent studies performed in both China and Japan demonstrated a 64 percent success rate among men suffering from impotence. Scientists have isolated two chemical constituents in cordyceps, (deoxyadenosine) and cordycepic acid (mannitol), which are thought to be the active compounds that increase sex drive. These same compounds are also thought to improve lung function and increase energy levels; it is well known that Chinese athletes use cordyceps to help increase their stamina and endurance. It has been theorized that cordyceps enhances athletic performance because it helps increase blood flow and oxygen supply throughout the body, which helps the heart, lungs, and other organs function more efficiently. In one study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers reported that athletes who took 4.5 grams of cordyceps daily for six weeks had double the rate of oxygen intake as those in the placebo group.

So what’s the mechanism behind Cordyceps’ apparent effect as an aphrodisiac and sexual potentiator? The following three factors may help explain:

Cordyceps sinensis has been shown to improve physical vitality and stamina in general. In 1993, a group of nine Chinese women set world records at the Chinese National Games. When asked about the secret to their success, they attributed it to their use of Cordyceps.

Cordyceps sinensis helps dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow which is certainly an important factor in erectile function.

Thirdly and perhaps most important of all is that two studies have shown Cordyceps sinensis to “significantly increase” the production of testosterone in males.

Modern research also suggests that cordyceps also improve our immune system. It also appears to act as an antioxidant in the body, protecting it from free radical damage.

Cordyceps gathered in the wild, particularly in the Tibetan regions, is thought to be the most medicinally potent. You can buy wild cordyceps in some Chinese specialty stores, still attached to the caterpillar. However, this form is expensive, and costs up to $10 a gram. In addition, there is some concern that imported wild cordyceps may carry the risk of lead poisoning, because some fungus harvesters attach a lead filament to caterpillar-grown cordyceps in order to increase its weight and get a higher price. Dietary supplements containing cordyceps are a safer and less-expensive alternative, and are not associated with any significant side effects. Cordyceps is available in capsule, extract, and tincture forms at health food stores and from online distributors. The suggested dosage is 2 to 3 grams each day with meals.


  1. I like the information, really helpful...

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  2. I've tried cordyceps when I wanted to quit smoking..yeaahh it works