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About Author:
Buddhi Bal Chidi
Department of Pharmacy,
Maharajgunj Medical Campus, Institute of Medicine,
Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal

Demand of herbal medicine had increased incredibly now a days. Medicine from part of herbal product is found highly efficacious and potent for curing diseases. These products are considered significantly for particular purpose as they show good pharmacological activities. This article gives an idea of basis of Cordyceps sinensis. It is a well known valued traditional medicine which perform nourishing tonic. To date, it is believe that it possesses potential pharmacological action on human body like Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Hyperglycaemia, Sexual dysfunction, Immunomodulating effects, Asthemia, Heart ailment, Hepatoprotective, Immunoresponse, Hyperlipidemia / Hypercholesterolemia, Anti-cancer, Anti-bacterial, Anti-fungal, Anti-hypertensive, Anti-spasmodic, Adaptogenic, Adreno-tonic. This article contains more generalization about O. sinesis which would be better informative.

Reference Id: PHARMATUTOR-ART-1972


Plant Profile:
Cordyceps sinensis
(Berk.) Sacc., belonging to the family Clavicepitaceae, is a naturally growing bio-material popular as a herbal medicine in Nepal. It is popularly known as "Yarsa gumba" and also as "Jeeban Buti" in Nepal. Because of its significant health benefits and its rarity, Yarsa gumba, is a very expensive herb. Yarsa gumba is one of the highly potentially medicinal herbs commonly found throughout alpine grassland of the Himalayas of Nepal, including those of China, Bhutan and India. During the summer and early autumn, mature fruiting bodies of Yarsa gumba release millions of ascospores in the air, which infect the larvae through its soft skin and germinate inside the larva body. The harvesting period of Cordyceps sinensis is between the months of May and July.  [1, 2]

It is commonly known as Yarsa gumba or

Nepali Name: Yarsa gumba, Jibanbuti

English Name: Caterpillar fungus/ Mushroom or Cordyceps

Chinese Name: Dong Chong Xia Cao

Korean Name: Tong ch'ug ha ch'o

Bhutanese Name: Bub

Japanese Name: Tochu-Kaso

Tibetan Name: ‘summer-grass winter-worm’

Cordyceps sinensisis from ergot family having natural habit of parasitic, non chlorophyllous, annual fungus. It has two components, the lower part is dead caterpillar and the upper part is a fungus. The fungus has a small spike with dark brown fructification and yellowish white stalk. The size of the fungus is about 4 to 12 cm in length and 0.14 to 0.4 cm in girth. [3, 4]

Fig: 1 Yarsa gumba, Most Expensive Insect- Herb

Taxonomical Classification:[5]

Kingdom:  Fungi

Division: Ascomycota

Class: Sordariomycetes

Order: Hypocereles

Family: Clavicipitaceae or Ophiocordycipitaceae

Genus: Cordyceps

Species: sinensis

The fungus was known as Cordyceps sinensis up to 2007 and after that emphasized molecular analysis used to emend the classification the Cordycipitaceae and the Clavicipiataceae, thus resulting in the naming of new family Ophiocordycepitaceae and transfer of several Cordyceps sinensis to the Ophiocordyceps. [48]

The herb is naturally distributed in alpine pastures of Nepal, India, China and Bhutan ranging from 300 to 500 m altitude from sea level. [6] Cordyceps sinensis grows in the larvae of night flying moth of mountain region which can found in different parts of Nepal at above 3800 m altitude. There are more than 310 species of Cordyceps sinensis but Webster 1980 and Sarbhoy 1983 had reported that 150 species of Cordyceps are known. Out of these species have medicinal value and among them, Cordyceps sinensis is one of the highly valuable species of the world. [7] In Nepal, there are three types of Cordyceps species found, they are

  1. Cordyceps sinensis
  2. Cordyceps militaris
  3. Cordyceps nutans

Botanical Description:
The name Cordyceps comes from the Latin words: cord and ceps, meaning "club" and "head", respectively. The Latin conjugation accurately describes the appearance of the club fungus, Cordyceps sinensis, whose stroma or fruit body extend from the mummified carcasses of insect larvae, usually caterpillar larva of the Himalayan Bat Moth, Hepialis armoricanus shown in Fig.2

Fig: 2. Hepialis armoricanus

The fruit body of the Cordyceps sinensis mushroom originates at its base on an insect larval host (usually the larva of the Himalayan bat moth, Hepialis armoricanus) and ends at the club-like cap, including the stipe and stroma. The fruit body is dark brown to black; and the ‘root’ of the organism, the larval body pervaded by the mushroom's mycelium, appears yellowish to brown in color. The immature larva, which forms the host upon which the cordyceps grows, usually lives about 6 inches below ground. The infesting spores of the Cordyceps, which are thought by some mycologists to be the infectious agent for the insect, are ca. 5-10 um long. As the fungus approaches maturity, it will have consumed greater than 99 % of the infested organism, effectively mummifying the host. As the stroma matures, it will swell and develop perihelia. The mycelium is formed and the body of the larva becomes sclerotuid to withstand the winter. As the sclerotuim develops, the inner organs of the larva are destroyed, leaving the exo-skeleton intact. Optimal conditions permitting; the spores are eventually discharged and taken by the wind or fall within a few centimeters of their origin. [9, 10, 11]

Traditional Uses:
Cordyceps sinensis
is one of the most valuable medicinal herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This herb has an extensive history of use in the treatment of mental and physical exhaustion and is often used as a rejuvenative for increased energy while recovery from serious illness. [12] It is used as an aphrodisiac and as a treatment for variety of ailments from fatigue to cancer. It improves appetite, stamina, libido, endurance, and sleeping patterns. Its main application is: for treating exhaustion, respiratory and pulmonary diseases, back pain, and sexual problems (eg premature ejaculation, lack of sex drive). In TCM, it is regarded as having an excellent balance of Yin and Yang as it is apparently both animal and vegetable. [13] In the Dolakha District (Central-east Nepal), the Sherpa people use cordyceps as an aphrodisiac and tonic: “One to two fruiting bodies are orally administered with milk, once a day.”According to Sacherer, in the Rolwaling Valley of the same District, the product is popularly used as a tonic and aphrodisiac and “it is eaten in its entirety, caterpillar and fungus, mostly by middle aged men. In Nar (Central Nepal, Manang District), it is said that “if a person mixes yarsa gumba with 13 other herbs and takes the mixture over a period of three years, he will become as thick as an elephant, quick as a horse and pretty as a peacock,”and it has been assessed that “the product is ground, boiled in milk and drunk with honey or rock candy.” According to a publication by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation of Nepal, in the Thak areas (Central Nepal) cordyceps “is taken orally in combination with Dactylorhiza hatagirea (Orchidaceae), honey and cow’s milk,” and it is also administered as a tonic to yak and sheep. [14, 15, 16, 17] An attempt was made to evaluate the strength of the folk claims by counting the number of users for particular illnesses. Prolonged, continuous use by local folk healers/traditional healers for the treatment of 21 ailments, including cancer, bronchial asthma, bronchitis, TB, diabetes, cough and cold, erectile dysfunction, BHP, jaundice, alcoholic hepatitis, etc., were noted . Most traditional healers and elderly people use it to increase longevity and cure erectile dysfunction. [18]. Local folk practitioners use the product alone or in combination with other medicinal herbs to treat various diseases, administering different doses for different ailments according to their experience, based on an empirical trial-and-error method. People of both sexes usually take one piece of C. Sinensis with a cup of milk to enhance their sexual potency and desire. The Bhutia communities put one piece of C. Sinensis in a cup of local-made alcohol (chang), leave it for 1 hour, and drink it morning and evening as a tonic. Some use hot water instead of alcohol. Some folk healers use C. Sinensis for diabetes and other wasting diseases. It is used for cancer mixed with texus leaf and Ginseng root decoction. Similar reports are also available from Nepal. [19, 20, 21]


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