Folk observations that caterpillar mushrooms generally have an energizing effect on animals (e.g. yaks) and humans, and promote a longer, healthier life, are supported by experiments carried out with scientific rigor. In addition to improving vitality, a number of previously less well-known benefits have also come under the scientific spotlight, such as its immunomodulatory and anti-cancer effects…
One of the most common goals of consuming caterpillar fungus is to reduce fatigue and, in parallel, regain vitality. According to a Chinese study, nearly 90% of older people in the experiment reported an improvement in their physical fitness as a result of taking Cordyceps Sinensis extract.
The increase in endurance was also supported by a Japanese and an Italian study. Earlier, young men engaging in intense running workouts tended to tolerate better the help of caterpillar extract. In the latter case, amateur cyclists have improved both their fitness and resistance to oxidative stress by consuming the caterpillar and lingzhi mushroom combination.
The energizing effect has also been tested on animals as the studies can be standardized much better. As an example, experimental mice significantly improved their swimming endurance by supplementing their diet with an extract of caterpillar decoction.
The caterpillar extract also showed an antidepressant-like effect in various mouse experiments, which was also associated with its hypoglycemic and energizing effects.
Cordyceps Sinensis has long been attributed to its anti-aging effect. In the case of fruit (vinegar) flies, feeding with caterpillar extract was able to increase the lifespan up to 32%.
In another experiment, when mice are fed with D-galactose continuously, they start to show signs of aging within a few months, such as a reduction in cognitive (brain) skills.
An extract of Cordyceps Sinensis was able to counteract the cognitive decline from D-galactose in aging mice and improve their memory.
Given that cardiovascular disease is a primary cause of mortality worldwide, maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol and blood fats is crucial for lowering the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis.
In mice, the caterpillar extract reduced the negative effects of a cholesterol-rich diet by maintaining low levels of low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol) and increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol) compared to animals not given Cordyceps.
In people with preexisting cardiovascular diseases, the positive benefits of blood triglycerides and cholesterol levels were detected.
One of the roles of antioxidants in our body is to neutralize free radicals, and cordyceps Sinensis extract is also known for its antioxidant effects.
The extract of Cordyceps Sinensis was able to directly neutralize several free radical forms and inhibited one of the factors in the development of atherosclerosis, lipid peroxidation.
In addition, strains extracted from a caterpillar polysaccharide enhanced the functioning of antioxidant enzymes in the liver, brain, and blood serum of mice, hence increasing the antioxidant capacity. In human trials, similar to those with mice, there was an increase in the so-called superoxide dismutase enzyme activity and free radical neutralizing ability after consuming Cordyceps Sinensis extract.
Folk observations show that caterpillar consumers are less likely to get sick or infections. This is supported by a number of animal experiments, e.g. the survival rate of Streptococcus bacterial infection, which is also dangerous to humans, was significantly increased in mice given Cordyceps extract. They also found a positive effect in the treatment of tuberculosis.
When an active ingredient called cordycepin (which is present only in small amounts in caterpillars, but accounted for up to 1% of Cordyceps extracts) was used to support Candida infection treatment with antifungals, a significant increase was seen in the survival rate of mice, even when the animals have already been infected with a drug-resistant strain.
Cordycepin may also affect viruses by directly inhibiting adenovirus replication by blocking RNA synthesis.
Influencing the function of the immune system (immune modulation) including regulating the production of certain cytokines can also have a stimulating effect on the cellular elements of the immune system.
The caterpillar fungus, when consumed on a regular basis, is believed to increase sexual performance, which is why it can also be called the Himalayan Aphrodisiac.
It resulted in higher sperm counts and sperm viability in mice. The effects of the active substance cordycepin in older rats can also be seen in the production of more motile sperm (with similar characteristics compared to their younger counterparts), and the increase in their testosterone levels.
There are only a few studies available in the clinic, however, these have consistently found that Caterpillar fungus preparations increase sperm quality, thus male fertility, and may increase libido in both men and women.
Cordyceps Sinensis extracts, especially cordycepin, have been attributed to anti-inflammatory effects. Based on its effect on human cell lines, anti-inflammatory effects are achieved by inhibiting the production of inflammatory factors, while increasing the levels of anti-inflammatory interleukins.
In animal trials, cordycepin improved the symptoms of osteoarthritis (arthritis inflammation) and decreased respiratory hyperresponsiveness associated with asthma, excessive mucus production, and IgE antibody levels.
When Cordyceps Sinensis was added to the treatment, the condition of human patients with moderate to severe asthma began to improve and the level of inflammatory factors and IgE dropped.
The caterpillar extract was able to reduce the destructive effects of environmental pollutants or lifestyle-related harmful substances, protecting the kidneys, liver, and lungs.
In several studies in mice and rats, Cordyceps Sinensis reduced the extent of liver damage when exposed to carbon tetrachloride (a toxic compound previously used as a refrigerant or fire extinguisher).
In Portugal, Cordyceps Sinensis was tested in patients who had liver damage (steatosis, fatty liver) as a result of regular alcohol consumption.
Using the fungal preparation accelerated liver regeneration more than just alcohol withdrawal.
In a renal fibrosis model in rats, the caterpillar fungus successfully inhibited excessive collagen accumulation during renal injury. Cordyceps Sinensis also alleviated the severity of induced pulmonary fibrosis in rats through the regulation of inflammatory factors.
The caterpillar fungus was able to reduce the destructive effects of certain chemotherapeutic agents (e.g., bleomycin, streptozotocin, cyclo-phosphamide, cisplatin, vinorelbine, doxorubicin) on healthy cells in mice, rats, and zebrafish model animals.
Besides its protective effect, it also shows an anticancer effect when combined with cis-platin against tumors inoculated in mice or zebrafish. Polysaccharides extracted from caterpillar fungus supported the health of mice, who received radiotherapy.
The caterpillar fungus formulations have also been tested in the clinic. In a retrospective study, the survival of human patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (malignant liver cancer) was significantly increased when their treatment was supported with preparations containing Cordyceps Sinensis. The prognosis of the patients further improved when Cordyceps Sinensis was combined with additional products.
You can find more details in the following post:
Tibetan Caterpillar Fungus In Cancer Therapy
Active agents (cordycepin, isoflavonoids) extracted from Cordyceps Sinensis slowed the rate of osteoporosis in aging or ovariectomized estrogen-deficient mice and rats.
The scientific findings regarding the role of caterpillar fungus in the treatment of diabetes are twofold:
According to the experience of Tibetans, the fungus Cordyceps sinensis grows “in the caterpillar in winter, in the grass in summer”.
As can be guessed, the Cordyceps fungus has 2 main life cycles. Its spores attack the caterpillars, in which it lives as a parasite in winter, and then, after the fungus has consumed the nutrients found in the insect, it grows a fruiting body in the summer. In nature, this fungal species grows only in three regions of the Himalayas – Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan – at altitudes above 3000 meters.
The beneficial effects of the Chinese caterpillar fungus have been noticed by Tibetan shepherds for more than two thousand years, hence the name Tibetan caterpillar fungus. These areas of the Himalayas have rarer air and poorer vegetation, so yaks grazed on pastures, or the large domestic animals of Tibetans should have been more tired.
Nevertheless, the animals grazed here were full of energy compared to their counterparts on the lower-lying pasture, and their desire to reproduce was also higher. The yellowish-brown formation, the caterpillar fungus, which grows between the grass, and is consumed with it, was responsible for this effect.
Based on the above story, it is not surprising that Tibetan Cordyceps sinensis is one of the most valuable ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. According to legend, for a while, only the emperor could use it to maintain his youth and fertility, to improve his endurance and physiological functions.
Modern medicine and research noticed Tibetan Cordyceps when Chinese athletes who won a gold medal at the Stuttgart World Championships in Athletics stated that they consumed Cordyceps mushrooms to increase their performance. We now know that Tibetan Cordyceps has special ingredients, e.g. cordycepin not found in other species, it also contains adenosine and rare N-polysaccharides, as well as beta-glucan.
Tibetan Cordyceps is a rare but valuable fungus, in natural occurrence, it’s available at a price of $ 20,000 to $ 80,000 /kg, which puts it at risk of over-harvesting and disappearing from its natural habitat. Fortunately, Tibetan caterpillars can now be grown, the advantage of which is that the process takes place under standardized, controlled conditions, making it possible to obtain products with many times higher active ingredients at a much lower cost than the original price.
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