Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis – Ophiocordyceps Sinensis)

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Yarsagumba (also called Caterpillar fungus, Cordyceps Sinensis & renamed Ophiocordyceps Sinensis) is a type of fungi (edible mushrooms and medicinal fungi), which is used for increasing strength, stamina, physical performance and libido and for reducing fatigue and stress. Cordyceps supplements commonly contain Cordyceps Sinensis and well-known for its adaptogenic, aphrodisiac and immunity booster actions in traditional medicine. It is commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tibetan Medicine for its aphrodisiac action and for increasing physical performance and endurance. Because it is commonly used for its adaptogen and aphrodisiac characteristics, sometimes called Himalayan Viagra.

About Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis)

Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) is a member of Ophiocordycipitaceae Family (parasitic or entomopathogenic fungi), which lives on larvae of ghost moths. It is native to China, Tibet, India, Bhutan, and Nepal and commonly found in mountains and Himalayan regions above 3000 meters. Excessive harvesting makes it becoming endangered species and due to this, it is now banned in India.

In Tibet, Yarsagumba means summer plant (YARSA) and winter insect (GUMBA) and considered as a medicinal herb and edible mushroom.

Synonyms & Vernacular Names

Well-Know with NamesYarsagumba & Cordyceps Sinensis
Botanical NameOphiocordyceps Sinensis
Botanical SynonymCordyceps Sinensis
English NameCaterpillar Fungus, Caterpillar Mushroom, Chinese Caterpillar Fungus
Tibetan NameYarsagumba
Chinese NamesDong Chong Xia Cao, Tochukaso, Tung Chung Hsia Tsao
OthersCS-4, Champignon Chenille, Vegetable Caterpillar,

Yarsagumba Germination

Yarsagumba spores infect the living larvae of ghost moths (Hepialus Armoricanus Oberthur), which are present in hollow soil and on moist grass. It kills and mummifies the larvae. It emerges from the caterpillar’s head bearing fruity-stalks.

Harvesting Season of Yarsagumba

Yarsagumba is collected before the monsoon (rainy season) and at the time it emerges fully from the larva (from April to August). Then it is dried and used in medicines.

Chemical Constituents

The chemical composition of Cordyceps Sinensis is as follows:

Nucleosides

Nucleosides are major constituents of Cordyceps Sinensis. It is also a valuable marker for analyzing the quality of the caterpillar fungi (Cordyceps). (1)

The following nucleosides are isolated from the C. Sinensis.

  1. ADENINE
  2. ADENOSINE
  3. CORDYCEPIN
  4. CYTIDINE
  5. CYTOSINE
  6. GUANINE
  7. GUANOSINE
  8. HYPOXANTHINE
  9. INOSINE
  10. THYMIDINE
  11. URACIL
  12. URIDINE
  13. 3-DEOXYADENOSINE

Nucleosides are well-known for their Anticancer and Antiviral characteristics. Cordycepin is a very valuable active constituent present in Cordyceps Sinensis that exhibits anticancer and anti-metastatic properties. (2)

However, Cordycepin quantity is very low in Cordyceps Sinensis as compared to Cordyceps Militaris.

Polysaccharides

Cordyceps Sinensis contains 3–8% polysaccharides by weight. Polysaccharides in Cordyceps exhibit antitumor, antioxidant, antihyperglycemic, antihypercholesterolemic, and anti-influenza properties. Polysaccharides in Cordyceps consist of following Monosaccharides:

  • RHAMNOSE
  • RIBOSE
  • ARABINOSE
  • MANNOSE
  • XYLOSE
  • GLUCOSE
  • GALACTOSE
  • MANNITOL
  • FRUCTOSE
  • SORBOSE

Sterols

Cordyceps Sinensis contains sterols including:

  1. ERGOSTEROL (vitamin D2source)
  2. H1-A
  3. Ergosteryl-3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside

Amino Acid & Polypeptide

Cordyceps Sinensis contains following amino acids and polypeptides.

  • CORDYCEAMIDES A
  • CORDYCEAMIDES B
  • CORDYCEDIPEPTIDE A
  • CORDYMIN
  • TRYPTOPHAN

Nutritional Value

Cordyceps Sinensis contains vital nutrients – vitamins, minerals. (3)

Vitamins

  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin K

Amino Acids

  • Lysine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Proline
  • Threonine

Unsaturated Fatty Acids

  • Linoleic acid

Pharmacological Actions

Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) acts on reproductive organs, lungs, kidneys, muscles, heart, blood vessels and immunity. It exerts immunity booster action and acts as adaptogen and aphrodisiac.

Medicinal Properties

  1. Restorative
  2. Tonic
  3. Ergogenic
  4. Aphrodisiac
  5. Adaptogen
  6. Antitumor
  7. Anticancer
  8. Anti-metastatic
  9. Neuroprotective
  10. Antioxidant
  11. Anti-aging
  12. Anti-inflammatory
  13. Analgesic (found in abdominal cramps)
  14. Anti-bacteria
  15. Insecticidal
  16. Fibrinolytic
  17. Platelet aggregation inhibitor

Therapeutic Indications

Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) is indicated in following health conditions.

As a Tonic

  1. To delay aging or to reduce effects of aging
  2. To improve liver functions
  3. To improve stamina and tolerance
  4. To increase athletic performance and post-exercise recovery
  5. To increase energy level
  6. To reduce fatigue
  7. To strengthen immune system

General

  • Fatigue or Exhaustion
  • Physical Weakness
  • Low immunity
  • Low endurance
  • Stress
  • Feeling of loss of energy
  • Preventing or delaying aging
  • Unwanted weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Opium addiction
  • Cold intolerance.

Brain, Nerves & Mind

  • Amnesia – Memory Loss
  • Dementia
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Chronic Stress
  • Depression

Heart & Blood

  • Anemia
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • High Cholesterol

Lungs & Airways

  • Coughs
  • Chronic Bronchitis

Kidneys & Urinary Bladder

  • Nocturia (excessive urination at night)
  • Chronic Renal Failure

Men’s Health

  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Impotency
  • Loss of Libido

Women’s Health

  • Loss of Libido

Teeth & Gums

  • Toothache

Ear

  • Tinnitus – Ringing in the ears

Benefits & Medicinal Uses

Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) improves general health and well-being. It detoxifies the body and boosts immunity, which helps to prevent several diseases. It is beneficial for the heart, lungs, reproductive organs, brain and blood vessels. In general, it improves blood circulation, oxygen uptake, stamina, and endurance. Therefore, it is popular among athletes and used by them for increasing their performance. However, Cordyceps supplements are very expensive but available in form of extract capsule, powder capsule, liquid extracts and tablets forms.

Physical Performance

Cordyceps Sinensis Supplement improves physical performance by increasing metabolic threshold and ventilatory threshold, a double-blind and placebo-controlled study suggested. (4, 5)

However, a contradictory study conducted on male cyclists concluded no effects on endurance exercise performance and aerobic capacity. (6)

Traditionally, it is used as performance enhancer and energy boosters by sportspeople, especially in China. Now, it becomes famous in the western world as well. It is likely to attenuate a rise of fatigue or exhaustion after physical performance. (7)

A rat study conducted with swimming test suggested increase in time to feel or become fatigue by 12.5% in rats taking Cordyceps supplement, as we discussed, it attenuates a rise of fatigue after exercises. (8)

Fatigue

Traditionally, Yarsagumba (Cordyceps) is used to reduce fatigue and stress and to improve the physical performance. It boosts the ATP level in the liver and muscles, which help to increase the energy level, reduce fatigue and improve performance. (9, 10)

Furthermore, Yarsagumba also reduces and delays the lactic acid accumulation in the muscles, which reduces exhaustion and stress, improves physical performance and increases the stamina. The similar results are found in a rat study using swimming test. (11, 12)

Aging

Yarsagumba has been used to prevent and delay aging and to reduce the effects of aging. It is commonly prescribed by herbalists and experts of traditional medicine for the weakness, fatigue, and impotence linked with aging. The anti-aging effects are attributed to its antioxidant action. Its extract increases the activity of catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase and decreases the activity of monoamine oxidase and reduces lipid peroxidation level. Further, it improves the neurological functions, especially memory and learning. It is also likely to prolong the lifespan by inhibiting oxidative stress. (13, 14)

Traditionally, Yarsagumba is used in elderly people for preserving strength, restoring the health and treating geriatric problems. It is also used after illness for reducing physical debility and mental stress.

Chronic Stress

Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) reduces chronic stress in the brain. Chronic stress causes chronic inflammation in the brain, which causes various mental disorders and imbalance in neurotransmitter levels. It is responsible for memory impairment and decline in cognitive functions. Chronic stress can also cause depression, mood disorders, and neurodegeneration. Neurodegeneration can lead to the development of amnesia, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Yarsagumba reduces inflammatory markers, which indicates improvement in brain health. It is likely to restore the balance of neurotransmitters and lowers chronic stress. It also improves the levels of 5-HTP and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Therefore, Yarsagumba supplementation is helpful in controlling stress, depression and mood disorders. (15)

Memory Impairment

Yarsagumba (Cordyceps) improves memory and retention span by lowering chronic inflammation in the brain, as discussed above. It also exerts anti-oxidant action by increasing the level of glutathione and superoxide dismutase. It helps to prevent the decline of mental functions and improves the memory. (16)

Dosage & Administration

The general dosage of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) as a whole is as follows.
Children½ to 1 Fruity Stalk of Yarsagumba *
Adults1 to 2 Fruity Stalks of Yarsagumba *
Maximum Possible Dosage4 to 6 Fruity Stalks of Yarsagumba Per Day (in divided doses) **
* Twice a day with appropriate adjuvant
** The maximum dosage of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) is an estimate, not well established.
Best Time to Take: 2 to 3 hours After Food
Adjuvant: Water

Yarsagumba (Cordyceps) Powder Dosage

The general dosage of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps) Powder is as follows.
Children125 to 500 mg *
Adults250 to 1500 mg *
Maximum Possible Dosage3000 mg Per Day (in divided doses) **
* Twice a day
** The maximum dosage of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) is an estimate, not well established.
Best Time to Take: 2 to 3 hours After Food
Adjuvant: Water
Note: Sometimes, Cordyceps powder is advised up to the dosage of 10 grams per day for a few days (3 to 7 days), then the dosage is reduced or advised gap of 3 to 7 days, in traditional medicine.

Yarsagumba (Cordyceps) Extract Dosage

The general dosage of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps) Aqueous (Water) Extract is as follows.
Children100 to 250 mg *
Adults250 to 500 mg *
Maximum Possible Dosage1000 mg Per Day (in divided doses) **
* Twice a day
** The maximum dosage of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) is an estimate, not well established.
Best Time to Take: 2 to 3 hours After Food
Adjuvant: Water

Note: For reference, commonly used dosage by most of the herbalists is given in above tables. The dosage can be different as per available products of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps). It can also vary individually, so one should consult herbalist before using Cordyceps. Self-determination of the dosage is not advisable.

Safety Profile

A two weeks’ study on Yarsagumba (Cordyceps Sinensis) had observed no significant changes in hematological parameters and hormonal profile and no side effects. (17)

Several other studies observed no significant changes in renal function test, liver function test, and other blood tests. Therefore, Yarsagumba supplements may be considerably safe for a short-term use (some suggest, maximum up to 3 months).

The safety profile for its long-term use is not yet well understood, but it has been used in patients with chronic renal failure for several days to years without any noticeable harmful effect.

Side Effects

Some people can be hypersensitive to Cordyceps (Yarsagumba) and experience a few side effects as follows:

  • Mild Abdominal Discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Pregnancy & Lactation

The safety profile is not well-established for the use of Yarsagumba (Cordyceps) during pregnancy. Some studies suggest it might influence the serum level of testosterone, so it should not be used during pregnancy.

As information of its safety for lactating mothers is lacking, so it should be advised to avoid during lactation.

Toxicity

Yarsagumba (Cordyceps) is considerably safe and no toxic effects observed in several studies. (18, 19)

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