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History Science of Cordyceps Sinensis

10 June 2021

In North Sikkim and Himalaya regions, the Cordyceps sinensis (Berk) sacc is a renowned fungus and traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and tonic.


The Historical and general reference of Himalayan aphrodisiacs refers to Cordyceps sinensis (Berk) sacc. It was discovered about 2000 years ago as an exotic medicinal mushroom described in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine. The British mycologist Dr M.J. Berkelesy first described it in 1843 as Sphaeria sinensis Berk. Later in 1878, Andrea Saccardo renamed it as Cordyceps sinensis (Berk) sacc. Cordyceps' name comes from the Latin word: meaning Cordl (club) and ceps(head).

The regular harvesting period stretches from April to August. It grows only at the high-altitude regions of about 3800 meters above sea level in the cold, grassy, alpine meadows of the mountain Himalaya. 

The base of this mushroom first originates from an insect larval host (Hepialis armoricanus family- Hepialidac) 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 mycelium, is yellowish to brown. The immature larvae (host) on which the Cordyceps (parasite) grows usually lies about 6 inches below the ground surface. As the fungus approaches maturity, it consumes more than 90% of infected insect effectively to mummify the host. As the stroma matures, it swells up and develops perihelia. The average weight of Cordyceps is about 300-500mg.


Cordyceps sinensis is considered sweet and warm; it enters the lung and kidney channels; the typical dosage is 3-9 grams. Western descriptions of the health benefits of the Cordyceps fungus came in the Eighteenth Century.

The traditional healers of Sikkim have been using this fungus for eighteen diseases, maximum use in the form of self-medication and folk healer's recommendation is for aphrodisiac use. A study was conducted between June 2008 and September 2009 to know the medicinal benefits of this fungus by local people and folk healers. 

This fungus is used for male and female sexual dysfunction to restore general health and appetite and promote longevity in the Lachung & Lachen area of North Sikkim. Both sexes usually use one piece of C. sinensis with one cup of milk to enhance their sexual potency and desire. 

The Bhutanese communities put one piece of Cordyceps sinensis in one cup of locally made alcohol (chang) and leave for one hour, and drink in the morning and evening as an aphrodisiac. Some use hot water instead of alcohol. 

They said it is more potent than Ginseng and used to treat cancer, fatigue, relieve chronic pain, tuberculosis, and treat liver and kidney ailments. Cordyceps sinensis has shown to improve physical vitality and stamina in general. Cordyceps sinensis also helps dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow, which is undoubtedly an essential factor of erectile function.

Furthermore, two studies have shown Cordyceps sinensis to "significantly increase" the production of testosterone in males.


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