Cordyceps: Nutrition & Medicinal Constituents

Cordyceps is a type of fungus that grows on the larvae of moths. It was first utilized as a medicine in ancient China, where it has been used for centuries. …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Cordyceps is a type of fungus that grows on the larvae of moths.

It was first utilized as a medicine in ancient China, where it has been used for centuries.

It’s often said that “medicines and foods have a common origin”.

Based upon this idea, cordyceps could be considered one of the most important members of the fungus family, as it contains both beneficial macronutrients and micronutrients.

cordyceps nutrition and micronutrients

Cordyceps Nutrition:

Cordyceps contains a wide range of important nutrients, including essential amino acids and vitamins like B1, B2, B12, and K. It also includes various different kinds of carbohydrates such as monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides.

The macro nutrition profile of cordyceps breaks down as follows:

Proteins | 59.8%

Fats | 8.8%

Carbohydrate | 29.1%

It’s noted that the breakdown of the fat is 7:3 unsaturated to saturated.

Medicinal Constituents of Cordyceps:

From a medicinal perspective, cordyceps contains important polysaccharides, proteins, sterols, nucleosides, and other trace elements (Hyun 2008; Yang et al. 2009, 2010; Li et al. 2011).

Specifically, these compounds include cordycepic acid, adenosine, exo-polysaccharides, vitamins, enzymes, etc. (Table 1). Out of these, Cordycepin, i.e., 3′-deoxyadenosine (Fig. 1) isolated from ascomycetes fungus C. militaris, is the main active constituent which is most widely studied for its medicinal value having a broad spectrum of biological activity (Cunningham et al. 1950).

The fruiting body harbors many abundant amino acids such as lysine, glutamic acid, proline, and threonine as well. The fruiting body is also rich in unsaturated fatty acids (e.g., linoleic acid), which comprise about 70 % of the total fatty acids.

There are differences in adenosine (0.18 and 0.06 %) and Cordycepin (0.97 and 0.36 %) contents between the fruiting body and the corpus, respectively (Hyun 2008).

Bioactive CompoundReference:
CordycepinCunningham et al. (1950)
Cordycepic acidChatterjee et al. (1957)
N-acetylgalactosamineKawaguchi et al. (1986)
AdenosineGuo et al. (1998)
Ergosterol and ergosteryl estersYuan et al. (2007)
BioxanthracenesIsaka et al. (2001)
HypoxanthineHuang et al. (2003)
Acid deoxyribonucleaseYe et al. (2004)
Polysaccharide and exopolysaccharideYu et al. (2007, 2009), Xiao et al. (2010), Yan et al. (2010
ChitinaseLee and Min (2003)
Macrolides (C10H14O4)Rukachaisirikul et al. (2004)
Cicadapeptins and myriocinKrasnoff et al. (2005)
Superoxide dismutaseWanga et al. (2005)
ProteaseHattori et al. (2005)
NaphthaquinoneUnagul et al. (2005)
CordyheptapeptideRukachaisirikul et al. (2006)
Dipicolinic acidWatanabe et al. (2006)
Fibrynolytical enzymeKim et al. (2006)
LectinJung et al. (2007)
CordyminWonga et al. (2011)


Cordyceps is a fungus that is rich in many different nutrients, from proteins and fats to specialized carbohydrates.

It also contains specific molecules like Cordyceptin, which has been shown to be helpful for various ailments.

Consider adding cordyceps to your diet.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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