Other Name(s):

Caterpillar Fungus, Caterpillar Mushroom, Cs-4, Champignon Chenille, Chinese Caterpillar Fungus, Cordyceps sinensis, Dong Chong Xia Cao, Dong Chong Zia Cao, Hsia Ts'Ao Tung Ch'Ung, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, Tochukaso, Vegetable Caterpillar.


Cordyceps is a fungus that lives on certain caterpillars in the high mountain regions of China. Supplement makers are able to get enough of the product to sell because cordyceps will reproduce in the laboratory.

Cordyceps is used to treat coughs, chronic bronchitis, respiratory disorders, kidney disorders, nighttime urination, male sexual problems, anemia, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, liver disorders, dizziness, weakness, ringing in the ears, unwanted weight loss, and opium addiction.

It is also used for strengthening the immune system, improving athletic performance, reducing the effects of aging, promoting longer life, and improving liver function in people with hepatitis B.

Some people use cordyceps as a stimulant, a tonic, and an “adaptogen,” which is used to increase energy, enhance stamina, and reduce fatigue.

How does it work?

Cordyceps might improve immunity by stimulating cells and specific chemicals in the immune system. It may also have activity against cancer cells and may shrink tumor size, particularly with lung or skin cancers.


Vitamin D Deficiency: How Much Vitamin D Is Enough? See Slideshow

Uses & Effectiveness

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Athletic performance. Several studies have shown that taking cordyceps (CordyMax Cs-4) or a combination of cordyceps and roseroot (Optygen) does not improve endurance in trained male cyclists.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Kidney damage caused by the drug amikracin. Early research shows that using cordyceps with the drug amikracin might reduce kidney damage caused by the drug in older people.
  • Asthma. Early research suggests that taking cordyceps alone can reduce asthma symptoms in adults. However, other early research suggests that taking cordyceps along with other herbs for 6 months does not reduce the need for medication or improve asthma symptoms in children.
  • Chemotherapy. Early evidence shows that taking cordyceps by mouth during or after chemotherapy might improve quality of life and improve tolerance to the treatments.
  • Kidney damage caused by the drug cyclosporine. There is early evidence that taking cordyceps with cyclosporine can reduce kidney damage caused by cyclosporine in people with kidney transplants.
  • Hepatitis B. Early evidence shows that taking cordyceps by mouth might improve liver function in people with hepatitis B. However, cordyceps seems to be less effective than astragalus and polygonum (fo-ti).
  • Sexual desire. Early research suggests that taking a specific cordyceps product (CordyMax Cs-4) daily for 40 days can improve sex drive in people with low sex drive.
  • Kidney transplant. Early research suggests that taking cordyceps (Bailing capsules) daily for up to 2 years together with conventional treatments does not improve survival in people who received a kidney transplant. However, taking cordyceps might reduce the need for some conventional treatments and the number of infections and other complications. Also, early research suggests that taking cordyceps (Bailing capsules) twice daily for 9 months together with the blood pressure-lowering drug enalapril improves kidney function and slow the progression of the disease in patients with declining kidney function after a transplant.
  • Promoting longevity.
  • Decreasing fatigue.
  • Cough.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Breathing disorders.
  • Male sexual dysfunction.
  • Anemia.
  • Heart arrhythmias.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Liver disorders.
  • Dizziness.
  • Weakness.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of cordyceps for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Cordyceps is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken appropriately by mouth, short-term.


Next to red peppers, you can get the most vitamin C from ________________. See Answer

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking cordyceps if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Cordyceps might cause the immune system to become more active. This could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it's best to avoid using cordyceps.

Bleeding disorders: Cordyceps might slow blood clotting. Taking cordyceps might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

Surgery: Using cordyceps might increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. Stop taking cordyceps 2 weeks before surgery.


Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) is used to decrease the immune system. Cordyceps seems to increase the immune system. Taking cordyceps along with cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) might decrease the effectiveness of cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar).

Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Cordyceps might increase the immune system. By increasing the immune system, cordyceps might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.

Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.

Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Cordyceps might slow blood clotting. Taking cordyceps along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. However, it is not clear if this potential interaction is a big concern.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

PrednisoloneInteraction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Prednisolone is sometimes used to decrease the immune system. Taking cordyceps might make prednisolone less effective for decreasing the immune system.

TestosteroneInteraction Rating: Minor Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Cordyceps might increase testosterone levels. However, it is not clear if this is a big concern. People taking testosterone should avoid cordyceps or take it cautiously until more is known about this potential interaction.


The appropriate dose of cordyceps depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for cordyceps. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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