CORDYCEPS SINENSIS (YARCHAGUMBA)
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NAMES
Botanical Name: Cordyceps sinensis
Vernacular Name: Yarsagumba, Yarchagumba
Bhutanese Name: Bub
Chinese Name: Dong Chon Xia Cao
Japanese Name: Tochukaso
Korean Name: Tong ch'ug ha ch'o
Tibetan Name: Yarsha Gomba
DESCRIPTION
Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc., belonging to the family Clavicipitacea, is a naturally growing bio-material popular as a herbal medicine in Nepal and highly valued in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and traditional medicinal practices in various Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, India, Thailand, Hong Kong for its medicinal value. It is popularly known as "Yarsagumba" and also as "Jeeban Buti" in Nepal. Because of its significant health benefits and its rarity, Yarchagumba, is a very expensive herb.
The name Cordyceps comes from the Latin words: cord and ceps, meaning "club" and "head", respectively. The Latin conjugation accurately describes the appearance of the club fungus, Cordyceps sinensis, whose stroma or fruitbody extend from the mummified carcasses of insect larvae, usually caterpillar larva of the Himalayan Bat Moth, Hepialis armoricanus.
The fruitbody of the Cordyceps sinensis mushroom originates at its base on an insect larval host (usually the larva of the Himalayan bat moth, Hepialis armoricanus) and ends at the club-like cap, including the stipe and stroma. The fruitbody is dark brown to black; and the ‘root’ of the organism, the larval body pervaded by the mushroom's mycelium, appears yellowish to brown in color. The immature larvae, which forms the host upon which the Cordyceps grows, usually lives about 6 inches below ground. The infesting spores of the Cordyceps, which are thought by some mycologists to be the infectious agent for the insect, are ca. 5-10 um long. As the fungus approaches maturity, it will have consumed greater than 99 % of the infested organism, effectively mummifying the host. As the stroma matures, it will swell and develop perihelia. The mycelium is formed and the body of the larva becomes sclerotuid to withstand the winter. As the sclerotuim develops, the inner organs of the larva are destroyed, leaving the exo-skeleton intact. Optimal conditions permitting; the spores are eventually discharged and taken by the wind or fall within a few centimeters of their origin.
DISTRIBUTION
It is distributed in the sub-alpine and alpine region (between 3000 and 5000 m altitude) throughout the Himalayan regions of Nepal and neighbouring countries. Dolpa district in Nepal is one of the major sources of Cordyceps sinensis. Other important districts are Darchula, Gajhang, Mugu, Jumla, and Rasuwa.
HARVESTING SEASON
The harvesting period of Cordyceps sinensis is between the months of May and July.
HEALTH BENEFITS
Cordyceps sinensis is one of the most valuable medicinal herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM, this herb has an extensive history of use in the treatment of mental and physical exhaustion and is often used as a rejuvenative for increased energy while recovering from serious illness. It is also known to be used regularly in treatment of patients with leukemia, heart, liver and kidney problems. Additionally, it is known to strengthen the immune system and is used as treatment against respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, cough and lung infections. It is believed to be highly effective against impotence and is extensively used in China as an aphrodisiac. It is also known to relieve pain and be effective in the treatment of arthritis, spasms and cramps. It is believed that the herb is known to help reduce cholesterol levels in the body and assists in digestion and to improve appetite.
PHYSIOLOGIC ACTIONS

Anti-bacterial (resistant to tuberculosis, pneumococcus, staphylococcus, streptococcus, streptococcus pnumoniae, and subtilis bacilli), Anti-asthmatic, Anti-cancer (inhibits growth of human naso-pharyngeal tumor cells), Anti-fungal, Anti-hypertensive, Anti-spasmodic, Adaptogenic, Adreno-tonic, Immunomodulatory, Hematopoietic, Soporific

PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS
Scientific analysis conducted in laboratory settings have shown Cordyceps sinensis to contain the following major constituents:
Proteins, peptides, all essential amino acids, and polyamines. In addition to all the essential and non-essential amino acids such as phenylalanine, proline, histidine, valine, oxyvaline, arginine, glutamic acid, Cordyceps contains uncommon cyclic dipeptides including cyclo-(Gly-Pro), cyclo-(Leu-Pro), cyclo-(Val-Pro), cyclo-(Ala-Leu), cyclo-(Ala-Val), and cyclo-(Thr-Leu). Small amounts of polyamines, including 1,3-diamino propane, cadaverine, spermidine, spermine, and putrescine, have been identified.
Polysaccharides and sugar derivatives were identified and their pharmacological activity has been reported. A group of oligosaccharides and polysaccharides isolated from natural Cordyceps stimulate macrophage function, and promote lymphocyte transformation. A bioactive 23-kd-protein-bound polysaccharide was shown to consist mainly of mannose and galactose in a ratio of 3 to 5, and protein.
Sterols, including ergosterol, Delta-3 ergosterol, ergosterol peroxide, 3-sitosterol, daucosterol, and campasterol.
Eleven nucleoside compounds have been found in natural Cordyceps. The major nucleosides in Cordyceps sinensis include adenine, uracil, uridine, guanosine, thymidine, and deoxyuridine.
Cordycepic acid, cordycepin, fatty, acids and other organic acids. Twenty-eight saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and their derivatives have been isolated from Cordyceps sinensis. Polar compounds of natural Cordyceps extracts include many compounds of hydrocarbons, alcohol, and aldehyde.
Vitamins, including vitamins Bi, B2, B12, E, and K.
Inorganics, including K, Na, Ca, Mg, Fe, Cu, Mn, Zn, Pi, Se, Al, Si, Ni, Sr, Ti, Cr, Ga, V, and Zr.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE
Cordyceps sinensis is a also a herb of nutritional value as it contains all of the essential amino acids, vitamin B 1 , B 2 , B 12 , E and K besides a wide range of sugars, including mono-die- and oligosaccharides and may different polysaccharides, protein, sterols, and wide range of micronutrients.
FURTHER READINGS
Articles for download:
Zhu, J.S., Halpern, G.M., and Jones, K. The Scientific Rediscovery of an Ancient Chinese Herbal Medicine: Cordyceps sinensis. Part I. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (pdf file, 252kb)
BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. Zhu, J.S., Halpern, G.M., and Jones, K. (1998): The Scientific Rediscovery of an Ancient Chinese Herbal Medicine: Cordyceps sinensis. Part I. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 4(3), pp 289-303.
2. Wang, S. and Shiao, M.S. (2000): Pharmacological functions of Chinese Medicinal Fungus Cordyceps sinensis and related species Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, vol. 8, No. 4, 248-257.
3. Mizuno T. (1999): Medicinal effects and utilization of Cordyceps (Fr.) Link (Ascomycetes) and Isaria Fr. (Mitosporic Fungi) Chinese Caterpillar Fungi, “Tochukaso” (Review). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 1 (3), pp 251-261.
4. Holliday, J. and Cleaver, M. (June 2004): On the Trail of the Yak, Ancient Cordyceps in the Modern World.
5. Xie, Z., Huang, X., Lou, Z., Li, S., Zhou, L., Yuan, S., Yang, Z., Tang, Z. (1988): Dictionary of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Commercial Press Ltd., Hong Kong.
6. Ma, K.W., Chall, F.T. and Wu, J.Y. (2004): Analysis of the Nucleoside Content of Cordyceps sinensis Using the stepwise Gradient Elution Technique of Thin-Lager Chromatography. Chinese Journal of Chemistry, pp 22, 85-91.
7. Manabe, N., Sugimoto, M., Azuma, Y., Taketomo, No., Yamashita, A., Tsuboi, H., Tsunoo, A., Kinjo N., Nian-Lai, H., Miyamoto, H. (1996): Effects of the Mycelial Extract of Cultured Cordyceps Sinensis on In Vivo Hepatic Energy Metabolism in Mice. Department of Animal Science, Kyoto University. Japanese Journal of Pharmacology.
8. Chatterjee R. Srinivasan KS , Maiti PC. (1957): Cordyceps sinensis: Structure of cordycepic acid. J. Am. Pharm. Assoc. 46:114-118.
9. Shrestha, R. and Bhandary, H. (1997): Study on Exploitation of Cordyceps sinensis. Research Center for Applied Science and Technology, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal.
10. Adhikary, M.K. (2000): Mushrooms of Nepal (ed. Prof. Dr. Durrieu, G.), pp 152-153, 189-190.
11. Medicinal Plants of Nepal (1993): H.M.G. of Nepal Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Department of Medicinal Plants, Thapathali, Kathmandu, Nepal, p 116.
12. IUCN Nepal (2000):National Register of Medicinal Plants. Kathmandu, IUCN Nepal. p 158.
Yarchagumba and Yarchagumba Tea are registered trade marks of Everest Herbs Processing (Pvt.) Ltd.
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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided purely for informational purposes only, and does not in any way purport to be medical or prescriptive suggestions. Any reference to medicinal or health benefits is not meant to treat or diagnose any problem and is not meant to replace professional medical advice and should not take the place of any prescribed medication that has been prescribed by a physician.