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Don't Buy That Bottle of Caterpillar Cordyceps Mushroom Supplement Before Reading This

Tim Boyer's picture
Mushroom Supplement

The health benefits of a traditional Chinese medicine advertised under the label “Cordyceps Mushroom Supplement,” was recently promoted on television claiming to have the potential to restore lost energy and vigor. While the acclaimed health benefits of medicine made from the Asian Cordyceps fungus are nothing new, what was surprising was the televised advertised price of only $7 for a fair sized bottle of this supplement.

The surprise is that as of last fall, BBC News reports stated that some Himalayan villagers make their living by collecting the fungus along the mountainous regions of Tibet to sell to a Chinese market that can be as high as tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram. In fact, the money to be made is so lucrative that it resulted in multiple homicides as villagers from one region tried to prevent outsiders from cashing in on their limited supply.

The Cordyceps Mushroom supplement comes from an Asian mushroom known as Cordyceps sinesis (C. sinesis), which sprouts from the body of dead caterpillar in the wild. It is also known as the Himalayan Viagra “Yarsagumba,” which translates as “winter worm, summer grass.” Reportedly it can only be found in the mountainous regions above 11,000 feet in Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.

The fungus is the result of spores from C. sinesis entering the body of a live caterpillar while it is in the larval form of a large moth native to the region. Upon infection from the spores, strands of filaments called “hyphae” begin to sprout from the spores that then leads to the death of the caterpillar. The hyphae grow longer and more numerous and develop into a relatively large stalk-like fungal fruiting body that emerges from the insect’s carcass after having sapped the caterpillar’s body of all nutrients.

Cordyceps fungus has been and still is used for medicinal purposes in China. However, it reportedly has been also used as a non-detectable performance enhancing drug for Olympic hopefuls. During the National Games in 1993, track records by Chinese athletes were credited in part to drinking a tea made from the caterpillar fungus.

Today, demand for the fungus is increasing and is used more for its supposed energy-generating properties with sexual health and vigor topping the list as a cure for erectile dysfunction making it an Asian version of Viagra.

As a result of the demand for and the increasing scarcity of the mushroom, the cost of procuring this traditional medicine is beyond the budget of most health conscious consumers. Which begs the question: How can a health food store or online seller of this expensive supplement sell it so cheap?

The answer to that question is that they are not selling what you are led to believe is the “real thing.” Rather, they are selling the mushroom or an “extract” of the mushroom or whatever, without it having been grown under the same environmental and nutritional conditions as the expensive wild-grown Cordyceps fungus. In short—they don’t use the potentially important caterpillar to grow the mushroom supplement they sell.

An online search of a variety of sellers of Cordyceps mushroom supplements reveals that aside from the typical promotional health benefits guaranteed, on closer inspection a typically smaller font states something like, “…contains a strain of cultivated Cordyceps recognized by the Chinese government as most similar to wild Cordyceps sinesis, a rare fungus found in the Tibetan Highlands of China.”

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“Most similar” is how the sellers avoid fraud charges. To be fair, some sellers are less evasive and do plainly state that their Cordyceps Mushroom supplement is not derived from a caterpillar.

It turns out that that the sale of counterfeit Cordyceps mushroom is a problem even among the Chinese. In one study, researchers point out having determined that some supplies are diluted with soy or other ingredients, or in worse cases—not the right mushroom. They determined this just by simply putting ground samples of product under a microscope and identifying fake ingredients.

In addition, it is not clear how or why the Cordyceps mushroom possesses its supposed health benefiting properties. And, whether or not it really requires a specific caterpillar or insect host, or whether it must grow from an insect that feeds upon a particular plant or root also remains unknown.

Because the sustainability of maintaining natural wild Cordyceps mushroom is a growing problem, researchers are trying to learn more about its host/parasite relationship and whether it can be mimicked in the lab using other insect species. Currently, some labs and businesses grow the mushroom successfully on an artificial nutrient media without the insect component—which is most likely what you are buying relatively cheap in a bottle from your health store or online seller.

Just to be clear, this is not to say that research—and there’s a lot of it going on—using Cordyceps mushroom grown without the caterpillar is not good science. The odds are that the far majority is good science and is seeking to answer the aforementioned questions about the Cordyceps fungus and its potential role in treating disease—cancer related research is one example.

The point to all this is that the buyer of this supplement should be aware that if the cost is inexpensive, it is not what he or she were most likely looking for. And even if they do find a source that is fairly expensive, there’s a good chance they are being bamboozled one way or another. There may be some truth to at least some of the claims made about the caterpillar Cordyceps mushroom’s health benefits—it’s been around for centuries—but to find that truth you’ll have to get past the deception first.

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia


“Application of microscopy in authentication of valuable Chinese medicine I--Cordyceps sinensis, its counterfeits, and related products” Microscopy Technique and Research 2011 Jan;75(1):54-64; Au D., Wang L., Yang D., Mok DK., and Xu H.

“Host insect species of Ophiocordyceps sinensis: a review” Zookeys. 2011; (127): 43–59. Published online 2011 September 8; Xiao-Liang Wang and Yi-Jian Yao.

Updated November 1, 2014



I would like to know more about your product. What are the benefits Us it a freeze dried powder? How can you purchase it. Thank you
Hi, how is your cordyceps millitaris project going? Did you learn how to grow this mushroom in China? If not, do you have the name of people who teach a course on this? Many thanks for any help you can provide. Kind regards. -- Sky
I can tell you where to get great products and send you info. Email me [email protected]
Please send me the info about this cordyceps so i can buy it in uk ...thank alot mate ..
Hello! I am interested in buying cordyceps, can you send me info where I can get great products the most potent and most full spectrum. Thank you. Anna
Hi Anna, If you still have the need please contact at [email protected]
There's a Dutch company called Oriveda that sells the best documented Cordyceps CS-4 extract I ever saw - specifying beta-glucans, polysacharides, uridine, cordycepin, cordycepic acid and adenosine. They will even send you the original certificates and lab tests if you're paranoid about quality issues. I've used it and it is IMO the best you can buy, and not even that expensive taking into account what you get for your money. I noticed another commenter recommended Aloha - PLEASE never buy that stuff if you want actual therapeutic effects - it is not extracted and grown on rice. Useless powder.
You can get it in Indian Tibetan belt. Reply by email only.
I am interested. Can you send more information to my email [email protected] Thanks
It's not from China and Japan or Nepal. It depends on the harvester and the quality of the season. Which you see in the pictures are just not dry. It should be dried, golden brown and not too big nor too small. U can leave a message on [email protected]
Hi, could you please name those Chinese and Japanese manufacturers? Im using Aloha and see 0 differece in my health. Thank you in advance
Could you recommend a Japanese or Chinese distributer of CS that you believe has a high quality product manufactured in a safe environment?
Hi sir, We have organic midsized CS, straight from the mountains of dolpo and manang, Nepal. And if you are interested in further discussion, you can mail on [email protected]
Hi, Tewang,would you please send me the info for the suplayer thks Dennis,
you can go wrong... but you need to understand most clinical trial conducted with cs-4 mycelium... because wild cs is 2 expansive for clinical research. good companies monitor the fungi in DNA assays, or even isolate the fungi alone from the the Caterpillar. active ingredients are monitored by HPLC to know that the quality is consistent. if you are buying a pure cordyceps extract, it is more concentrated in active ingredients than the wild one. we are growing over 100 types of mushrooms/fungi in the labs. and a analytical assay is the only way for us to know if the quality is good enough. ask for extraction ratios, polysacharides content (at least 30%), and adenosine related compounds concentration (above 0.25% is minimal reccomandation) i am a chemist at the mycolivia medicinal mushrooms company and cordyceps is one of my Favorites. there is a way to cultivate cordyceps on the caterpillar ,but most veg people dont like the idea of eating them, and the process is including cultivating the caterpillar itself.
I have been taking Green World Cordyceps for some time now and have noticed a tremendous difference in my energy and overall health. They are of the highest quality and have Canadian & American government approval.
the strongest cordyceps is not the above mentioned despite Aloha says theirs is the strongest in the world. Oriveda sells a superior extract.
Can Richard Daniel or other experts please comment on Nature Sunshine Cordyceps capsules if it contains the active ingredients?
Nature Sunshine Cordyceps is therapeutically useless - it is not extracted, just powder and therefore the bioavailability of whatever active ingredients will be almost zero for most people. The same applies to mycolivia products - no specification of the active ingredients, so you have no clue what you're buying....
I have read that Cordyceps militaris has an effect on lung fibrosis, is this true and who can supply this in the UK? Thanks
Would like information on Health Concepts: Cordyceps PS, Coriolus PS and Raise QI for treatment of metastatic ovarian epithelial cancer Ovarian. Do you consider it good quality. Any other product suggestions for this condition would be appreciated. Jfk
I had viral meningitis 2 years ago and seams my body cannot recover as so much is wrong. Just started using chinese herbs which is helping with some effects.after reading the forum im now confused of which cordyceps med to get as really need it to help my conditions? Appreciate any help.thanks
3Cordyceps claim they are the real thing - no extracts and the exact same as grown in Tibet. I don't know, but did a search and have been reading. Here is a link to one of their YouTube videos. Not saying I recommend. I know nothing really, but they do claim to be the real thing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwKsgWVFuGw They have a Facebook page, are listed at LinkedIn and are very transparent. That is always a good thing.
Gill you need to do intensive homework to get real and genuine cordyceps sinensis.I have half a kilogram of wild cordyceps with me which i bought from a nepalese farmer. Anyone in this group wants wild cordyceps for lab testing for free pls feel free to contact me. i can not send you more than 2 pieces of wild cordyceps because of its costliness.
I have 4 grades of wild cordyceps sinensis from Bhutan, certified by the Government of Bhutan, that I would like to have tested. Can someone provide a list of laboratories that perform these tests? Also what tests should be performed, HPLC, etc? What chemicals should I ask to be analyzed in addition to polysaccharides and the ratios of adenosine and cordycepin?
It's very troubling and leaves me feeling incredibly skeptical as NO ONE here can give a reputable seller. I see suggestions but no others to back their claims. Sounds sketchy at best.
Julie,you are absolutely correct. It appears there are many claims & I suspicion that those claims are from marketeers, and/or have financial interests. Lab tests can be falsified or doctored & same with the 'Cert of Analysis' .So how does the consumer validate or confirm the lab tests or 'COA'? 'We' cannot unless wealthy. The proof cannot be by experiencing the effects as the ingredients also may be 'doctored' with a stimulant(s). Example: here in the U.S.,a supplier issued me a 'COA" which had a FDA number on it. The FDA could not give me ANY info regards this number & referred me back to the supplier. The supplier, knowing this non-disclosure agreement w/the FDA, can say anything regards the meaning of their FDA reference number. Also some lab tests are performed by the supplier themselves using a different name. No 3rd party involved. FDA only has purvue over claims of "cures" for disease states. These are not allowed. Finding a reputable supplier is very difficult with Cordyceps plus the consumer relies upon the claims of health which many seem to be almost mythlogical from a Chinese historical perspective. No double blind studies I've found, however, I did find that 'PubMed' used Aloha Medicinals as a source for their studies which doesn't mean a recommendation implied. I've taken Aloha & found it subtle & had to take 3 grams for effects. I bought it in a bulk Sinensis/Militaris blend & only avail. to mfgr's/healthcare practitioners. They do retail the capsules though. I am not recommending this product as I have no comparisons & have no financial interest in it. I am familiar w/'Oriveda' & found their marketing claims unprofessional, slamming competitors. I believe in letting your product speak for itself via proper testing,etc. Again,how to verify the tests, takes research into the named labs & if they're connected or not to the supplier. Hope this helps & I'm sure to be 'slammed' for my comments,however,this may uncover suspicious commentors.
You are a bit paranoid, gbear. If a lab issues a COA with a FDA-registration number on it and this number is made up, that lab will be out of business in no time. So, that assumption makes no sense. You can just contact the lab and ask them about the COA. There's no NDA involved unless the lab is not bona fide (see below). A supplier with a good product would be more than happy to share their test results I think ? Of course everything can be doctored / falsified, but if the 'falsifying' costs more than the product is worth ? Like, spiking Cordyceps with synthetic cordycepin (cordycepin price is ± USD 13000 p/500 grams). Not plausible at all. Or with beta-glucan derived from oats ? Not cheap at all plus there are simple tests to determine if a beta-glucan is mushroom based or not. The only supplier you seem to accept as 'reliable' oddly enough happens to be the only supplier that was involved in court cases re. misleading information on their home-made 'COA's'.. The Irish company 'Megazyme' developed a beta-glucan test that is now the only one recommended by the AOAC. Megazyme forced Aloha to drop the reference to Megazyme on their COA's, because it was actually not used and the outcome of the 'test' was not the outcome of Megazyme testing, but of something they thought up themselves. Their spec sheets (it's not a COA, because no testing was involved) used to state 'Modified Megazyme Assay' but now state 'AM/PS' which stands for 'Aloha Medicinals Polysaccharide' I think. Not even beta-glucan. Their favorite lab was always Atlas Bioscience, until Atlas Bioscience was unmasked as a 'dry-lab' by NBC Dateline (March 2012). There's a great youtube video with hidden camera footage online. 0 A so-called 'dry-lab' does not test the product, but just copies the data of the supplier on their own 'COA'. I think asking for a third party COA and verifying the COA is genuine by just contracting the lab is the best way to go. And the outcome of the COA tests should also be reflected on the official label. If not, don't trust the product. The COA might not be of that product. The label and the information on it has to meet strict standards, enforced by the FDA.
How about ORIVeDA Cordyceps sinensis extract? They claim to contain over 50% polysaccharides, over 20% cordycepic acid, over 0.5% adenosine, over 0.2% cordycepin etc. That looks like the most powerful mix on the market. I've seen it on Amazon, but could not find any reviews... Any views?