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All Things Health Team
Written by All Things Health Team

Reviewed by Doreen Kee on July 28, 2023

Exploring the History of Cordyceps Sinensis in Wellness

Exploring the History of Cordyceps Sinensis in Wellness

You may know of some staples in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and have probably heard about the benefits of bird’s nest soup and chicken essence, but are you familiar with Cordyceps Sinensis?

Cordyceps Sinensis has a rich history in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine, with its use dating back 2,000 years. Over the years, this exotic medicinal fungi has become highly regarded due to its health benefits.

In this article, we will learn more about Cordyceps Sinensis and explore the reasons behind its growing value today.

What is Cordyceps Sinensis?

Cordyceps Sinensis, also known as caterpillar fungus, is a parasitic fungus that grows on the larvae of ghost moths. The fungus inhabits the caterpillar, eventually taking over its nervous system and forming a fruiting body.

This fruiting body is harvested and used as a unique and valuable medicinal product in TCM.

Discovered in the Himalayas

It is believed that Cordyceps Sinensis initially gained significant attention in the 1400s in the high-altitude regions of the Tibetan plateau in the Himalayas.

Tibetan yak herders noticed that their livestock would graze on certain mushrooms, resulting in an extraordinary boost in energy. Intrigued by this phenomenon, the herders identified Cordyceps Sinensis as having the ability to improve one’s energy and stamina.

This observation was first documented by a Tibetan doctor named Zurkhar Nyamnyi Dorje.

Used by Royalty

After its discovery, Cordyceps Sinensis became highly-prized by the ruling class in ancient China. It was so valuable that individuals not part of the ruling class could not legally possess it. Not only was it difficult to find, but it was also known to possess great benefits: it prevented illnesses, enhanced vitality, improved one’s physical performance, and strengthened an individual’s constitution.

Entrance Into Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Entrance Into Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM

Cordyceps Sinensis, also known as caterpillar fungus, became a key supplement in TCM in 1694.

The first mention of Cordyceps Sinensis in TCM was in 1694 by Wang Ang’s Ben Cao Bei Yao. Here are some Cordyceps Sinensis benefits according to TCM:

  • The medicinal fungus has immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and anti-ageing effects. It is typically used to treat respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, low libido, and hyperlipidemia.
  • It tonifies the body’s yang energy while enhancing lung and kidney function. Hence, it is used to treat chronic kidney disease.

It is believed to improve physical performance and endurance. Therefore, it is common to see athletes consuming it.

Garnering International Attention

On an international level, Cordyceps Sinensis wasn’t well-known until 1993.

During the 1993 Olympics, a team of Chinese runners broke world records so spectacularly that they were accused of taking steroids. When investigated, it was found that none of the athletes had taken drugs; however, they were reported to have consumed Cordyceps Sinensis, which enhanced their body’s metabolism and improved their respiratory system processes, thus boosting their athletic performances.

This event brought medicinal fungi and alternative medicine to the international world’s attention. Its value thus increased exponentially over the recent decades.

Popularity as a Wellness Supplement

Today, Cordyceps Sinensis has gained popularity as a wellness supplement. It is consumed in various ways in TCM.

Some of the common ways include:

  • Tea: Cordyceps Sinensis can be brewed into tea.
  • Powder: It is available in powdered form and can be added to food or drinks.
  • Capsules: It is available in capsule form, which can be taken orally.
  • Tincture: It can be orally taken as a concentrated liquid extract.


Cordyceps Sinensis is a unique supplement in TCM that has a rich history and boasts many health benefits. With the ability to significantly boost your health and well-being, it is a medicinal fungus you should incorporate into your diet.

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