Cordyceps militaris is a potential harbour of bio-metabolites for herbal drugs and evidences are available about its applications for revitalization of various systems of the body from ancient times. Amongst all the species, C. militaris is considered as the oldest source of some useful chemical constituents. Besides their popular applications for tonic medicine by the all stairs of the community, the constituents of C. militaris are now used extensively in modern systems of medicine. The current survey records the mysterious potentials of C. militaris are boosting up the present herbal treatments, as well as gearing up the green pharmacy revolution, in order to create a friendly environment with reasonable safety. Evidence showed that the active principles of C. militaris are beneficial to act as pro-sexual, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant/anti-aging, anti-tumour/anti-cancer/anti-leukemic, anti-proliferative, anti-metastatic, immunomodulatory, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-protozoal, insecticidal, larvicidal, anti-fibrotic, steroidogenic, hypoglacaemic, hypolipidaemic, anti-angiogenetic, anti-diabetic, anti-HIV, anti-malarial, anti-fatigue, neuroprotective, liver-protective, reno-protective as well as pneumo-protective, let alone their other synergistic activities, which let it be marketable in the western countries as over-the-counter medicine. A number of culture techniques for this mushroom have been noticed, for example, storage/stock culture, pre-culture, popular/indigenous culture (spawn culture, husked rice culture and saw dust culture) and, special/laboratory culture (shaking culture, submerged culture, surface liquid culture and continuous/repeated batch culture). The prospects for herbal biotechnology regarding drug discovery using C. militaris delivering what it has promised are high, as the technology is now extremely more powerful than before. This study chiefly highlights the medicinal uses of the mushroom C. militaris including its culture techniques, also aiming to draw sufficient attention of the researchers to the frontier research needs in this context.
The constituents of medicinal mushroom Cordyceps militaris, especially the anti-cancer agent cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine), are expected to play evolutionary roles in the pharmacognosy sector in future.
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Medicinal usesCulture techniquesCurrent stateProspectsPharmacognosyCordyceps militaris
The fungus forms 1–8 cm high, club-shaped and orange/red fruiting bodies, which grow out of dead underground pupae. The club is covered with the stroma, into which the actual fruit bodies, the perithecia, are inserted. The surface appears roughly punctured. The inner fungal tissue is whitish to pale orange.
The spores are smooth, hyaline, long-filiform, and often septate. They decompose to maturity in 3–7 μm × 1–1.2 μm subpores. The asci are long and cylindrical. Sometimes an anamorphic state, which is Isaria, is found. Masses of white mycelia form around the parasitised insect; however, these may not be of the same species.
Ecology and dispersal
Cordyceps militaris is a entomopathogenic fungus, meaning it parasitizes insects. Many authors consider it quite common, spread throughout the northern hemisphere, and fruiting bodies appear in Europe from August to November.
Cultivation and use
A jar of dry C. militaris fruiting body.
C. militaris can be cultivated in a variety of media, including silkworm pupae, rice, and liquid nutrition. It is considered inedible or "probably edible" by North American field guides. In Asia the fruiting body is cooked as a mushroom in dishes like chicken soup and hot pot.
C. militaris is a potential harbourer of bio-metabolites for herbal drugs and there is evidence from ancient times for its applications for revitalization of various systems of the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, this fungus can serve as a cheap substitute for Ophiocordyceps sinensis. Both contain cordycepin.
C. militaris contains a protein CMP18 which induces apoptosis in vitro via a mitochondrion-dependent pathway. It is thought that it might be toxic when eaten. Cooking destroys this protein.