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Cordyceps Mushroom Cultivation


Growing Cordyceps
The substrates and methodology used in producing cordyceps sinensis

Cordyceps sinensis is an insect parasitizing fungus of the ascomycetes family, Cordyceps sinensis is most commonly found wildly growing in Tibet and China. The mushroom – in its wild enviroment – lives off the larvae of the moth, Hepialus armoricanus. Cordyceps can also grow on other species of moth or any medium conducive to its growth. The normal range of this fungus is above 2000 meters elevation, and it has been found as high as 6000 meters. there are other strains of cordyceps which have interestingly potent compounds which are biologically active, just like those found in cordyceps sinensis. The cordyceps genus has shown wide ranging capabilities such as effective anti tumour capabilities, its ability to stimulate the immune system and its usage in potent anti-biotics.

Since native Cordyceps (wild Cordyceps sinensis) is rare and its price reflects its rarity, this has resulted in alot of research concentrating on cultivating this mushroom in artificial conditions. The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences – Institute of Materia Medica was able to isolate the first commercial strain of CS4 in 1982. Cordyceps sinensis is also known as yartsa gunbu in Tibet, the mycelium underwent aseptic fermentation and was extensively used in clinical trials during the 80’s and eventually become a widely used product in China, Jin Shui Bao capsules was the commercial success of cordyceps sinensis. After the clinical trials of over 2000 patients, the chemical make up and toxicology along with its health applications become widely known in scientific circles.

Culture Methods and Substrates

Having a look at the producers of cordyceps sinensis, you start to notice a variation of quality. The quality of this mushroom should surely be maintained at every level of growing and manufacture. However in the case of cordyceps, even the same strain (CS-4) grown by different growers turns out to be entirely different from a standpoint of active ingredients. There are two methods for cultivating cordyceps sinensis. The most favoured method for cultivation in China is liquid fermentation, the cordyceps spores are introduced to a sterilised nutrient tank which has been formulated with the correct nutritional mix to ensure fast growth of the mycelium. After growth in the liquid medium, the mycelium is harvested by straining it out of the liquid broth and drying, after which it can be used as-is or further processed.


In Japan and the USA, the method of cultivation uses a solid substrate method to grow cordyceps sinensis. The solid substrate method uses cereal or grain which is used to grow the mycelium inside a jar or grow bag . This grain is usually rice, wheat or rye although many different types of grain have been used. After the cultivation period has passed, the substrate is usually harvested along with the mycelium, this method is known to be easily done with low costs involved however this usually produces a major drawback in the way of higher substrate content in the final product.

Substrates used by different countries

Chinese producers of cordyceps sinensis often use the liquid method of fermentation which is a silkworm based liquid which has minerals and carbohydrates added to help the mycelium grow. This seems a logical choice, since this mushroom is found in nature growing on insects. Dried silkworm bodies are the by-product of an existing industry and have little other use. The cost of the silk worm and the constant supply ability makes this a very cheap and efficient way to grow cordyceps sinensis. Using this liquid based substrate derives a high quality product. There is a problem in using silk worm as a substrate, and that is US-FDA rules on growing mycelial products which must use a common human food source as its substrate, the other drawback is most other countries do not have a silk worm industry which Chinese cordyceps sinensis manufacturers have at their disposal. Solid substrates are mostly used by American and growers in Japan, however it has long since been determined that using rice to grow cordyceps sinensis would produce an inferior product as rice does not help the cordyceps in producing its full potential of secondary metabolites and does not produce much active ingriedients in the final harvested product. Rice as a substrate ultimately leads to products which are low or have no traces of adenosine or cordycepin inside the final product. Because of the metabolites in the rice which results when using to grow cordyceps, this helps stunt the growth of cordyceps sinensis and reduces the growing period to 22-24 days which results in only forty percent of the actual rice being used by the mycelium. Generosity of the figure 40% actually belies a more realistic representation of 25-30% since 40% is the higher end rate of converstion

Cordyceps sinensis is available all over the world – but its not well known enough to be considered a daily consumed supplement in the west, therefore be aware of what is inside your cordyceps sinensis and please dont hesitate to ask your producer is their product was grown on wheat, rice or grains or using a different method, lack of knowledge of this basic ‘origin’ of your product would show you how much these guys know about their products but ultimately it allows you to be sure of how and where your product was made.

All cordyceps is not equal and nor is the quality – so be vigilent and prepared to do extra homework so you get the best quality Cordyceps sinensis that you can afford!

Cordyceps sinensis products in capsule and tablet form, this is for those who would like to use cordyceps but have them ready in capsule form for easy transport and have the right portioned capsules of cordyceps sinensis on hand for everyday consumption!


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