Botanical Name – Cordyceps sinensis
Chinese Name – DONG CHONG XIA CAO
English Name – Cordyceps
Cordyceps sinensis or Ophiocordyceps sinensis, is known in English colloquially as caterpillar fungus, or by its more prominent names yartsa gunbu or dong chong xia cao.
It is an entomopathogenic fungus (a fungus that grows on insects) in the family Ophiocordycipitaceae. It is mainly found in the meadows above 3,500 meters in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, Bhutan, India and Tibet. It parasitizes larvae of ghost moths and produces a fruiting body which is valued as a herbal remedy.
Cordyceps sinensis is classified as a medicinal mushroom, and its use has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine as well as traditional Tibetan medicine. The hand-collected, intact fungus-caterpillar body is valued by herbalists as medicine, and because of its cost, its use is also a status symbol.
This fruiting bodies of the fungus are not yet cultivated commercially, but the mycelium form can be cultivated in vitro. Overharvesting and overexploitation have led to the classification of Cordyceps sinensis as an endangered species in China.