Several mushrooms have been studied for their pharmacological potentials. Among them, Cordyceps militaris, an entomopathogenic fungus belonging to the class Ascomycetes, is one of the most important traditional Chinese medicines, being the second most commercialized medicinal mushroom species in China, Korea, and Japan. Cordyceps militaris (bei-chong-chaw, northern worm grass) is a precious and edible entomopathogenic fungus, which is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a general booster for the nervous system, metabolism, and immunity. Saccharides, nucleosides, mannitol, and sterols were isolated from this fungus. C. militaris is used as a folk tonic in East Asia and the studies related to its pharmacological properties suggest that this mushroom can exert antioxidant, antiviral, hypoglycemic, and immuno-protective activities. The biological activity of C. militaris was attributed to the saccharide and nucleoside contents. In this study, the aqueous methanolic fraction of C. militaris fruiting bodies exhibited significant anti-inflammatory activity.
Pharmacological properties suggest that this mushroom can exert interesting biological activities. Aqueous (CW and HW) and alkaline (K5) extracts containing polysaccharides were prepared from this mushroom, and a β-D-glucan was purified. This polymer was analysed by GC-MS and NMR spectrometry, showing a linear chain composed of β-D-Glcp (1→3)-linked. The six main signals in the C-NMR spectrum were assigned by comparison to reported data. The aqueous (CW, HW) extracts stimulated the expression of IL-1β, TNF-α, and COX-2 by THP-1 macrophages, while the alkaline (K5) extract did not show any effect. However, when the extracts were added to the cells in the presence of LPS, K5 showed the highest inhibition of the expression of the pro-inflammatory genes. This inhibitory effect was also observed for the purified β-(1→3)-D-glucan, which seems to be the most potent anti-inflammatory compound present in the polysaccharide extracts of C. militaris. In vivo, β-(1→3)-D-glucan also inhibited significantly the inflammatory phase of formalin-induced nociceptive response, and, also it reduced the migration of total leukocytes but not the neutrophils induced by LPS. In conclusion, this study demonstrates the anti-inflammatory effect of β-(1→3)-D-glucan.
Cordyceps is said to help fight inflammation in the body.