Cordyceps sinensis has a traditional history of use in the treatment of both male and female infertility and in vitro studies have shown it to stimulate production of sex hormones through activation of both the protein kinase A and protein kinase C signal transduction pathways1.

As these pathways are activated by cAMP it is possible that the active component of C. sinensis in this regard is one or more of the nucleoside derivatives that it contains. There is increasing evidence that 17beta-estradiol (the predominant form of oestrogen in non-pregnant women) directly influences the quality of maturing oocytes and thus the outcome of assisted reproduction treatment1 and it has been shown that C. sinensis upregulated steroidogenic enzymes and ovarian 17beta-estradiol (oestrogen) in human granulosa-lutein cells in vitro, due, at least in part, to increased StAR and aromatase expression2. Ethanolic extracts of Cordyceps also increased progesterone production in mouse Leydig tumor cells.

In addition animal studies have shown C. sinensis to increase in sperm quantity and quality in mouse models3-5 and Cordyceps militaris, a closely related species, to do so in subfertile boars6.

1. Cordyceps sinensis mycelium activates PKA and PKC signal pathways to stimulate steroidogenesis in MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cells. Chen Y.C, Huang Y.L, Huang B.M. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2005;37(1):214-23.
2. Upregulation of steroidogenic enzymes and ovarian 17beta- estradiol in human granulosa-lutein cells by Cordyceps sinensis mycelium. Huang B.M, Hsiao K.Y, Chuang P.C, Wu M.H, Pan H.A, Tsai S.J. Biol Reprod. 2004;70(5):1358-64.
3. Regulation of steroidogenesis by Cordyceps sinensis mycelium extracted fractions with (hCG) treatment in mouse Leydig cells. Wong K.L, So E.C, Chen C.C, Wu R.S, Huang B.M. Arch Androl. 2007;53(2):75-7.
4. Regulatory mechanism of Cordyceps sinensis mycellium on mouse Leydig cell steroidogenesis. Hsu C.C, Tsai S.J, Huang Y.L, Huang B.M. FEBS Lett. 2003;543(1-3):140-3.
5. In vivo stimulatory effect of Cordyceps sinensis mycelium and its fractions on reproductive functions in male mouse. Huang Y.L, Leu S.F, Liu B.C, Sheu C.C, Huang B.M. Life Sci. 2004;75(9):1051-62
6. Improvement of sperm production in subfertile boars by Cordyceps militaris supplement. Lin W.H, Tsai M.T, Chen Y.S, Hou R.C, Hung H.F, Li C.H, Wang H.K, Lai M.N, Jeng K.C. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(4):631-41

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